Irish Equity surprised at exclusion of Arts Minister from Cabinet committee on Covid-19

The Executive of Irish Equity have expressed surprise and disappointment at the exclusion of the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin, from the Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19. 

At a meeting of the Executive of Irish Equity, today (Thursday, 19th August), the group, which represents thousands of professionals in the live performance and theatre sector, discussed the exclusion of the Minister which oversees the industry from this crucial sub-committee. 

Irish Equity President, Gerry O’Brien, said: “Our Arts were one of the first causalities of the pandemic. While it is beyond disappointing that the Government are yet to provide a roadmap for the reopening of the sector, it is unforgivable that the Minister charged with the production of that roadmap does not yet have a seat at the table where crucial decisions on its future are made.”

Irish Equity Executive Member, Ann Russell, said: “The Arts have helped sustain us during the darkest days of this crisis. It is now time for our Government to send a very clear message of solidarity to artists and arts workers. We need an immediate roadmap to reopening so that the sector can start to prepare for the necessary rebuilding.”   

Equity Organiser, Martin O’Rourke, said: “A critical component of any road map for the Arts should also include the pilot of a Universal Basic Income scheme for the sector as promised in the Programme for Government and also in the recent report of the Arts and Culture Recovery Taskforce published in November 2020.”

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment Update

We were in contact with the Department of Social Protection recently in relation to a query regarding freelance workers and the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP).

We received the following information in response:

The amount anybody can earn through self-employment over an eight-week period and retain their full COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is up to €960 gross.

The €960 limit is based on gross income (before tax and PRSI) minus expenses:

  • They do not need to formally apply to or notify the Department that they wish to avail of this earnings allowance of up to €960 gross earnings over an eight-week period as a self-employed person while retaining their PUP payment. However, they must retain evidence of their earnings and have them available for inspection as they may be asked to provide these in future
  • They must also ensure that their earnings are within the threshold of €960 over an eight-week period and must stop their PUP payment should their earnings go above this level

The rate of €960 over an eight-week period will remain in place once the rates of PUP start being reduced.

Please note that where they may be working part-time (up to 24 hours per week in self-employment), but are earning more €960 over an eight-week period, a new scheme, the COVID-19 Part Time Job Incentive for the Self-Employed is a further support available to self-employed people who are in receipt of the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment or a Jobseeker’s payment and are resuming self-employment part time.

There are a wide range of income supports available to a self-employed person from the department.

Please click the links above for more information.

Should you have any further queries please contact

Irish Equity News

Read the latest issue of Irish Equity News

Madelyn Erskine – A Tribute

Born into a theatrical family in Dublin c. 1949, her father was actor Eric Erskine and her brother Julian Erskine. Madelyn began her successful career in the Killarney Repertory Company in 1968. Leading roles followed in It’s a two-Foot-Six-Inches-Above the-Ground World and One Flew over The Cuckoo’s Nest, in the Olympia Theatre. Fine performances in Children of a Lesser God, Tartuffe, and a long run in Goodbye to the Hill, followed. In the 1980s, she toured Hong Kong in Romeo and Juliet. She also performed in many TV and Film Productions, Notably, The Greening of America, The Riordans, The Last of Summer and The Spike. In 1986, Madelyn moved to Dundee and soon made a mark in Bailegangaire and The Sash in Glasgow and toured with the Tayside Theatre Company. Madelyn returned to Dublin the 1990s. She was an active member of Irish Equity for many years, a great colleague and respected by everyone she worked with. She possessed a strong stage presence and became a character actress of some significance. Madelyn will be greatly missed by all of her family, friends and fellow actors, following her death on the 9th June 2021

Tom Hickey – A Tribute

The passing of Tom Hickey, an Actor and Director of such special qualities, has left the theatre world bereft of a very special talent. The dedication towards his chosen profession that Tom showed, produced a lengthy, successful career and the well-earned respect of peers and audiences alike.

His training, and subsequent involvement with Deirdre O’Connell at the Focus Theatre, paved the way for the success he gained in all aspects of the profession. His unselfish approach manifested itself with his founding of the Four in One Players, and his involvement in the Project Arts Centre, that created employment for so many actors over the years. Even when he was heavily involved in becoming a household name as Benjy in RTE Television’s, The Riordans, he still found time to mount extensive and long-running theatre tours.

His monumental performances in the plays of Tom Murphy, Frank McGuinness and Tom McIntyre, won him deserved awards, but Tom remained a true colleague, retained his great sense of fun and his wonderful sense of the absurd. The intensity of his performances were well tempered by his off-stage humour and camaraderie. To really get to know someone, you have to live closely with them for a prolonged period of time, and touring with Tom was always eventful, fun-packed and never dull. Working with him was a joy, watching him perform, a transportation into the world he had fashioned from the anvil of a marvellous ability.

Tom thoroughly merited the accolade of “one of Ireland’ greatest actors”, and has left an immense legacy, not only in the volume of work he produced, but also in the number of performers who learned so much from him and, to whom he meant so much.

“What feats he did…be in our flowing cups, freshly remembered!” (Henry V)

Laurence Foster
May 2nd 2021

Lee Dunne – A Tribute

Lee Dunne, a great friend and colleague to so many, sadly passed away on Saturday, 10th April. One of Ireland’s most prolific authors as well as a playwright, director and actor, Lee has left an impressive volume of work as his legacy. 

Born in Ranelagh, Dublin in 1934, his early years were spent in poverty and deprivation and these were the catalyst for many of his works. Hard working and hard living, his novels were controversial and he had the “honour” of being the last writer to be banned in Ireland. 

It took 34 years, until 2006, before “Paddy Maguire is Dead” was made available in bookshops in the Republic of Ireland.

Like many before him, Lee had to relocate to England to find employment, turning his hand to many trades while writing, before earning enough to return home. 

He had more than fifteen film and TV credits and wrote over two thousand episodes of daily serials for RTE Radio. 

His early experience as a touring actor and keen ear for natural dialogue enabled him to adapt many of his works for stage and radio. He produced many himself, and “Goodbye to the Hill” provided much work for acting colleagues when it broke all records for the longest running stage play in Dublin and was often revived.

He will be greatly missed by everyone and his like will rarely be seen again. His latter years were clouded by the onset of dementia, bravely borne with the loving care of his wife, Maura. Vincent Smith, Lee’s long-time colleague and producer, was also a constant support.

Lee’s empathy, good humour, indomitable spirit and lifelong friendships were the keynote to a long, fruitful and hard-won career.

Irish Equity seeks meeting with Fine Gael leadership following voiceover debacle

Irish Equity seeks meeting with Fine Gael leadership following voiceover debacle

Date Released: 12 March 2021

Members of Irish Equity have today (Friday, 12th March) written to the chairperson of Fine Gael requesting an urgent meeting with the party leadership following media reports that the party has posted a series of ill-judged requests across social media aimed at Irish film, television and radio workers.

SIPTU Sector and Irish Equity Organiser, Martin O’Rourke said: “These posts lack even a basic understanding of the nature and quality of the work that voiceover artists perform. Media reports claim that job advertisements were posted across social media platforms advising that Fine Gael needed both a male and female voice “with an Irish-country accent” for a “quick” voiceover.  We understand that one of the adverts stated that applicants would be paid €50 less VAT for their services. Our members are demanding that Fine Gael clarify if they indeed stand over paying voiceover artists such paltry wages.”

He added: “SIPTU representatives have sought a meeting with the chairperson of Fine Gael, Richard Bruton TD, so that we can discuss the matter and to advise him of most pressing and pertinent issues facing artists in Ireland. Poor pay and a lack of real supports will be at the top of the agenda.”

Irish Equity President, Padraig Murray, said: “We are calling on Fine Gael to meet with us urgently to discuss what real solutions the Government proposes to address the low pay and precarious work crisis across our industry. The pilot for a Universal Basic Income Scheme over a three-year period in the arts, culture, audio visual, live performance and events sectors must get off the ground quickly and we are calling on the Government to make it happen.”

Liberties Creative Campus

Dublin City Council is consulting on the feasibility of ambitious plans to bring forward a “creative campus” in the heart of the Liberties area of Dublin 8.

The proposals are part of an Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) regeneration project that aims to deliver new workspace for artists within the city. In total three initial council owned sites have been identified, at Bridgefoot Street and at 8 and 9 Merchants Quay (the site of the former Little St Anthony’s Theatre).

The vision of the project is to jointly develop the sites and properties, and partnering with existing organisations in Dublin 8, such as the existing NCAD site, to form a campus for the arts and cultural sector that will also deliver new community facilities and public spaces.

To browse the concept plans please click here.

Click here to have your say
Please note the deadline for feedback is Wednesday 03 March 2021.

Rynagh O’Grady Tribute

Irish Equity has lost another great stalwart with the sudden death of actress, Rynagh O’Grady. She was a concerned activist for both Irish Equity and British Equity for many years. Born in Dublin in 1954, Rynagh trained at the Abbey School of acting in 1969 and made her debut there in The Becauseway. In the 1970s, she worked extensively in England in television, making 43 appearances – who could forget her Mary O’Leary in Father Ted? – and performed many leading theatre roles. Returning to Dublin in the 1980s, she was a member of the Executive Committee of Irish Equity, working tirelessly for performer’s rights. One of her last appearances was in the Abbey Theatre production of The Unmanageable Sisters. Rynagh also formed an action group, ARRO, to protect the rights of performers to their recorded material. The world of entertainment has lost a considerable talent and a powerful advocate for actors, performers and members of Equity. Rynagh will be greatly missed.

SIPTU confirms new collective agreement for independent live action film and television crew

SIPTU representatives have today (7th December) confirmed that proposals for a new collective agreement for live action film and television crew have been accepted in a ballot of union members. 

SIPTU Divisional Organiser, Karan O Loughlin, said: “This new agreement will come into operation in January 2021 and covers all grades except film construction which is subject to separate negotiations. 

“This is a good day for independent production crew. The proposals have been accepted by 83% of crew on a return of almost 70% of ballot papers. This level of support gives the agreement a very solid foundation for workers in the industry. The proposals have also been accepted by producers and we will now move quickly to set up a joint monitoring group which will oversee the implementation of the agreement and its practical operation on the ground.” 

She added: “Great credit is due to the film crew members who, as part of their SIPTU committee, worked tirelessly over the last two years to ensure we could get an agreement that is modernised and fit for purpose. This agreement deals with all aspects of day to day work for crew, enables producers to compete for work internationally and provides a pay structure that will bring stability to the industry for the next three to five years.”