NCFA calls on Dublin City Council to clarify cancellation of Repeal event 3 years ago

NCFA calls on Dublin City Council to clarify cancellation of Repeal event

The council calls restrictive legislation "chilling" in fight for right to artistic expression.

The National Campaign for the Arts (NCFA) released a statement on Saturday confirming that they share the same concerns as members of the Irish public following the removal of artworks and cancellation of discussions to do with the upcoming abortion referendum.

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The NCFA took to its website to share their views that they believe that this issue points to "larger implications" in the ways public bodies are run in Ireland.

The statement reads:

NCFA shares the serious and widespread concern expressed at the recent cancellation of discussion events and removal of artworks, and at the larger implications both of this decision by Dublin City Council and the recent decision by the Charities Regulator regarding Project Arts Centre’s programming of artwork by Maser.

Restrictive legislation and subjective interpretations of that legislation are beginning to have a chilling effect on freedom of artistic expression and on artistic contributions to public debate.

As a voluntary organisation, the NCFA will actively engage with this issue but also recognises that it may not be resolved in the short term and will need to be addressed at a systematic level.  This case also highlights the potential legal implications for free speech of a public body directly organising a festival or arts event rather than supporting a civil-society arts organisation to do so.

NCFA will pursue these issues with Government and colleagues across civil society to protect artistic freedom of expression and the arm’s length principle that public bodies should not control artistic programming.

More specifically, as Dublin City Council / International Festival of Literature Dublin included this event in the festival programme as published, NCFA calls on DCC to clarify what caused its change of position at this late stage.

This follows the ongoing battle fought by the Yes movement and street artist Maser to install a mural on the walls of Dublin city centre depicting the word 'Repeal.'

The mural was painted for the third time this week on the walls of Amnesty International's Ireland headquarters in Fleet Street, Temple Bar.

Word also spread on Friday afternoon that an event set to run at the International Literature Festival, organised by staunch pro-choice supporter Una Mullally, had been cancelled by Dublin City Council (DCC).

Mullally took to Twitter to share her disappointment and urge DCC to reconsider.

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"I am asking Dublin City Council to reverse their decision, and also whether the Council has instructed speakers at the festival not to talk about the referendum, which would very obviously amount to censorship," she wrote.

According to its website, the NCFA "is a volunteer-led, grassroots movement that makes the case for the arts in Ireland. We work to ensure that the arts are on national and local government agendas and are recognised as a vital part of contemporary Irish life."

JOE reached out to DCC who released the following statement:

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'The Question of the Eighth' was scheduled as an event in Smock Alley Theatre on the 21st May, as part of the International Literature Festival  Dublin.  

Unfortunately, this event has had to be cancelled at the request of Dublin City Council, who fund and manage the Festival.  

As with other Public Bodies, Dublin City Council cannot use public funding to support any side or appear to support any side of a referendum campaign.   

Council officials are also bound by the Code of Conduct for Local Authority Employees to remain politically impartial. 

Scheduling this event as part of a Council  funded Festival was considered to be inconsistent with the obligations on the Council and its officials. Dublin City Council wishes to apologise to the event organisers and the patrons who have booked tickets.  Those who have bought tickets will be refunded.