Louis Walsh, Paul Brady and Sharon Corr confronted Minister Eamon Ryan over what they perceive as the government’s failure to protect the livelihoods and rights of Irish recording artists.

Louis Walsh launched a major tirade against the lack of airplay for Irish bands on Irish radio, branding the radio industry’s reticence in this regard as the biggest problem facing emerging Irish acts of all genres.

“I can’t understand why there isn’t more Irish music on Irish radio. I can’t hear the bands if they’re not on the radio. I might as well be in America or the UK. Radio is the oxygen of the business,” said Walsh.

The veteran manager said he “still has to grovel” to get his acts played on 2FM and other national stations.

“It’s like they’re doing you a favour by playing your act,” Walsh told the audience and panel at The Music Show’s discussion on public policy and ‘how we can ensure that the piper is paid’, which was packed to the doors.

Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan insisted that he supported Irish artists and believed in the importance of the music industry. “There is huge employment potential from expanding our music industry, while we have had huge successes, I don’t think we have grabbed the opportunities. We speak English and sing in English and there’s huge talent,” said the Minister, adding that culture would play a key role in getting Ireland out of recession.

Folk legend Paul Brady, for one, was not impressed. He said he didn’t believe the Government was taking a strong enough line when it came to banning and blocking illegal file sharing. “If I hear anyone else in Government saying the arts will get us out of our present difficulties, I think I’ll scream,” Brady told Minister Ryan, to applause from the audience. “You seem to expect us artists to be cultural ambassadors and work for nothing. Three percent of people, in the last report, in this country think artists should be paid for their work.”

He was echoed by Victor Finn, CEO of the Irish Music Rights Organisation, who said much more needed to be done to protect artists’ work from being illegally downloaded. “You have the power to regulate that industry, the ISPs [internet service providers] that are operating in Ireland, by way of government licensing. You have the power to make them responsible for what is happening on their networks. Many other territories are taking action,” Finn implored.

The Minister suggested a meeting with academics and music industry, internet and government representatives. But Warner Music boss John Reid piped up from the audience to slam that idea, which he said would amount to a protracted and ultimately pointless talking shop.

Sharon Corr was in the audience and the singer-songwriter and violinist, who has just released a solo record, had a few words for the Minister too.

“I just recorded an album. I employed a producer, a studio, I paid the orchestra to come in, the scorer. I don’t understand why they get paid and I don’t get paid. It’s a basic right to be paid,” she said which was being denied by illegal downloading.

“I turn on the radio and it is wildly boring. It’s like a Bridget Jones soundtrack. I feel the government have a very laissez faire attitude to the whole thing. Implementation needs to happen,” Corr told Minister Ryan.