The Irish political class “neither understands nor values” the arts sector here, according to Oscar-nominated director Lenny Abrahamson.
The Room director has spoken out in response to the Government’s decision to include the arts portfolio in the same department as regional development, rural affairs, and the Gaeltacht.
In a series of tweets, the director accused Taoiseach Enda Kenny of using the arts as “a photo op” while a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a world-class film and TV industry is squandered”.
Mr Abrahamson accused politicians of paying “lip service” to the arts and continuing “to trade on the legacy of Irish artists” while the level of financial support for the sector remains “shamefully low”.
The Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts, and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys, responded to Mr Abrahamson by stating that she valued the arts and film sector and will be making a case for extra funding at the Cabinet table.
However, during a statement outlining her priorities for the new department earlier this month, Ms Humphreys made no mention of the arts.
Speaking on RTÉ radio yesterday, Mr Abrahamson called for a dedicated Department of Arts and said the Government was wasting a golden opportunity to make Ireland a world leader in film, TV and animation.
“The quality is there,” he said. “If proper investment and strategic investment was made that could be grown hugely.
“And the idea which I think that the Government still seems to have of the arts of some sort of optional decorative extra that you can add in when there’s a few quid swilling around and pull out when you’re not.”
He said not only was this a “really crazy” way to invest in resources, it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the positive social and economic impact that the industry can have.
Earlier this week, Labour senator Kevin Humphreys also called for a dedicated arts minister and hit out at the Taoiseach for attending a major festival of Irish arts and culture in the US while relegating the arts at home.
“It is somewhat incongruous that the Taoiseach officiated at such an event in the US when, back here in Ireland, there are well-founded fears that this vital sector has been side-lined in the new government department configuration,” he said.
“As it stands, the arts portfolio has been further diluted by cramming more and more responsibilities into the same department. Therefore, a dedicated minister would provide much-needed direct support to this sector which would enable them to flourish and grow.”
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