Roadmap for live events sector to be produced by end of month, says Coveney

Minister acknowledges ‘extraordinarily stressful’ time for performers as anger grows

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the sector is ‘rightly demanding certainty and timelines around that certainty’. Photograph: Gareth ChaneyCollins

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the sector is ‘rightly demanding certainty and timelines around that certainty’. Photograph: Gareth ChaneyCollins

 

A roadmap for the reopening of the live events sector will be produced by the end of the month, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said.

In the first indication that the Government is going to produce a date for reopening, Mr Coveney said musicians and promoters had every right to demand certainty about the way ahead.

Minister for Arts Catherine Martin held a meeting with representatives of the music industry on Wednesday during which she told them that she had pressed Cabinet colleagues for a date for reopening, but was rebuffed.

Ms Martin submitted a plan with dates for reopening to the Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19 earlier this month, but it was not adopted. She sought an invite to Thursday’s meeting of the sub-committee, but her request was rebuffed.

She wanted to make representations on behalf of the arts sector, which is seeking a firm date for the reopening of the industry.

Government sources said it was normal practice that a line Minister would attend the subcommittee when issues relevant to their sector were being considered, and that Ms Martin may attend in this context next week.

On Thursday, Mr Coveney acknowledged that the continued closure of the live events sector was “extraordinarily stressful and difficult” for the industry. “They are rightly demanding certainty and timelines around that certainty. We will be able to give them by the end of the month,” he told RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne Show programme.

Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne called on Ms Martin to publish her plan immediately, saying it is “not acceptable” that no strategy or timeline was in place.

Mr Byrne, who sits on the cultural panel and often advocates for the artistic sector, said the Government “needs to get its act together on the arts and live events sector and the Minister needs to take a lead by outlining her plan publicly”.

‘Who’s in charge?’

Music & Entertainment Association of Ireland spokesman Jackie Conboy said he will believe the Government has a plan when he sees it. “Just give us the date and stop deflecting,” he said. “Who is in charge here? Are we going to be put on the long finger again?”

He said there were real fears within the music industry that it will be next year before musicians are able to perform again.

Musician and mental health campaigner Niall Breslin, aka Bressie, tweeted that the absence of Ms Martin from the Covid sub-committee was “jaw dropping – a real indication of how our industry is viewed. Absolutely hard to believe 18 months later”.

Steve Wall of The Stunning said no member of Government, civil servant or “anyone in secure, full-time, pensionable employment has any idea of what it’s like to be a full-time musician. Then add Covid and the current ridiculous regulations that discriminate against us made by men in suits.”

Singer Aoife Scott said it had been a “missed summer of opportunity” to hold proper test events and to provide measures for the entertainment sector to run safe events.

She said a roadmap for the live music sector should have been planned during the spring when consideration was given to opening up sports events.

“I feel frustrated at yesterday’s meeting which seems to me as another stunt to kick the can down the road. I feel for Catherine Martin, as I do feel that her hands are tied somewhat – but if they are not listening to her, who are they listening to?” she said.

“I feel like we’re ignored as an industry anyway, and this shows proof that we’re not taken seriously. To only announce a roadmap at the end of August/September is far too late. This is not just entertainment – this is people’s lives.”