Irish Equity spokesperson, Karan O Loughlin said: “As artists prepare for hopeful signs of a managed return to what they do best the Minister for Social Protection it appeared, had already concluded that ‘some jobs will never return and there is no point in waiting for the never never.’

“Our members in Irish Equity were extremely disappointed at the comments as we would have expected a more considered and enlightened approach from a person that previously had responsibility for the Arts.

“After barely a month in her new post, the Minister consigned thousands of hard-working and highly skilled artists to a future with no hope of working in their chosen field again. Instead, she wanted artists and other experienced workers to ‘re-skill, re-train and look at other jobs they can take up’. Ms Humphreys has now issued a clarification of her remarks which our members have welcomed.

“Artists in this country are already incredibly skilled people. We recognise the impact of Covid-19 across all sectors of Irish society and what we need now is to hear what plans and creative supports are being prepared by the Government to assist people go back to their jobs. We need to see a strategy that will allow our renowned artists to get back to making world class art, not the bleak and ill-considered diagnosis that consigns artists to the bin.

“The Ministers’ comments came at a time when the first tentative steps are being taken towards a return to live theatre, with Bewley’s Café Theatre staging a performance by Michael Ford in the premises of The Irish Georgian Society in Dublin. Other events in the city include a series of short plays being staged in The International Bar by Peter Reid and selected readings from Christine Dwyer Hickey’s book Tatty at The New Theatre.”

“There was no suggestion that our artists should re-train and go and look for other jobs while they were keeping the population entertained and engaged all through lockdown,” Karan O Loughlin said. “Irish Equity members will continue to work with our colleagues in theatre, film and other performing arts to ensure that they get the respect and opportunities they deserve.”