Arts industry unfairly targeted by Covid-restrictions, says Mary Coughlan

‘I don’t know why they are targeting the music industry,’ says Galway singer

Mary Coughlan said the arts sector is usually the first to be called upon when there was a need to promote the country. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

The music and wider arts industry is being unfairly targeted by Government in relation to strict ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, the singer Mary Coughlan has said.

With the sector increasingly agitated at the sight of thousands of concertgoers returning to gigs elsewhere, calls for a roadmap back to some form of normality are growing.

“I don’t know why they are targeting the music industry and the arts in particular. I know that the [Dublin] Theatre Festival was announced last night with a maximum of 50 people!” Coughlan said on RTÉ’s Drivetime programme on Thursday.

She said this was despite the arts usually being the first sector to be called upon when there was a need to promote the country or raise money for charity.

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The Galway singer, who has returned to some limited gigs, is expecting to play to a crowd of just 500 people in her native city’s Pearse Stadium, which can comfortably accommodate tens of thousands.

While welcoming the limited return to performance and acknowledging the ongoing Government supports for artists, she said she was baffled by the seeming inequity in Covid regulations.

"It's a huge place . . . I don't understand how there can be 24,000 people in Croke Park, I know there's going to be people at the Aviva and they all shout and roar and scream," she said.

As to whether there might be an opportunity to study potential virus spread at her forthcoming concert, Coughlan was doubtful.

“No . . . because it’s impossible to spread it I believe when we are so far apart. I’ll be about a half a mile from the people. I’ll be in the middle of the pitch and they’ll be in the stands.”

Current Government regulations on organised outdoor events state that a maximum of 200 people can attend the majority of venues, rising to 500 where capacity is normally greater than 5,000, and then only with appropriate protective measures in place including social distancing requirements.

Ms Coughlan, whose Galway gig will see pods of four attendees, and a click and collect bar service, said the curtailments did not make sense.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times