Where is the arts plan?
Sir, – I had to rub my ancient eyes when I read that nice man Jimmy Deenihan’s recent article, which seemed to suggest the arts and our cultural institutions might work better if they were organised by government. Jimmy mo mhíle stór! Such touching faith.
The idea that Irish governments always run things efficiently reminded me of the moment in the classic sitcom Seinfeld when the central character glances up from a military board game and bleakly remarks, “It’s a game of world domination being played by two men who can barely run their own lives”. The same body that brought us electronic voting machines that nobody wanted or needed, that allowed the banks to thieve billions from the Irish people, that backtracked on its election promises so as to provide even more of our money to impoverished millionaires, now feels it can manage the arts effectively.
That is to say nothing of the regime of expenses still enjoyed by various habitués of Leinster House, the system of employing special advisers some of whom are paid very handsomely, and the continuing provision of lavish pensions to certain noted Irish patriots whose antics have helped send their constituents to the dole queue. All these wonderful money-saving efficiencies were brought to us by government. Sure, without our politicians, we’d lose the run of ourselves completely and the country might be in financial trouble.
My granny used to say of persons whose reliability she doubted that she wouldn’t trust them to mind mice at a crossroads. It sometimes seems as though this Government’s approach would be to redefine the mice as zebras and establish a commission, chaired by a leading economist – is there any other kind? – tasked with the project of rebranding every crossroads in Ireland a Decision-Making Opportunity Going Forward.
As for the proposition that the National Archives and the National Library should be amalgamated, along with various important art galleries that by their very definition fulfil mutually exclusive functions, it’s not unlike contending that The Chieftains should become members of the Irish rugby team because it would halve the cost of touring for each group. It might indeed. And it also might not. You’d nearly want to be giving us the details before we could make up our minds. Either way, would anyone buy a ticket for the gig that would result? Or would we realise, years later, the mistake we had made?
Of course there must be savings and reforms. Every cultural institution in Ireland is making them. But lasting damage can be done if a unique and valuable inheritance is mishandled. If it ain’t broke, don’t keep fixing it until it is. – Yours, etc,