In 2018, the Arts Council gave EUR 11.7 million to individual artists. Within the category of artists funding, just over EUR 2.5 million goes towards Aosdána – Cnuas awards (more information below). Other grants to individual artists total EUR 9.2 million. The grant aid to individual artists was just under 20% of the total funding allocation of the Arts Council of EUR 62.3 million in 2018. The remaining 80% of funding is given to arts organisations that in turn commission and award grants to artists.
2018 saw the introduction of a new award for individual artists named the Markievicz Award in honour of Countess Markievicz, herself an artist and the first woman to be elected to parliament. It is the single largest fund for individual artists in the history of the state at EUR 20,000. The fund can be awarded to an individual artist working in any art form or practice. It gives artists to time and space to develop new work that reflects on the role of women in the period covered by the decade of centenaries 2012-23, and beyond. The award is administered by the Arts Council on behalf of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and is open via a public call to artists working in all arts genres supported by the Arts Council. Five artists received the award in 2018.
Aosdána was established in 1981 by the Arts Council as an honorary association of peer-nominated outstanding creative artists in Ireland. At the time, there were no other funds available to individual artists. The aim of Aosdána is to encourage and assist members to devote their energy fully to art. The membership includes creative artists working in a wide range of disciplines including architecture, choreography, music, literature and visual art. The 250 Aosdána members are eligible to apply for a Cnuas from the Arts Council, which is a multi-annual bursary granted for five years (EUR 17 180 in 2019). One hundred and fifty artists currently benefit from the Cnuas. Aosdána also runs a contributory pension scheme. There has been significant criticism of Aosdána in recent times on the grounds that it is elitist, too large and lacking in accountability. It costs EUR 2.9 million to run Aosdána annually.