Letters – May 2015

On the article about Aosdána in issue 36 of Village

(See Mannix Flynn’s reply on page 32)

Dear Editor,

In his article in your publication, dated 14th April 2015, Mannix Flynn is wrong when he states, regarding election to the position of Saoi of Aosdána, “Currently, if a position is vacant for one of the Saoi (Saoithe) all it needs is for certain insiders in Aosdána to get together 15 members to put a name forward to guarantee the elevation”.

The procedures for nominating a member of Aosdána to the honour of Saoi are laid down in the rules of Aosdána, clearly and unambiguously. They state that at any time, fifteen members may propose in writing another member for election as Saoi.

There is no such thing as “guaranteed elevation”. When a nomination has been correctly put forward, it then goes to the entire membership for ratification by secret ballot. A successful nomination must gain the positive votes of 50% of the entire membership plus one.

Mannix Flynn’s contention that this process can be hijacked in secret by what he calls “certain insiders” is therefore factually wrong.

Having been a member of the Toscaireacht (Steering Committee), from 2007 to 2011 Mannix Flynn is, or should be, familiar with the rules of the body.

The current Saoithe were nominated by a very wide range of members. At a conservative estimate, more than half of the members have been involved in these nominations. Mannix Flynn’s definition of “certain insiders” is, therefore a most peculiar one.

Mannix Flynn’s motion before the last General Assembly proposed that, on a vacancy arising, the Toscaireacht should advise all members that a vacancy exists. The fact is that both the Registrar of Aosdána and the Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon issue condolence notices to all members when a Saoi dies. Given the status of the Saoithe as artists, there is invariably extensive media coverage of the death.

Mannix Flynn is extremely economical with the facts when he refers to the contribution of our member Theo Dorgan to the debate on Mannix Flynn’s motion at the 2015 General Assembly. Theo Dorgan, as the minutes show, made the larger point that the honour of Saoi is conferred to acknowledge the work of the most gifted of our artists.  Theo Dorgan’s view was that, as an honour freely conferred by the membership, it would be inappropriate to make the position of Saoi the subject of a competitive election with multiple candidates, which was the thrust of Mannix Flynn’s motion. It would be equally inappropriate, for example, to institute competitive elections for the honour of Freedom of Cities of Dublin, Belfast, Cork etc. Honours are properly, freely given – neither sought nor competed for.

Mannix Flynn put his motion before the General Assembly and, following a full and open debate, his motion was put to the meeting; it was overwhelmingly rejected.

Yours faithfully,

Mary FitzGerald,

Chair of the Toscaireacht,


70 Merrion Square, Dublin 2