Sunday 17 December 2017

Top cultural figures work for Arts Council on pro-bono basis

Payments to serving members has been a controversial issue

Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan
Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan

Sophie Gorman, Arts Editor

SIX leading figures in the cultural sector have waived their fees to take on key roles with the Arts Council.

A new chair and five new members were announced yesterday by Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan.

Sheila Pratschke, former director of the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris, has been appointed as the chairperson designate, her position to be confirmed following an upcoming appearance before the Oireachtas Committee.

She will replace theatre producer Pat Moylan, the outgoing chairperson.

These new positions were advertised last May by the Department for Arts with the stipulation that any candidates would take up the posts on a pro bono basis, waiving the annual fee of €8.978 for the chairperson and €5,985 for members of the council.

“Across the range of artforms - from architecture to the visual arts - the Arts Council plays an extremely important role in supporting individual artists and arts organisations in their work,” said Minister Deenihan.

“The arts sector - like every sector in Ireland - has had a challenging time in recent years. The Chairperson designate and new members have a wealth of experience which will benefit the development of the arts in Ireland into the future.”

Minister Deenihan has also paid tribute to former chairperson Pat Moylan, whose term as Chair finished at the end of 2013, describing her as a “tireless champion of the arts in Ireland whilst Chair of the Council”.

A full Arts Council comprises 12 members, six men and six women, and a chair of either gender, appointed by the Minister for Arts for a term of five years.

The annual payments paid to serving members has been a contentious issue. When Minister Deenihan took over as Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht in 2011, he requested that members of the arts council would stop taking their fees.

At that time, of the 12 board members and the former chairperson Pat Moylan, three relinquished their payments, including Moylan.

The latest publically available information on the matter was given last March to Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald, on the names of the three board members, the Ministers revealed that the three members to gift their fees back to the State were Pat Moylan, John O’Donnell and John Fanning.

The Minister confirmed that no fees will apply to the appointments announced yesterday, though expenses incurred will be reimbursed. This follows the general policy being pursued by the Minister in ending the payment of board fees. When the new Irish Film Board was appointed in 2013, Minister Deenihan also brought board fees to an end at that agency, and has also signalled the end of board fees for a range of other cultural institutions, agencies and committees under the remit of his Department.

Sheila Pratschke was until recently the director of the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris, before that she was director of the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, a residential workspace for artists and writers in Annaghmakerrig, Co Monaghan.

“I am honoured to have been asked to take up this role, and am looking forward to the challenge, “said Ms Pratschke.

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