‘Life changing’ income scheme for artists means more spend time on work and fewer suffer from depression

Green Party wants to extend three-year pilot Basic Income for the Arts scheme which provides €1,400 per month to artists

Artists in receipt of the of Government-backed Basic Income for the Arts scheme are getting to spend more time on their work, investing more money in it and reporting significantly greater levels of wellbeing, according to a review of the first year of the project published on Monday.

Speaking at the launch of the report and a related conference attended by many artists and other from the sector, Minister for the Arts Catherine Martin said the intention over the course of the three year pilot scheme was to gather “gold standard research,” which, she said, she hoped would amount to “irrefutable evidence” of the scheme’s value to artists, the wider sector and the State.

During the pilot, launched in October 2022, some 2,000 artists receive a basic income of about €1,400 per month. An additional 1,000 artists, also from a wide range of areas including music and the visual arts, are participating in the scheme as a control group without the regular payments.

The review finds that those receiving the basic income are significantly more likely to be coping financially; are investing an average of €550 more a month in their work; are spending almost eight additional hours a week – a mix of artistic, research and administrative work – on their endeavours and less likely to be suffering from depression.


Almost a third of those receiving funding, 31.1 per cent, said they were able to support themselves from their work in the arts, compared to 23.4 per cent of those in the control group.


Addressing the conference, Ms Martin said the pilot would continue for the scheduled three years, regardless of the timing of the general election, but that the extension of the scheme forms part of Green Party’s manifesto.

“I think we are a nation who value our artists and we are lucky with the standard of artists that we have in Ireland,” said Ms Martin.

Speaking at the event, one of the many recipients of the funding of the scheme, Tom Meskell from Mayo, said participating in the scheme had been “life changing” for him.

Mr Meskell, a community artist, lives in Charlestown with his wife, Carmel Balfe, also an artist but not involved in the scheme, and their children, Paddy and Laurie. He has worked in the sector for more than 30 years.

He has been artist in residence at Sacred Heart Hospital, Castlebar, working with many other community-based organisations and groups and recently had a major piece of work, Silva Lumina, at the Botanic Gardens in Dublin.

Despite his many years of work, he says however, making enough money just to feel secure and be free to pursue the work he wants to has always been issue.

“One of the huge things for us has been cash flow,” he says. “We could have money in the air, we knew it was coming but we couldn’t get petrol for the car. That’s happened a number of times.”

The funding, he said, means the family does not now have to worry about issues like that as they always know they can count on the money arriving.

“It’s also meant I can turn down work,” he says. “You can turn down the things are maybe not really for you and take a chance on what will come in next, something that you really might be much better suited to, something that’s a better opportunity. The result is my work has gone like this,” he says, pointing steeply upwards.

The full review is available at: https://www.gov.ie/pdf/?file=https://assets.gov.ie/294268/3555e53e-4882-403b-ab57-d09f31ffab9b.pdf#page=null

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times