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14 Oct 2009 | By Aileen Moon

Tom Kitt
Emmy winning actor Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges) and authors Colum McCann (Zoli) and Sebastian Barry (The Secret Scripture) appeared today, Wednesday October 14th, before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to discuss funding of arts in the current economic downturn.

A number of other representatives from the arts world, including the chairman of the Arts Council Pat Moylan, Arts Council director Mary Cloake, director of the Abbey Theatre, Fiach Mac Conghail and artistic director of the Druid Theatre Company Garry Hynes also appeared before the committee. Actor Gabriel Bryne was present for part of the proceedings.

Speaking after the meeting, Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Deputy Tom Kitt told IFTN it had been a "very productive" day:

“We had meetings today for two and a half hours with representatives of the arts council and very distinguished artists such as Brendan Gleeson, Sebastian Barry, Colum McCann and of course Pat Moylan and Mary Cloake from the Arts Council all of whom came to discuss the seriousness of the situation regarding funding of the Irish arts in this time of economic hardship, laying particular emphasis on the McCarthy report.

The most significant part of the day, for me, was hearing the personal experiences of artists such as Brendan Gleeson and both Colum McCann and Sebastian Barry. It was a very powerful way to defend the arts funding in that all three bore witness to the fact that their respective breakthroughs came as a result of arts committee funding. Brendan Gleeson mentioned, in particular, the help he has received from the Irish Film Board.”

Following today’s meeting, Chairman Kitt indicated he plans to write to Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan to confirm his support for the arts in Ireland.

He commented: “As a result of today’s discussions I am now writing a letter to the Finance Minister to explain that having met with the joint committee of the Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and following the presentations of several distinguished Irish arts representatives I now strongly support the campaign which asks that the funding of the Irish arts, which is central to Irish culture, be maintained at the present level and I also today suggested the possibility of a system of tax relief for new artists.”

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