TDs put under spotlight at arts debate
'FULL House' is a phrase that swiftly turns the heads of politicians and theatre supremos alike these days.
The best seats in the Project Arts Centre, in cultureland AKA Dublin's Temple Bar, were swiftly nabbed yesterday as a troupe of actors, actresses, musicians and theatre bosses got the much-sought-after chance to turn the spotlight on the politicians.
Moderator, journalist Myles Dungan, strictly warned politicians they had two minutes to set out their stall and frequently called a halt to ramblings at the event, organised by the National Campaign for the Arts.
First, the baton was handed to last-minute stand-in, Labour senator Alex White. He instantly name-dropped the party's resident poet Michael D Higgins and gravely said the arts were "not a luxury".
Culture Minister, Fianna Failer Mary Hanafin, upped the beat as she pointed out that the outgoing Government's last act was to extend film tax relief and she touted the importance of keeping Culture Ireland as a single entity within the department.
Fine Gael's Jimmy Deenihan delved into history as he spoke of Ernest Blythe and the setting up of the Abbey Theatre.
The posse all proved to be 'Yes' people when it came to keeping arts as a full ministerial portfolio.
The real debate kicked off as the ministerial wannabes were asked if the current levels of funding for the Arts Council, Culture Ireland and the Film Board would be maintained.
Softly spoken Mr Deenihan fudged the issue, saying it will "depend on the finances".
The Green Party's Paul Gogarty waxed lyrical about the party's various plans for the sector 'going forward' in these straitened economic times.
Sinn Fein's Aengus O Snodaigh said he would "prefer to increase" funding if possible.
Ms Hanafin underlined the power of 'parish pump' politics as she advised arts campaigners to target their local TDs who "love having their faces" in the local papers.
It could have come in handy for the cherub-faced young election candidate, Dylan Haskins. Alas, his seat in the second row had been vacated.
But the most colourful contribution came from artist and Teachta Dala wannabe Mannix Flynn as he exited stage left branding the "self-serving" bunch boring.