Irish News

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Brooks promoter considers legal bid

Published 16/07/2014 | 12:33

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Peter McKenna said the singer’s ultimatum of five shows or nothing was unfair to those with tickets for concerts which had been granted licenses

Garth Brooks' concert promoter is considering legal action for compensation after claiming the country music star and he have lost millions in the flop.

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Peter Aiken is speaking to lawyers about potentially suing those he blames for the collapse of the sold-out five-night special at Dublin's Croke Park organised for later this month.

"I'm taking legal advice over that," he told a parliamentary hearing into the fiasco. "It's all very raw at the moment."

Dismissing suggestions he earned a significant sum from interest on the ticket sales, Mr Aiken said he has paid out deposits for equipment and accommodation for a massive entourage.

"I'm down a seven figure (sum) on this," he said. "And Garth Brooks is going to be out millions."

Also hauled before the parliamentary watchdog, Croke Park chief Peter McKenna insisted he was assured five gigs would get the go-ahead after a private telephone call with city manager Owen Keegan.

"I remember it well.. he said that the city would be very supportive of the five concerts," said Mr McKenna, the Gaelic Athletic Association's stadium and commercial director.

"He wanted us to make the process easy for him."

Mr Keegan, who granted permission for only three of the concerts, yesterday denied he gave any verbal assurances on a five-night run, saying Aiken Promotions were warned it was a "big ask".

But Mr McKenna told TDs and senators he would swear under oath he was led to believe there would no problems in getting the licences.

"We said we can guarantee we will put our absolute best foot forward on it, finished the call off, I was absolutely ecstatic... from then on we were certain we were going to get five licences," he told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications.

"There was not a mention or a whit that the application would not be given, so much so that I went on holidays.

"I would not in my wildest dreams have taken a holiday with any kind of a sense that that decision would not be made.

"I know it's very, very dramatic but I would be very happy to swear an affidavit and leave that here in front of this committee, I'm that certain of the telephone conversation."

Mr McKenna said the telephone conversation was made earlier in the year as he was seeking reassurances over the concerts.

Senator Eamonn Coghan told the hearing that if an "an element of money and greed" did not come into it, everybody would have been happy with three concerts.

However, Mr Aiken denied it was anything to do with greed and said it was about making history.

"I did get caught up in the moment," he added.

Comparing the debacle to an episode of Father Ted, the promoter said the ship carrying the stage for the comeback special is docked in Antwerp.

"At this stage if somebody pulled the switch we could do it," he said.

"But I don't know how you do that, I've been down every avenue open to me."

Mr McKenna said the only way to go ahead would be an uncontested judicial review but the hearing was told Mr Keegan would vigorously contest any such action.

Sinn Fein's Michael Colreavy described the evidence before the hearing as "disturbing".

"Effectively what you are saying is that things between Dublin City Council and Croke Park were grand until this bad man came along and upset the whole apple cart, insisting on enforcing legislation as he sees it," he said.

Dublin City Council chiefs have claimed they were willing to look at compromises on three separate occasions after initially blocking two of the five planned shows.

This included a four-night run, an option to stage three concerts at Croke Park and two elsewhere in the capital or a third idea for two matinees and three night-time shows over the same weekend.

The scrapped extravaganza was of national significance and comparable with major events like the Special Olympics, GAA chief Paraic Duffy claimed before the hearings.

He blamed the fiasco on an "irresistible social force" which gripped the country after an initial two concerts were announced.

Mr Duffy, the director general of the GAA, said the informed music industry had been "simply overwhelmed" by an "extraordinary and unpredictable social phenomenon".

"This was simply a case where the public reaction utterly defied logic and conventional wisdom," he said.

"What had simply been a concert became a national event. What had simply been a night-out became an unmissable national celebration."

The GAA boss said there was perhaps something particularly and exuberantly Irish about the creation of what would have been "the great Irish celebratory experience of the summer of 2014".

Mr Duffy said his organisation agreed to the promoter's request for extra concerts as it was conscious of the magnitude of the country music star's comeback.

"The GAA was conscious of its own tradition of making the stadium available for important events of national significance, be it the Special Olympics, soccer or rugby internationals, the Eucharistic Congress and a possible rugby world cup in Ireland," he told the committee.

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.

Later, in a statement, Dublin City Council confirmed the telephone call between Mr Keegan and Mr McKenna in early February - two months before the licence application was lodged on April 17 - but insisted no reassurances were given.

"In this conversation Owen Keegan reiterated his position that the city council is supportive of special events and concerts in Croke Park," said a spokesman.

"However, no assurance was given, or indeed could be given at that stage, that all five proposed concerts would be licensed.

"The lodgement of an event licence application initiates a formal statutory process on which the decision is made."

The spokesman added: "Dublin City Council would welcome an independent, impartial review of all aspects of the event licencing process pertaining to the Garth Brooks concerts."

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