June 20, 2021

‘Downright insulting’ – Minister’s comments about musicans hits bum note with guitar-playing Kilkenny Council leader

The chairman of Kilkenny County Council, Andrew McGuinness, has strongly criticised controversial comments made by Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys in which she suggested that professional musicians who find themselves out of work would have to “retrain” and get new jobs.

Cllr McGuinness is also a keen musician and has spent many years performing as a solo artist and in various local bands.

The Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny Council says music is a hobby for him now, but he is well aware of the struggles professional musicians are enduing in the wake of the pandemic.

Cllr McGuinness told KilkennyNow.ie: “Minister Humphreys suggesting that musicians should retrain and get new jobs is downright insulting and a display of her own disregard for performing artists and the importance of live and recorded music. Its more than just entertainment!

“Musicians invest so much into their profession and it is often a labour of love that sees little return. When you see a one-man band in your local pub, performing for two and a half hours, he or she is not just up there out of enjoyment alone. It’s a job that pays the bills like every other job but it also requires huge investment of time and money.

“That one-man band would have spent at least a couple of grand on a PA system, probably the same on a guitar and accessories and countless hours learning songs that are current to keep up with what’s popular and what people want to hear. A musician needs to transport his or her equipment, so a van needs to be put on the road too, maintained, insured, taxed! There is so much more to a musician’s job than simply turning up and playing a few tunes!”

Cllr McGuinness said Minister Humphreys’ claims that musicians can temporarily hang up their instruments and retrain for a new job “is baffling”.

He pointed out: “Many musicians are performing full-time for years and have invested thousands of Euros into their profession. They won’t be able to just sell their equipment because who will want to buy it if the Government are just writing live music off as a profession!

“The minister obviously does not know what she is talking about and has very little respect for what is a form of employment for many and a form of expression and food for the soul for many more.

“I hope she now regrets what she said and takes this issue as seriously as she should. I know many musicians who have even been cut in their social welfare payments in the last few weeks. I have written to ministers about individual cases and still await replies while those musicians try to pay their bills and feed their families on a reduced social welfare payment. John McGuinness has raised it in the Dail too and spoke out on behalf of struggling musicians too.

“This needs to be resolved urgently, payments need to be reinstated to the proper amount and back dated, a detailed plan and timeline to return to performing is needed and musicians need to be taken seriously as professional people who are now struggling to survive in an industry that Minister Humphreys unfortunately does not appear to take seriously.”

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