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Saturday 16 December 2017

Artists highlight fears about Budget cuts

Nicola Anderson

FEARFUL of further cuts in the forthcoming Budget, writers and artists came together at venues across the country yesterday for a day of action.

Eighty TDs, including Taoiseach Brian Cowen and senior cabinet members, met artist constituents to discuss concerns during the event organised by the National Campaign for the Arts.

The group was formed last year following the Bord Snip recommendations to dissolve major arts agencies and question the need for full representation of the arts at senior cabinet level.

TDs in Galway teamed up with well-known artists to present a short performance of music, poetry, prose and juggling on the steps of the Townhall Theatre. Meanwhile, in Dublin, writers met at the Garden of Remembrance, while other events took place across the country.

In Waterford, playwright Peter Sheridan said a wave of "bewilderment" had swept the artistic world amid "savage" cuts in the last budget and fears of more to come.

In his 21 years as a writer availing of the tax exemption status, there were only four years when he actually earned enough to be taxed, he told guests at last night's launch of the Imagine Arts Festival.

"It's been a struggle to stay a writer," he said. "It is a see-saw way of making a living and you never know how the year is going to pan out."

He warned against further government cuts in arts funding, saying funding for the sector at €76m is "so tiny" that enormous damage can be done by "messing with it".

Mr Sheridan said he was particularly opposed to the targeting of the tax exemption for artists, saying politicians were "going on as if we've been ripping off the nation for years".

He challenged any politician to put their earnings for the past 21 years on the table and compare them with his own. "I'll live on that and they can live on what I earn," he said.

Speaking at the Garden of Remembrance, chairman of the Irish Writers Centre, Jack Harte, said: "Writers should be taken seriously and not be regarded as some sort of ornament called upon on State occasions."

He said that writing has earned "billions" for the Irish economy, with cultural tourism one of our biggest forms of income. "Reinvestment is what we are looking for -- not a handout," he said.

Irish Independent

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