GASLIGHTING FOR BEGINNERS – Some Remarks on the ARTS in The Programme For Government.

The Arts are not considered important enough to have their own section in the programme for government. Instead they are included alongside Justice, Online Safety, & Sport in a section entitled ‘Mission: Building Stronger & Safer Communities’. 

Most artists, I presume, will be surprised that FFGREEN consider them in the same category as Judges, Prison Officers, Greyhound Trainers, & Censors, but this lack of knowledge or care for what the arts actually are and what artists might actually do is indicative of the attitude found throughout.

The Arts take up 1.5 pages of the 139 page document, and 90 percent of that 1.5 pages is vague waffle and simple restatements of support for already existing programmes & institutions such as the Arts Council & Creative Ireland. 

Worryingly for those whose practice is cross-border or international, there is no mention of Culture Ireland, the body which funds international arts practice in ireland.

Funding for the Arts is put on the never-never. There is no commitment to MAINTAIN our current low level of spending on the arts, not to mention INCREASE levels of funding. 

There will be a stimulus package for the arts when ‘economic resources allow’. In other words, never. In practice this inevitably means FFGREEN intend to REDUCE funding for the Arts.

Furthermore, the issues at the heart of arts practice in Ireland are completely ignored in the Programme:

It contains no committment to tackle the gaping inequality in access to/participation in the arts between middle/upper class Ireland & everybody else.

It contains no committment to tackle the rampant culture of sexual harassment & bullying in the publishing & literary NGO sector & elsewhere within funded arts bodies- recently highlighted by the #wakeupirishpoetry & #metoo campaigns among others. 

It contains no committment to tackle the Elephant in the room of all the Arts – the effective robbery of artistic content by Facebook, Youtube, Spotify & so on. 

It contains no committment to end the culture & expectation of young & or inexperienced & or vulnerable artists working for free or close to free in the gig economy in return for ‘exposure’. 

Almost unbelievably, despite us having the world’s number one traditional music culture, involving many thousands of world class musicians, entertaining & inspiring tens of millions, contributing hundreds of millions to local & national economies at home and abroad, & at the beating heart of towns & villages all over rural Ireland, there is not one mention of Traditional Arts or Traditional Music in the FFGREEN programme for government. 

Not one.

The phrase Traveller Culture does make it into the document tho – once – it is to be included alongside 17 or so other things FFGREEN don’t give a hoot about in a Junior Cert Short Course, which may or may not come about. What progress!

It all amounts to a remarkable display of cultural ignorance – we are to be ruled by Philistines who can’t tell the difference between a racehorse & an Uillean Piper. The vast majority of Irish artists in all disciplines can expect no help from FFGREEN.

Artists will have to continue the emerging efforts to militantly organise ourselves, & ally ourselves with all those who will have to challenge this government, if we want to survive the coming months & years.

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