Lydia Mulvey, 47, a screenwriter, said that she quit her job in a telecommunications firm as soon as she heard she’d made it into the program. Now she spends her time writing pilot scripts for thrillers and sci-fi shows, rather than trying to squeeze that into evenings and weekends. “I knew it’d be transformative and give me my life back,” Mulvey said, although she added that, if she didn’t already own her own home, she’d struggle to live on such a low income, especially in Ireland’s squeezed property market.
Mark McGuinness, 31, a photographer, said that before receiving the basic income he had spent the whole week seeking commercial photography work to pay his rent and the cost of supplies, and had let his artistic practice slip away. Now, he’d “clawed back” two days a week to make work for exhibitions, he said.
Despite anecdotal evidence of success, no data on the program’s impact is available so far. Ireland’s government is sending recipients questionnaires every six months that ask about the state of their finances, artistic career and health, with the first scheduled to go out in April. Last year, those taking part received a survey to collect baseline data. It asked if they could adequately heat their homes, replace worn furniture or “afford a meal with meat, chicken or fish every second day.”
Some observers are impatient for results. Martin, the culture minister, said that lawmakers and arts organizations in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Belgium had made inquiries about the program..
Aengus Ó Snodaigh, a spokesman on cultural issues for the opposition Sinn Fein party, which supports the program, said he wanted data long before the trial concluded so artists didn’t face a “cliff edge” at the end. He added that he had many questions about the program, including whether payments benefited early-career artists more than established names, and whether the handouts were having unintended consequences, like causing tensions in rock bands if some members were selected, but others weren’t.
“Maybe the money would be better spent on hardship funds for artists who can prove they can’t afford the mortgage, or can’t rent a studio,” Ó Snodaigh said.
Few recipients are taking the windfall for granted. Mulvey, the screenwriter, said she’d recently met television companies about developing shows, and was often working long into the night. “I keep reminding myself that three years is a really short time, and we’ve already had six months,” she said, adding that she wanted to make sure “I don’t have to go back to a day job when this stops.”