Ireland Will Soon Pay Arts and Culture Workers a Basic Income to Help the Sector Bounce Back From the Pandemic

Details are still being hammered out ahead of a January 27 deadline.

Minister of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin TD outside Government Buildings.
Photograph: Leon Farrell / Photocall Ireland

Artists and culture workers in Ireland will soon be eligible for some much-needed financial support as the government readies a new basic income program.

Ireland will commit roughly €25 million ($28.3 million) to the program, which it expects to implement early this year. It will pay some 2,000 people a basic income for three years.

The move aims to help the arts bounce back from “unprecedented damage” caused by the pandemic, according to Catherine Martin, the country’s culture minister, who set up a task force that consulted on the program.

A suggested rate of €10.50 ($11.90) per hour was discussed in the consultation, though the final number has yet to be confirmed. The consultation period runs through January 27.

“The minister is conscious of the value that this sector brings to all Irish citizens,” read a statement from Martin’s office. “The importance of Irish culture, Irish art and Irish productions as a whole cannot be understated—it contributes to individual and societal well-being, as well as contributing to Ireland’s reputation as a country with a rich cultural history and output.”

The task force’s top recommendation was to create a basic income plan for a three-year period in the arts, culture, audio-visual and live performance, and events sectors. Still under consideration are issues surrounding eligibility and the selection process. But it has been confirmed that participation will not be based on a means test, and it will be a non-competitive process. Once a person satisfies the eligibility criteria they will be included in a randomized selection process.

Martin described the plan as a “once-in-a-generation policy intervention” according to one report.

There have already been several initiatives in Northern Ireland aimed at supporting arts workers and venues impacted by pandemic limitations, as well as around the world. In late 2020, San Francisco announced its Basic Income Pilot for Artists, a plan under which a group of more than 100 local artists would be given a $1,000 monthly stipend part of the the city’s Economic Recovery Task Force.

“We were thrilled by news that the Irish Government will be piloting a guaranteed basic income pilot for artists for three years,” said Deborah  Cullinan CEO of the Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts in San Francisco. She spearheaded a basic income plan for local artists in late 2020.

“This move at the national level of government builds on our pioneering work in San Francisco where we are in the middle of one of the first guaranteed basic income pilots for artists in the United States. It also illustrates the growing momentum for this movement for economic security for all people,” she said.

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