"Six months ago I bought a bag of coal to heat the house, and when I paid for it I was left with €2.50 in my pocket until the next PUP payment."
Matt McGranaghan, from Castlefinn, Co. Donegal, told how he has struggled to make ends meet and pay household bills since live music was shut down in March 2020.
Fiddle player Matt, who has worked with everyone from Mary Black to Nathan Carter and is currently a member of country star Michael English's band, said it broke his heart this week to hear a six-year-old child in his family ask why he wasn't going on holiday.
"How do you explain to a six-year-old that we can't afford a staycation because the Government won't allow you to work?" Matt told the
Sunday World last week.
"Six months ago I bought a bag of coal to heat the house, and when I paid for it I was left with €2.50 in my pocket until the next PUP payment. On another occasion I had to leave €13 worth of groceries behind me in Tesco because my card was rejected.
"I'm very thankful for the PUP, but it doesn't take into account all the outgoings and the expense of things, like my car and my insurance and all the other different expenses. You find yourself struggling when something like the electricity bill comes in."
Matt, who represents the Music & Entertainment Association of Ireland, said he is aware of many hardship cases in the industry.
"I know guys in the entertainment business with four or five kids and kids going to college, and I know the pressures they are under trying to fund that," he says.
"There are so many people worse off than me that mightn't be able to say it publicly. But I don't mind sharing my situation because it's not my fault…it's the reality of life with no work.
"We are seeing an awful lot of people leaving [the industry]. They have to get other jobs because they have no other way to survive. They include musicians and crew - people who have spent years honing their skill in the business and contributing to the culture of this land.
"We are going to see an accelerated exodus in the coming months because there were people clinging on and hoping to ride it out. Now there is less and less hope."
Event promoter Justin Green, who has been behind the bulk of Ireland's biggest shows - from U2 to Michael Bublé - was this week among a group of entertainment industry chiefs petitioning Minister for Culture Catherine Martin for a return of live music.
Mr Green, from the Event Industry Alliance, said he was shocked when Ms Martin told the forum her request to be included on the Cabinet coronavirus sub-committee to raise the plight of the music industry had been turned down.
"The Minister said she was fighting for the Arts and that we were pushing an open door with her. Then she asked us to reach out to her fellow colleagues in Government to lobby them for support. I was scratching my head thinking, 'you're in Government and you're asking us?' I couldn't believe it.
"Then she mentioned she'd put forward proposals, but they had refused her to come on to the sub-committee. I told the Minister that this worries me greatly. It is a shameful indictment of the Government and, quite frankly, an insult not only to the Minister herself, but it also demonstrates the clear disregard for our sector and complete contempt for every Irish citizen."
Mr Green said that 35,000 people are employed in the entertainment and events industry. It's worth €3.5 billion to the Irish economy.
The industry wants the Government to allow shows and events to reopen from September 1, with full capacity indoors and out for fully vaccinated people.
Mr Green pointed out that the Government financial supports are all being reduced from September 7.
"They will all be taken off the PUP payment and then they go on to Jobseekers - so they will be officially made unemployed. "