asked the Taoiseach if his attention has been drawn to the recent report A study of Artists Lifestyle prepared for the Arts Council by a company (name supplied); and if he will make a statement on its implications.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Arts Council Report.
The council very kindly made a presentation to me of this report recently.
I am aware that in commissioning this survey the council had regard to the importance of the artist in our society and of the difficulty of ensuring that the artist is given adequate reward and recognition. This is particularly true of individual creative artists who devote the greater part of their time to their art. The result of this survey will be of assistance to the Arts Council in assessing the position of artists and in considering a strategy for improving the situation in the future.
Would the Taoiseach not agree that this report is a sad indictment of the treatment by the Irish people of our artists? Could the Taoiseach give some indication of doing something positive to ameliorate their lifestyle, such as making eligibility for social welfare benefits more accessible to them, or even pension rights—a small gesture towards our artists?
I can assure the Deputy that this matter is under fairly active consideration at present.
Would the Taoiseach not agree that it might be appropriate to review the tax relief for creative artists as it now applies? It would appear to benefit those artists who are extremely well off financially—indeed some of them falling into the millionaire class—and is of no benefit to struggling or developing artists.
I could not go all the way with the Deputy. It is of some considerable benefit from time to time to even the less well remunerated artists. As I said at the time, it was intended more as a gesture to the artistic world than being of any particular value in the financial sense. Both Deputies are right in drawing attention to the fact that something perhaps more specific requires to be done for the individual artist who is struggling to exist out of his or her art. This is something which is under discussion at the moment.
Would the Taoiseach not agree that the main impact of the tax relief, as it now applies to the creative artist, has been to attract non-Irish nationals to live here as a tax-free haven and that it has had very little beneficial impact upon the development of Irish artists?
That is a question for argument.
I could not accept that at all. Perhaps some popular opinions on this matter are entirely misleading. Again, I would be prepared to write to the Deputy in some detail about the matter. I know, from my own personal experience, that it has been of considerable benefit to Irish artists of one kind or another down the years. If the Deputy wishes, I shall be glad to give him some statistics to show the effect of its operation to date.
I am not doubting the Taoiseach that it has been of benefit—and very considerable benefit —to some Irish artists. It has also been of considerable benefit to non-Irish artists. I am not objecting to helping artists or encouraging the arts. What I am saying is that the scheme as it now stands is of very little, if any, benefit to the struggling or developing artist.
I would not accept that.