What Should Be Done to Increase Equality of Opportunity in the Irish Arts? by Fiona O’Leary


The Abbey Theatres ‘Waking the Nation’ 2016 commemorative programme has once more highlighted the long known fact that the level of gender bias and sexual inequality within the Irish arts is at an unacceptable level. With only one of the ten chosen plays penned by a woman! An even worse imbalance exists when one looks at the pitiful number of plays directed by a woman over the last few decades.

However gender discrimination is commonplace in all aspects of the Arts including Public broadcasting, Radio and Television.

It is also true that discrimination does not just stop at gender but also relates to those who are different in Society.

Those with a disability or conditions such as Autism are very rarely given opportunities to create careers in this field or garnish the support they need to achieve this goal.

So for me, a woman on the Autistic spectrum, the odds of inclusion and success within the world of the Arts is severely challenged from the outset.

What can be done to improve the situation? I believe it must start in our schools, with our children.

The very soul of Art is expression and inclusion for everyone regardless of gender or difference; it is what brings us as a community together.

Many Autistic people including myself depend greatly on the Arts as a communication tool.

The songs I write are cathartic and vital; the words I write are my deepest feelings which I find otherwise impossible to impart.

All artistic endeavours, intertwined with inclusion of those who are different, need to be embraced with the same seriousness and appreciation as the academics right from the start of our children’s development and on in to adulthood.

Perhaps then in time a change will come for all.


Fiona O’Leary is an Advocate for Autistic Rights and founder of Autistic Rights Together