‘The Actor as Creator’ initiative

Dear Equity member,

Screen Ireland has announced details of a new ‘The Actor as Creator’ initiative to showcase Irish acting talent in partnership with Bow Street, with the support of Irish Equity. The ‘Actor as Creator’ is a new initiative designed to create a diverse range of work from unique creative voices within the Irish screen acting community. 

The scheme is designed to promote and invest in Irish screen acting talent, during a time when social distancing measures are affecting traditional production activity. This talent development and promotion initiative will showcase the unique creative voices of 30 actors to create a short filmic work that expresses their creative vision. The scheme is open to experienced screen actors and successful recipients will originate, perform and produce the short filmic work.

If you are interested in this and would like more details on how to apply for the Actor as Creator programme visit:

https://www.screenireland.ie/news/screen-ireland-bow-street-launch-new-initiative-the-actor-as-creator-to-sho

Irish Equity Benevolent Fund

The Executive of Irish Equity provides emergency assistance to its members in financial difficulty though the Irish Equity Benevolent Fund. This fund is currently limited in scope as it relies on voluntary donations and applications for assistance are treated in strictest confidence. The fund is managed and arbitrated by two trustees who are also members of Irish Equity and nominated by the union’s executive. There is no disclosure of any applicant’s details to the Executive which is only advised of the number of applications and the amounts approved. The fund is regulated and subject to audit in the normal way. All applications will be dealt with on a case by case basis and members of Irish Equity may apply for emergency assistance by sending a confidential email to equity@siptu.ie. Please insert the words ‘Confidential benevolent fund application’ in the subject line.

Applications are treated with utmost sensitivity although there are basic eligibility criteria. These criteria are not in any respect intended to question the dignity or sincerity of any applicant, but rather to ensure as fair a disbursement as possible of the limited fund.

Application criteria:

  • Applications will be addressed on a Case by Case basis. 
  • Applications will be confidential to the trustees and the Equity Official
  • Applicants must be in benefit/good standing.
  • Multiple applications by any individual will be discouraged.
  • Large amounts will not be payable given the limited nature of the fund.

Have you been refused the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment or have a question about eligibility?

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP NOW for an online meeting about Social Welfare payments and rent supports available during the COVID-19 crisis and how to navigate them, at 3.30pm on Friday 17th April. Hosted by Irish EquitySIPTU, The National Campaign For The Arts and Theatre Forum.

.
.

Dear member,

There is now a helpdesk available from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in relation to the COVID-19 Emergency Payment. The Department has agreed to handle individual queries from artists and arts workers about the payment so if you’ve been refused the payment or have a question about your eligibility you can now contact the Department directly, as follows and an official will contact you to discuss your query.

Please email artsunit@chg.gov.ie with the following information:

  • your telephone number
  • a short description of your question

It is important that all of you who did not qualify for the COVID-19 payment or are still having difficulties accessing it would use this facility so that the Department can see first hand the extent of the problem we are pressing them on.

SIPTU calls for increased support for artists unable to avail of Covid Unemployment Payment

SIPTU and Irish Equity have written to the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, calling for the Government to urgently increase the financial support for workers in the Arts sector who have been unable to avail of the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP).

SIPTU and Irish Equity Organiser, Karan O Loughlin, said: “Many artists in the PAYE sector are outside the eligibility criteria for the PUP. The fact that they were not working immediately before 13th March and were not made unemployed at that point disqualifies them. 

“However, the reality is that many were due to start work very shortly after this date or over the course of the summer. This planned work has now disappeared as a direct result of the Covid-19 emergency. Among the artists in this situation are up to 100 performers in the cast of the RTE show, Fair City.

“Artists who are over 66 years of age are also precluded from claiming the PUP despite the fact that they work and perform regularly. It is clear therefore that the Government needs to do more for artists and Arts sector workers to ensure they have enough support to survive this crisis and return to work in their professions.”

She added: “We are calling on the Government to expand the scope of the current self-employed artist social protection scheme. The scheme should include all professional artists and arts workers whether PAYE or self-employed and its payment should be brought up to the level of the Covid-19 PUP.

“The EU Copyright Directive should also be implemented as this would be useful in creating additional income streams for performers and artists whose work is streamed online.”

Read the full text of the letter sent to Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan.

COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Following significant lobbying by SIPTU and the Irish Congress of trade Unions, the Government announced on 24th March, new measures to provide financial support to Irish workers affected by the Covid-19 crisis for both self-employed and employed workers. This includes also assistance for renters and utility bills etc.

Self Employed

Self-employed workers are eligible for the special Covid 19 unemployment benefit which has been increased to €350 per week

For self-employed workers who become ill are eligible for the Covid 19 illness benefit which has also been increased to €350 per week

If you have already received a payment of any of the Covid 19 benefits then you don’t need to do anything as there will be an automatic adjustment. If you are making a fresh claim, you can do so through this link  https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/eca524-covid-19-information-for-employees/

For Employees (PAYE Workers) 

Revenue will operate a Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme for organisations whose business activities are being adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The scheme, enables employees, whose employment is affected by the pandemic, to receive supports directly from their employer. The scheme will run for 12 weeks from 26 March 2020 but any employee who was on the payroll as at February 29th is now eligible for these payments and we are in discussion with the producers on running this through payroll wherever possible. The subsidy scheme applies to employers whether they can afford to top up employees’ wages or not.

For employees who become ill they are eligible for the COVID-19 illness benefit which has also been increased to €350 per week

For employees who have been laid off and the employer cannot make payments through the payroll they are eligible for the C19 unemployment benefit of €350 (plus normal payment for any dependants)

In April, the scheme will move to a subsidy payment based on 70% of the weekly average take home pay for each employee up to a maximum of €410 net pay. Income tax and USC will not be applied to the subsidy payment through the payroll. Employee and Employer PRSI will not apply to the subsidy or any top up payment by the employer.

If you have already received a payment of any of the Covid 19 benefits then you don’t need to do anything as there will be an automatic adjustment. If you are making a fresh claim, you can do so through this link  https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/eca524-covid-19-information-for-employees/

We also expect legislation to be passed to tomorrow freezing rents and banning evictions for the next 12 weeks also. As you may be aware the banks have agreed to give workers financially effected by Covid 19 a 3 month break from mortgage payments and applications can be made for this through your on line banking.

Further support measures for renters and utility bills etc can be accessed here:https://www.gov.ie/en/news/a6d8fa-government-announced-new-covid-19-income-support-scheme/

For any questions on the above the email addresses are:

Andrea   aholmes@siptu.ie or equity@siptu.ie
Karan koloughlin@siptu.ie

Paul Doyle – RIP

April, 2020 — Irish Equity are saddened to hear of the death of Paul Doyle who passed away peacefully but unexpectedly of natural causes on 11th April 2020. Paul was an actor with extraordinary creative talent, that included his unique voice and a passionate VO/radio artist. A dear friend and fellow actor to many who will be sadly missed by many. Our deepest condolences to Paul’s family and friends.

SIPTU supports new wage compensation scheme and increase in COVID-19 emergency payment

SIPTU General Secretary, Joe Cunningham, has welcomed the Government’s wage compensation scheme which was announced today (Tuesday, 24th March) and is intended to retain workers in employment.

Under the scheme, an employer will receive a subsidy of 70% in respect of an employee’s net wage, up to €38,000 per annum. The scheme is intended to continue for a 12-week period although further details have yet to be provided. The latest government proposals also include an increase from €203 to €350 per week in the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

Joe Cunningham said: “The Government’s announcement will go a long way towards protecting employment and businesses during this emergency. It will provide security for workers and help ensure the economy will be in a strong position to recover once this public health crisis is over.”

“SIPTU and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions have been calling for the introduction of such a scheme. While we await further details, the outline announced by the Government today is consistent with what we have been seeking. 

“In particular, it has the capacity to keep employers and employees connected, which means that once the emergency has passed, the economy will be in a stronger position to recover. While we would have preferred the scheme to be extended to workers who have been temporarily laid off, the increase in the Pandemic Unemployment Payment is to be welcomed. We will be seeking clarification as to whether this increase will also apply to Jobseekers payments.”

“We are calling on employers to engage positively with this scheme so that workers and the economy receive its potential benefits.  We also call on employers to work with their employees and their trade union representatives to ensure maximum participation.”

Irish Equity AGM deferred

Irish Equity regrets that due to the ongoing measures to contain/curtail the spread of the COVID-19 virus we have taken the decision to defer the AGM scheduled for 5th April until later in the year when we can be assured that holding this meeting will not endanger anybody’s wellbeing. This is an
unfortunate turn of events but we believe it is in all of our best interests to defer the meeting for now.

Also, we are liaising with employers in the industry on the measures
announced by the Government today to get more information about their
intentions for cast during any cessation of work. In addition, we have
confirmation from the Department of the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht that the Arts Council has said that it has notified theatres that it will honour all funding commitments made to them and that there will be no financial penalties for theatres that are unable to deliver key activities and events
arising from the COVID-19 virus. This should mean that theatres should, in turn, be able to honour commitments to artists.

We are also liaising with employers in film and TV and we will update you
immediately as we get more information on their intentions about working
arrangements etc.

While we await further updates from the employers please see the attached information from the Department of Social Protection. This document
explains all of the supports available to workers, employed and self-
employed, including the new sick pay arrangements and workplace closures, lay off, short time working etc.

Please email us directly on any of the email addresses below if you have
useful information with regard to developing circumstances on set or at your workplace or if you have specific queries on any information that we are sending through to you. The email addresses are; Andrea – equity@siptu.ie and/or Karan – koloughlin@siptu.ie.

Niall Tóibín – A Tribute

Niall Tóibín, Actor, Writer, Comedian, Singer, Impressionist and Presenter, was the last of a veteran group of multi-talented performers from Cork City and, perhaps had the edge in versatility. Born into an Irish speaking family, he sang in the cathedral choir as a child and in the Opera House in Cork.

In his teens, he joined a drama society attached to the Gaelic League, performing locally until 1953 when he joined the illustrious Radio Eireann Players. Niall remained there for fourteen years, honing his considerable vocal skills. He then joined the Abbey Players as guest performer, creating the role of Brendan Behan in “Borstal Boy”, a performance still unsurpassed for its uncanny accuracy.

He also found time to write scripts for RTE and for his own stage and TV shows, and wrote the lyrics for several Gael Linn records. From the 1970s he appeared in sixty-four major Film and Television productions including such iconic series as, “Minder”, “The Irish RM”, “Coronation Street”, “Brideshead Revisited” and “Ballykissangel”.

Fittingly, Niall had several honours bestowed on him. In 1973, he won a Jacob’s Award for his performance in the RTE comedy series, “If the Cap Fits” and, Best Actor at the Christian Film and Television Excellence Awards.  In 2003 the Mayor of London asked him to serve as the “Ambassador of Ireland” to their St. Patrick’s Day Festival. He also received an Honorary Doctor of Arts Degree from University College Cork, made a freeman of the city of his birth and honoured with the Irish Film and Television Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.

Professional to his fingertips, dedicated to his profession, and to the support of his fellow artists, Niall was a lifelong member of Irish Equity. He was also a committed campaigner for actors’ rights and, in the nineteen sixties, was instrumental in fighting for better conditions for the Abbey Players. Through Equity, he took on Ernest Blythe (the Abbeys’ Managing Director) who had refused to implement basic contracts. Our National Theatre performers owe a great debt to Nialls’ bravery for their current conditions of employment.

A true giant, and major talent of the entertainment profession in these Islands, and beyond, for an incredible sixty-five years, he will be greatly missed by so many. Words cannot express our gratitude for this life-long dedication.

Our sincere condolences to his children, Sighle, Aisling, Fiana, Sean and Muireann.

“Go bhfaigheadh ​​Dia é i mbos a láimhe!”  “May God hold him in the palm of his hand!”

Laurence Foster
November 2019

Gay Byrne – A Tribute

Where does one begin to pay tribute to, undoubtedly, one of the finest broadcasters and presenters in the history of Radio and Television, not only in Ireland, but across Europe and beyond?

So many of us had the privilege of sharing the same corridor in the RTE Radio Centre for 25 years with Gay;  he, usually resident with his morning programme in Studio 5 and, in our case in Studio 9, with the RTE Players. Often we would be called in to read letters on air for him, or to assume alter-persona to take part in April Fool-day pranks. Afterwards, you would not get a pat on the back – it was what you were paid to do and he expected professionalism. I think that was what separated Gay from many other superb broadcasters.

He was fully focussed, so well informed and totally flexible – equally at home in heavy politics, light entertainment, music and current affairs. He was also brave! Despite resistance from many sides, he was indeed, a game changer and an incredibly influential force. In 1971, The Late Late Show” was being watched in half a million homes and, his radio show had nearly one million listeners!

Gay was a talented journalist, an actor, musician, raconteur and a showman, well able to hold audiences in the palm of his hand. In his broadcasts, he was speaking to just “you”, but also embracing thousands. His “warm-up”, to relax audiences prior to live transmissions of the “Late Late Show”, was impeccable, witty and mesmerising! 

Incredibly, he remained perpetually at the top of his profession, switching from genial host to investigative interrogator in the same programme, with consummate and confident ease. However, even though his success can now be measured by the multi talents he possessed, Gay made sure that he honed those skills to near perfection to achieve that success. He could also be professionally ruthless when he knew what elements a programme needed, or did not need, in order to retain its impact.

He was a staunch member of Irish Equity, picketing with equal vigour during union disputes and, was deservedly honoured with Life Membership of Equity. Gay also did, what Gay thought to be right and just. He was an avid theatre-goer, supporting his fellow union members, promoting performers and artists at every opportunity.

Whether one admired Gay, or took issue with him as a broadcaster, we never will see, or hear his like again. Broadcasting has changed, dedication to ones’ profession has changed, but the history and personification of his talent, that is encapsulated in recorded archive, will be a lasting testament to a genuine legend!

“That familiar voice, wearies not ever…”   –  Shelley.

Laurence Foster,
November 2019