Mattie McGrath makes Dáil plea to protect the ‘right to dance’

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MATTIE McGrath has said the “right to dance” must be protected amid the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions.

The Tipperary Independent TD urged the Government to allow socially distant, pod-based indoor Irish dancing classes claiming this has been allowed for sports and other activities.

And he told ministers: “Don’t be dancing all over the UNESCO Convention”, an international agreement Ireland signed up to safeguard intangible cultural heritage.

Junior Culture Minister Jack Chambers insisted the Government “isn’t dancing on anything related to UNESCO” while outlining how dance classes are not being singled out for restrictions under Levels 3, 4 and 5 of the Living with Covid-19 plan.

He pointed out that indoor sports are also not allowed and even under Level 3 sports training is only permitted in outdoor pods.

“There isn’t any distinction for any type of indoor activity related to some of the examples that you gave,” Mr Chambers said

Arguing for indoor classes to be allowed Mr McGrath said he has 1,208 letters from dance teachers and pupils – “some very sad”.

“They need this to be allowed and we have to protect their right to dance,” he added.

Mr Chambers said he has received similar representations but that under Levels 3, 4 and 5 no exercise or dance classes are allowed.

“This precludes any exercise class including gymnastics classes and any type of dance class – traditional, step, jazz or ballet.

“Similarly the guidance precludes any indoor gathering taking place at Levels 3, 4 and 5 and make no exemptions.”

McGrath said dance teachers recognise that restrictions are necessary to curb the spread of Covid-19 but he insisted they offer “very safe environments” which are “well designed and very well ventilated.”

He read out a letter from a six-year-old girl who wrote: “I miss dance. I love dance. Let us practice so we can dance, be happy and have fun”.

Mr Chambers said he would encourage groups and associations to engage with the Arts Council and his own Department and the Government will try and be helpful.

He also said: “We absolutely support our cultural and dance schools but the most effective way to make sure many of our activities across society can operate is that we suppress the virus and get back to a situation where we can have a whole range of activities.”

Online Editors

Source: Irish News