Arts Council concedes its work on equality has been 'too limited and too compartmentalised'

The State body says it is deeply aware that many inequities still exist within the arts in Ireland, and a substantial number of people "continue to experience barriers to engaging with and participating in the arts”.

Arts Council concedes its work on equality has been 'too limited and too compartmentalised'

The Arts Council has conceded that its work on equality and diversity has been “too limited and too compartmentalised”.

The State body says it is deeply aware that many inequities still exist within the arts in Ireland, and a substantial number of people "continue to experience barriers to engaging with and participating in the arts”.

Marking the publication of its first equality, human rights and diversity policy, it has paid tribute to movements such as “Waking the Feminists” and artist and drag queen Rory O’Neill for prompting steps towards necessary change.

Five years after making the “noble call” on day-to-day oppression of gay people in Ireland, O’Neill, who is better known as Pantibliss, launches the publication of the new Arts Council policy in Galway’s Pálás cinema tonight.

Arts Council strategic development manager Monica Corcoran said the policy was to have been completed last year, but a decision was taken to ensure it covered all aspects of equality, diversity and human rights.

The strategy comes nine months after Culture Minister Josepha Madigan launched gender equality policies of 10 major theatres and arts organisations.

The Arts Council has included socio-economic status as one of ten grounds for ensuring equality of opportunity.

The other nine, covered by the public sector duty and equality legislation, commit to equal opportunity, access and outcomes for all those living in Ireland “regardless of gender, sexual orientation, civil or family status, religion, age, disability, race of membership of the Traveller community”.

Ms Corcoran said the policy involved looking at the Arts Council’s own structures, while also incorporating the situation of artists and those participating in or seeking access to the arts.

It includes a three-year plan towards full implementation, she said, as “we want this to be an active, living policy “.

She said it built on a range of existing Arts Council work areas, developments and policies, and paid tribute to movements like “Waking the Feminists”, “Sounding the Feminists” and “Fair Plé” for injecting energy into a “process of change”.

“Waking the Feminists” was formed in 2015 in response to a male-dominated programme for the 1916 Rising centenary at the Abbey Theatre.

Tonight in Galway, Arts Council director Orlaith McBride will say that inclusivity and diversity are at the basis of a policy ensuring art is relevant to contemporary society and a fundamental human right.

The Arts Council is hosting a conference entitled “Places Matter” at NUI Galway tomorrow.

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