Bafta award-winning Irish actor Stephen Rea says the Government has let down the arts.

“People are talking about having a strike when Joe Biden comes, an artistic strike, because the Government has let down the arts, and yet Ireland is being promoted as being this wonderful cultural country when in fact they’re [the Government] doing nothing about it,” said Rea, who has starred in Michael Collins and V for Vendetta, and was nominated for an Oscar for 1992’s The Crying Game.

“It’s just hypocritical. They don’t mind using pictures of great artists on calendars. We’re not good about the arts.

“I mean, have we ever seen any of the party leaders in the theatre? I’ve never seen Enda Kenny in a theatre, Michael D goes to the theatre and the last time I went to see Martin [Hayes] in the concert hall with The Gloaming, Michael, the President, came into a huge standing ovation.

“He’s immensely popular because he really means it about the arts. He’s the best representative of the arts we’ve got, he was a wonderful minister for culture.”

The actor was in Merrion Square in Dublin yesterday promoting Kilkenny Arts Festival, which begins on August 5. He will be reading Seamus Heaney’s final work, Aeneid Book VI, at the festival.

“It’s a remarkable translation by Seamus Heaney, his translations are wonderful,” said Rea.

“I’m honoured to be asked to do it. It’s got more high- powered now, the Kilkenny Arts Festival.”

Another late artist with whom he was close was playwright Brian Friel, who died last year. Rea plans to honour Friel at this year’s MacGill Summer School with a special tribute.

In relation to the playwright’s legacy, Rea said the work will speak for itself.

“The work will last and it will be constantly revived and constantly reassessed and that’s what Brian has left and that’s there forever,” he said.

Rea won Best Supporting Actor at the 2015 Baftas for his role as a spy in the BBC production, The Honourable Woman. While the actor plans to take time off, he will team up Hugo Blick again, the writer of the award- winning TV series.

“I hope I’ll be teaming up with Hugo Blick, who wrote The Honourable Woman, on a new television series next year which he’s asked me to be in. I don’t know what it’s called but it’s about human rights,” Rea said.


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