Euro 2020 ban ‘most distressing’ for Merrion Square artists

Fianna Fáil TD criticises ‘unacceptable’ level of payment for artists and performers

 A couple enjoy the work on show in the Merrion Square Open Art Exhibition. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien

A couple enjoy the work on show in the Merrion Square Open Art Exhibition. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

A six-week ban on more than 100 artists selling their work on Dublin’s Merrion Square to facilitate Uefa Euro 2020 events has been criticised in the Dáil.

Fianna Fáil culture spokeswoman Niamh Smyth said it was “most distressing for artists” that they will have to move from Merrion Square, where they were trying to make a living.

Referring to a report in The Irish Times Ms Smyth quoted secretary of the Merrion Square Artists Elizabeth Prendergast who said it would be a catastrophic decision for artists.

The artists pay €240 for an annual casual trading licence to sell from pitches along the railings outside the square but they will be prohibited from doing so in June and July 2020 for the duration of the soccer tournament.

“These are artists who are trying to make a living,” said Ms Smyth who raised questions about Budget 2020 and funding for artists and performing artists with Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan.

Ms Smyth highlighted the poor pay of artists and performers in Ireland. She said a review by Theatre Forum found 30 per cent of performing artists earn less than the 2018 national minimum wage of €9.55 an hour.

“That’s partly because 83 per cent of performing artists are paid a flat fee regardless of the hours they work.” But she said it was unacceptable in this day and age that artists would have to live on below the minimum wage per hour.

Funding increased by €7 million in last year’s budget to €75 million but Ms Smyth said that if the budget was to allocate funding along European norms it would have to increase by five times that amount.

She said the same adjustment would have to be made for all other public art schemes.

Ms Madigan did not refer directly to the Merrion Square ban but said there had been a significant increases to the Arts Council’s funding last year and to events and organisations including Galway 2020 which received €6 million as well as Screen Ireland, national cultural institutions and Creative Ireland.

“I will be doing my best to ensure an increase this year. Obviously we have the parameters of difficulties of a Brexit budget so it will depend on my negotiations with Paschal Donohoe.”