Call for inquiry into Arts Council cancellation of communications advice tender

Organisation accused of being ‘tone deaf to artists and agencies’

Social Democrats TD  Gary Gannon:  Claimed the Arts Council advertised a tender for communications advice and many major creative agencies applied and it cost them “into the tens of thousands in time, commitments and production”.

Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon: Claimed the Arts Council advertised a tender for communications advice and many major creative agencies applied and it cost them “into the tens of thousands in time, commitments and production”.

 

The cancellation by the Arts Council of a tendering process it issued four months ago for communications advice should be independently investigated, the Dáil has been told.

Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon accused the council of being tone deaf to artists and agencies. “It should not be allowed to do what it does to artists and now to agencies and get away with it.”

He said it advertised a tender at the end of June for communications advice and many major creative agencies applied and it cost them “into the tens of thousands in time, commitments and production”.

Applicants had only now been informed that the tender had been cancelled because it would develop its own communications strategy.

Procurement rules

Under procurement rules “the only grounds for cancellation are exceptional circumstances” and this “fig-leaf cover” hardly qualified, he claimed. “The excuse given from the Arts Council as to why the tender was withdrawn, seems to be quite identical as to why it was initiated in the first instance.”

He was speaking during a Dáil debate on funding for the arts sector during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sinn Féin arts spokesman Aengus Ó Snodaigh said funding is “nowhere near enough” and the same grants and projects seem to have been repeatedly announced.

Mr Ó Snodaigh said it seemed funds announced by Minister for the Arts Catherine Martin “are announced in June, announced again in July and announced again then prior to the budget”.

“We will probably hear of them again next week” in the budget, he said.

Contrasting Ireland’s approach with that of Germany he said the first thing the German government did in March was “to provide a €50 billion package for small businesses and the arts”.

“Their labour minister intends to extend their version of PUP to artists until March 2022, not 2021.” He said the approach to the arts and entertainment sector has to be different to others because it was the first sector to close and possibly the last to open for many artists.

Opening the debate, the Minister said she was “acutely aware of the challenges” faced by artists and musicians and she acknowledged the impact of the cut in the pandemic unemployment payment and said “these supports are needed more now than ever”.

The State provided an additional €25 million in funding to the Arts Council and Ms Martin said she could not intervene as the council was independent in its funding decisions.

Many artists and musicians had sought funding from the Arts Council this year and a “significant proportion” of its grants went to artists who had never previously received Arts Council funding because they were fully employed in the commercial sector.

Minimum wage

The Minister noted that the live entertainment sector is worth an estimated €3.5 billion annually to the economy and employs 35,000 people. She said €10 million had been provided for a pilot performance and production support package to support the live performance and audiovisual production sector.

Labour spokesman Duncan Smith said it was announced the national minimum wage would rise by just 10c “72 per cent of artists in Ireland were earning less than the national minimum wage before this pandemic hit.

“One might ask what is the point in having a national minimum wage, if so many in a particular sector fall below that line.”