Pandemic supports are to be removed from live event workers while there is no plan in place to reopen their sector, industry representatives have said.
Representatives of the live music and entertainment sector will this afternoon meet with Arts Minister Catherine Martin, to discuss the possible return of concerts and festivals.
Stakeholders say today's forum is the first between them and Government since the pandemic began 18 months ago.
A spokesperson for the Music and Entertainment Association of Ireland (MEAI), Matt McGranaghan, warned that 50 per cent of workers in the sector are at risk of becoming unemployed in the coming months because of the slow pace in reopening live events.
The industry had been in 525 days of continuous lockdown since March 2020, he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland and Newstalk Breakfast.
“The next six months could be more damaging than the previous 18 if a reopening strategy does not take everything into account,” he said.
‘De facto unemployed’
Mr McGranaghan said the Government needed to create a scenario for the reopening to happen from a set date. “I think we need to be responsible about the re-opening of the industry for the workforce and the general public.”
He pointed out that from September 14th, up to 30 per cent of workers in the industry who were on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) would become unemployed as they transitioned to job seekers allowance and were no longer permitted to be self-employed while on the payment.
By November, a further 20 per cent of the live events workforce would also move to this type of social welfare payment, leaving 50 per cent of the industry “de facto unemployed”.
The Government needed to keep supports in place for the sector, he urged. Such supports could be sector specific.
It’s just insane that people’s livelihoods are coming back but it’s not in the country that they’re living in
Entertainment could safely return, he added. “We need to stop making it the root cause of the entire spread of Covid-19”.
Meanwhile, lead singer of the band The Academic, Craig Fitzgerald, told Newstalk radio that the band can play music festivals in the UK, but want to perform in Ireland again.
“It’s just insane to think that we’ll be doing that before we even have a clue if people can, you know, put on a gig in a pub, or roadies and techs can get back to work,” he said.
“It’s just insane that people’s livelihoods are coming back but it’s not in the country that they’re living in.”