The Arts "a Drain on the Economy"? I think not.

In calling the arts a “drain on the economy” (Tuam Herald, 12/01/2012), Tuam Town Councillor Paul O’Grady appears to have little idea of sustainable economic management and even less knowledge of drains. If Mr O’Grady considers a drain to be the continuous loss of a particular resource, in this case the economy, it would imply that the arts exist merely to siphon off the surplus presumably created, in Mr. O’Grady’s view, by those great bastions of the Irish economy – the banks, the property market and the drinks trade.

Of course, some drains can be of benefit to the economy. The draining of lands around the Corrib in the 19th century allowed the reclamation of lands for agriculture. Similarly, the vision and hardwork of Druid Theatre Company and the Galway Arts Festival in the late 70’s and early 80’s did much to stimulate the subsequent reclamation of the then moribund area now famous as the city’s Quay Street. I doubt anyone would call the €20m direct benefit generated by the 2010 Galway Arts Festival a drain on the local economy.

A few headlines from the 2011 report prepared by Indecon for the Arts Council: Over €700m in generated in the national economy by the wider arts sector which includes film, publishing, music, theatre and other cultural institutions; this sector also spent €1.5 billion in the wider Irish economy and employed over 20,000 people both directly and indirectly. These figures do not include the other economic benefit of the arts to the tourism and hospitality sector. I don’t see any Galway City publicans or hotel owners complaining about the arts during the Film Fleadh and the Galway Arts Festival. The wider arts sector contributed over €300m in direct and indirect taxes in 2010. If we were to include all the other creative industries such as television, radio and software development linked to the arts sector, the entire creative industry sector is worth €4.7bn to the Irish economy, employing both directly and indirectly almost 80,000 people.

But perhaps from behind his bar counter, Mr O’Grady hasn’t noticed the other drains in the Irish economy at present. For instance, the drain of talented and creative Irish people working in multimedia, film, publishing and theatre in the US and UK because there isn’t the work here. Maybe he hasn't noticed, but the biggest drain on our economy at present would appear to be the bill for the ponzi scheme created by the people running the property and financial markets in the last ten years.

Mr O’Grady, is it that your gombeen light is on - or is it just the blood draining from your face?

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