Women now make up more than 50% of State boards of national cultural institutions

Minister for Arts Catherine Martin tells Green Party conference women are in top role in six of seven cultural bodies under her remit

Female membership of the boards of national cultural institutions is now above 50 per cent, the Green Party conference has heard.

Minister for Arts and Culture Catherine Martin said that of the seven cultural institutions under her remit, “six of the seven directors are female, the majority of chairs are female and on the membership of those boards, they’re all at least over 50 per cent female and some are at 60 per cent”.

During a panel debate on “a new dawn for arts and culture” she said that gender equality on State boards was “moving in the really right direction”.

The national cultural institutions the Minister has responsibility for include the Crawford Gallery, IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art), the National Gallery of Ireland, the National Museum of Ireland, the National Library of Ireland and the Chester Beatty Museum.


She also has responsibility for Screen Ireland and the Arts Council.

The Minister told delegates that the debate chaired by Green Party Councillor Hazel Chu that her department had noticed a difference over the past two years.

Officials told her that “because the change is happening, more women are applying” and seeing that they will get onto boards.

This, she said “is key for women stepping up to these roles”.

Night club promoter and activist Buzz O’Neill said that in tour management and production managers women are industry leaders, “putting the biggest shows out on the road and they’re all Irish women”.

But he said “that glass ceiling is there and that glass ceiling is rock and roll men”.

Former chair of the National Campaign for the Arts Angela Dorgan intervened and said to laughter “and we literally have to wait for them to die off”.

Co-founder of Fair Plé Kate Barry highlighted the difficulties for women in the Irish traditional and folk music industry. The organisation was founded to address gender balance in the sector.

The organisation, founded in 2018, uncovered issues women faced from “basic everyday sexism” all the way up to sexual assault. Ms Barry said there “extraordinary power structures and hierarchies” in place for such a small country, that made it difficult to raise issues.

Ms Dorgan said that “young people will walk away from a festival, they won’t buy a ticket because they are far more gender equal than the age group of the promoters”.

She said that six or seven years ago “when we would bring this up with major bookers in Ireland they would say ‘oh, we can’t find anyone’”.

She added at the Ireland Musical Week festival, the official musical showcase of emerging talent, 50 per cent of the line-up is women, “so that excuse is gone now”.

Earlier she pointed to the success of the basic income pilot project for artists, a €325 weekly payment to 2,000 artists over three years. Ms Dorgan said the move will make a “commercial difference and a confidence difference”

But she said “it also says something about us as a nation. We are leaders. There are so many eyes of the world watching this trial.”

Mr O’Neill said the entertainment industry is worth €3 billion annually, including arts and culture, but did not have representation like businesses and enterprises.

A member of the night-time industry taskforce, Mr O’Neill said that many nightclubs had closed even before Covid. “When a nightclub gets closed down it’s gone. It’s a car park or a hotel or an apartment block overnight.”

With agreement to extend nightclub opening hours to 6am, Mr O’Neill said probably about half a dozen clubs would go to 6am but the majority will probably go to 4.30am or 5am.

He insisted that from day one “it was never about selling another drop of alcohol”. It was now dropped into the lexicon that the bars would close at 5am with drinking up time until 6 am. “It’s not that, it’s dancing up time,” he said.

But he said he goes to a club in Los Angeles that opens twice. The bar opened at 10pm and closes at 2am when the venue re-opens for dancing until 8 am.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times