Groups’ envy of Siamsa treatment
STATE PAPERS FROM PAST REVEAL CRITICISM OF ‘FAVOURABLE’ POSITION
SIAMSA Tíre’s apparent special treatment by Irish government’s in the seventies and early eighties raised the hackles of other arts groups across Ireland according to new files released as part of the latest batch of State papers published under the 30 year rule.
Among the hundreds of previously secret documents and reports published this week is a Department of Foreign Affairs file on two promotional trips to the US undertaken by a troupe of Siamsa Tíre performers in 1976 and 1982.
In organising the two trips, the second of which received £5,000 in funding from the government, Siamsa Tíre were given considerable aid by Bord Fáilte, Aer Lingus, The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Irish consulate in the US.
This level of Government support for Siamsa Tire drew the ire of other Irish cultural groups who felt they were not receiving their fair share of support and prompted Ireland’s Consul General in the US Thomas Lyons to write home to the Department of Foreign Affairs warning officials in Ireland that other cultural groups were displeased at Siamsa’s, alleged, special treatment and would use its US trips to advance their own case for extra funding.
“While it is appreciated that considerable pressure was exercised in regard to (promoting) the Siamsa visit, there may be a danger that groups who find themselves less favoured may fell they have grounds for complaint,” he wrote.
“Comhaltas Ceoltóirí in particular appear already to be harbouring a grievance against our Department because of alleged lack of support for their American tour. It appears they cannot be unaware of the extent of support now being given to Siamsa,” said Mr Lyons.
“There seems to be no good reason why they themselves should not look for similar support in the future or at least use the present situation to support their complaint that they are being discriminated against,” he wrote.
Conversely, while other Irish arts and cultural groups were bemoaning Siamsa Tíre’s special treatment, the members of Siamsa Tíre themselves were distinctly unimpressed with the aid they had actually received and in the various state agencies efforts to promote the two US tours.
With US audiences, and earnings, well below expectations in 1976 Thomas Lyons wrote that the leaders of the Siamsa Tíre group had expressed serious dissatisfaction, especially with the work done by Bord Failte and Aer Lingus, to promote their tour.
“Fr (Dermod) McCarthy does not appear to have been happy with the assistance given by the semi state bodies. In a telephone conversation with me during the week he asked what I considered to be some very pointed questions about Bord Failte and Aer Lingus,” wrote Mr Lyons.
“He seemed to feel very strongly that it was up to the Irish organisations to get out there and create interest in Siamsa and the impression was given that he would be critical of any organisation which had not lived up to his expectations in this regard,” he said.
It was also pointedly noted in Thomas Lyons’ report that while the Siamsa group had been hosted and entertained by members of various Irish American societies, including a group of Irish American police in Chicago, the Siamsa troupe “does not appear to have been at any time in a position where groups sympathetic to the IRA could exploit its presence for publicity purposes.”
■ A group from Siamsa Tire visiting Ohio Stadium in Colombus on a US tour back in 1982.