'All-or-nothing' over Brooks shows
Published 15/07/2014 | 12:18
Country music star Garth Brooks has refused to budge in an all-or-nothing row over his comeback after planners refused to license five night-time concerts.
Dublin City Council chiefs claimed they were willing to look at compromises on three separate occasions after initially blocking the five sold-out Croke Park shows.
An Oireachtas committee hearing into the singer's scuppered comeback was told three different options were on the table at various stages of failed negotiations between the council and the promoters, Aiken.
On the eve of the local authority dashing plans for the five-night extravaganza, council chief executive Owen Keegan said he even stepped in to offer Brooks a four-night run.
And as late as yesterday Mr Keegan, who was legally bound to stand by the original decision, offered to bend the rules and allow the council to act as a co-promoter if Brooks would agree to play three concerts at Croke Park and two elsewhere in the capital.
The third idea was for two matinees and three night-time shows over the weekend, put forward by Aikens.
"In all those three cases while the city council demonstrated a capacity and willingness to be flexible there was absolutely no budge, I have to say, from the other side," Mr Keegan said.
It has been estimated that 400,000 Garth Brooks fans in Dublin over five nights would have been worth 50 million euro to the economy.
Mr Keegan remains adamant that the original decision to grant a licence for only the Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the end of July was balanced, appropriate and reasonable.
He added: "To grant five, given the precedent, given what had been done in the past and given the significant level, would have represented, I think, a totally unbalanced and inappropriate decision."
Out of 384 submissions sent to the council complaining about the concerts, 11 people confirmed a complaint in their name is bogus.
It has been reported that gardai believe about 40% of the submissions are fraudulent, dubious or were signed at public meetings under duress.
Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Fein TD, said the bona fides, accuracy and validity of residents' concerns should have been checked more thoroughly.
"I would suggest to you that in fact you were very negligent as a local authority in not doing that given that this was the key point on which your decision hinged," she said.
The council chiefs suggested that more thorough verification processes should now be put in place while the entire policy of selling tickets first before licensing a show is under scrutiny.
Some of the hearing was also dominated by TDs and senators angry at the council for querying which representatives were members of the GAA and whether there was an issue of conflict of interest.
Patrick O'Donovan, Fine Gael TD from Limerick, said it was wholly inappropriate
"To me it smacks of everything that's bad about this whole thing from start to finish," he said.
"I would say Mr Keegan, your judgment was way, bang out of order, by sending out that letter."
Mr Keegan apologised if any offence was caused.
But he added: "My position remains the GAA are a potential substantial interest in the outcome of this licensing decision."
Jim Keogan, executive manager at Dublin City Council, revealed he owns a house on Clonliffe Gardens in the shadow of Croke Park where his son and daughter-in-law live.
He denied it influenced his thinking on the five concerts in any way.
The council clarified that Croke Park can host three concerts a year under a fast-track licensing system but if the GAA wishes to host any more, promoters must apply to the full licensing system.
There is no upper limit on concerts set down in an agreement on the redevelopment of Croke Park from 1992, the council confirmed.
Mr Keegan described the plans for Brooks to play at the stadium as unprecedented and said there were serious concerns about the impact of limited access for residents, illegal parking, anti-social behaviour and noise issues.
He said "the damage was done" when the tickets were sold in January.
U2's return to GAA headquarters in 2009 over four nights was held up as the nearest example and the cause of intense criticism from local residents at the time.
Mr Keegan told TDs and senators nothing has changed in his mind since the licence for Brooks' comeback was issued.
Brooks confirmed last night it would be a no-show in Ireland after failing to get the council to reverse its decision limiting the concerts to three days.
He said he was crushed and heartbroken over the scuppered plans.
Mr Keegan said the promoters had not been given a verbal assurance about five nights in Croke Park when talks of a Brooks return was first mooted back in December last year.
On the contrary, he told the committee, Aiken Promotions had been made aware informally that a five-night run was a "big ask".
The fans, many from outside Ireland, will now be refunded over the next three weeks.
On one final issue of conflict of interest the council chiefs were asked to reveal whether they were Garth Brooks fans, but they did not respond.