‘Cognitive Dissonance’ – Minister’s Response to Arts Crisis Criticised During Arts Debate

Minister Josepha Madigan

‘Cognitive Dissonance’ – Minister’s Response to Arts Crisis Criticised During Arts Debate

14,000 people in the arts sector now receiving the Covid-19 unemployment payment; Arts Council’s advisory group to report within three weeks.

The response of the Government to the Covid-19 arts crisis was criticised in a Dáil debate last Thursday (14 May).

Over two hours, a number of TDs spoke and urged the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, to provide a more comprehensive response to the crisis facing the arts sector.

In March, the Department brought forward already allocated funding to the Arts Council to provide emergency cash flow for arts organisations. On 3 April, it announced an additional €500k for the Arts Council Covid-19 Crisis Response Award, and €100k to launch the Ireland Performs scheme with Facebook. However, these schemes received a negative response from the arts sector because they are not suited to all artists, they do not take into account those who work behind the scenes in the arts, and there is no long-term commitment to support the sector through the crisis. The National Campaign for the Arts is seeking an additional €20m for the Arts Council in 2020 as a stabilisation fund.

Catherine Connolly TD said the Government’s response reminded her of the condition of ‘cognitive dissonance’.

As I listen to you and I listen to previous Governments, the phenomenon of cognitive dissonance comes to mind – the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs or attitudes particularly in relation to behaviour. So we treasure the arts – and we certainly treasure them on a national basis and international – but then practically we give them very little. 

Richard Boyd Barrett TD said

Imagine at the best of times, but even worse now, that we had no music, no comedy, no film, no theatre, no art. Imagine going through the last two months and we had none of those things. It’s too awful to even contemplate. … Life would not be worth living. We all know it…. That’s how important the arts are. But what kind of support do we give to our arts workers, performers and artists? It’s insulting.

Responding to the criticisms, Minister Madigan said:

I have been fighting as hard as I can for this sector and I will continue to do that for as long as I am in this role…. I have significantly increased the funding to the arts since I took office two and a half years ago and if I have the opportunity to remain… I will continue to do that … Deputy Boyd Barrett is right: the world wouldn’t be a good place over the past number of weeks if we didn’t have the music and the arts and everything else to sustain us… and if anything that will give a loud signal to everybody.

The Minister said the recently appointed advisory group on the crisis that the Arts Council has set up will report within three weeks. She also announced an additional €20k for the Ireland Performs series. The Minister said that 14,000 people in the arts sector are now receiving the Covid-19 unemployment payment. After workers in the accommodation, construction, administration and retail sectors, the arts has the highest share of people claiming the payment.

To view the full debate visit this link or see below. The arts debate begins at 7:21:00.

Listen to our latest podcast: How Should the State Respond to the Covid-19 Arts Crisis?

Published on 19 May 2020

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