A number of professional artists’ associations and interest groups currently operate with restricted membership in Ireland. Unlike other countries, there is no overarching union or professional association to lobby on behalf of the cultural sector as a whole. Such a combined lobby group would present a more cohesive strategy to lobby for the sector.
The various professional artists associations operate separately of each other, but have the same aim: to represent the common interests of their members primarily to the state, but also to other professional associations or the general public. Collectively they represent creative artists, arts workers and assist their members in professional practice development.
- Visual Artist Ireland (VAI) is the representative body for professional visual artists in Ireland. VAI research has identified isolation, a need for support and a need for information as the three primary areas of concern for visual artists. VAI is supported by a grant from the Arts Council along with membership fees.
- Theatre Forum works alongside members and partners to strengthen Ireland’s performing arts community, and to advance its interests to ensure a sustainable future. Theatre Forum is funded by a grant from the Arts Council as well as members fees. They lobby on behalf of the performing arts, to represent the disparate views of members including theatre, dance and opera production companies as well as venues, festivals and individual artists.
- Dance Ireland is a representative body for dance in Ireland including both professional and amateur dance. They offer professional artist development alongside lobbying for the development of dance as an art form. Dance Ireland is funded by the Arts Council.
- Poetry Ireland is supported by the Arts Council to achieve excellence in the reading, writing and performance of poetry throughout the island of Ireland.
- Comhaltas is a democratically governed global cultural movement made up of tens of thousands of volunteer members concerned with the promotion and preservation of the music, dance and language of Ireland. Comhaltas is funded through a combination of members as well as grant aid from the Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht and Culture Ireland.
- Screen Producers Ireland lobbies on behalf of its members for the growth and sustainability of a working environment conducive to a strong independent production sector and IBEC (Irish Business and Employers Confederation) lobbies on behalf of film producers. Screen Guilds of Ireland aims to promote excellence in all fields of film and television production in Ireland, through the representation of its members. Screen Directors Guild of Ireland represents directors in the Irish and international industry.
- The Irish Association of Youth Orchestras represents over 5000 young musicians through 108 youth orchestras in Ireland. Membership is open to all youth orchestras in Ireland (secondary school, school of music, college or university, or independent or community-based orchestras).
- Irish Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle Network started as a voluntary organisation in 2010. Together with this emerging artform, it has grown and now the organisation supports and advocates for their 100 member organisations and individuals across Ireland and beyond.
- The Irish Writers Union represents the interests of Irish writers, whether they were born in Ireland or elsewhere. They successfully campaigned for Public Lending Rights (small payment made to author every time their book is borrowed from a library).
SIPTU (Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union) affiliated unions
SIPTU directly represents a number of workers who earn their living from the arts including professional musicians, writers, actors and other performers, as well as film, broadcasting and theatre staff. The Musicians Union of Ireland (MUI) and Irish Equity are affiliated to SIPTU. Established in 2003, the Musicians Union of Ireland represents musicians from every genre along with music teachers, singers and other music professionals. Irish Equity, established in 1949, is the only Trade Union representing actors, theatre directors, stage managers, dancers, stage and set designers in Ireland.
A recent Oireachtas Committee in 2018 heard from representatives of unions representing workers in the film and television industry (Irish Film Association and GMB). They relayed the discontent of their members in relation to working conditions and protections. Freelance contractors in the sector are not covered by employment legislation. Workers such as drivers worked over and beyond normal working hours. As a result, a steering group was established in 2018 within Government, which recommended the establishment of a new film industry forum that would be hosted by Screen Ireland. This would allow all stakeholders within the sector to meet and work together to develop mutually agreed solutions for the industry. This forum did not take place with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) deciding to withdraw from the process. Another steering group was established within the Department of Culture’s Audio-visual Action Plan (2018) to monitor risks and report directly to the Minister.