Wednesday 22 October 2014

'Crushed' Garth pulls plug despite last-ditch deal bid

Live feed of Oireactas Committee meeting below

Niall O'Connor, Gareth Morgan and Philip Ryan

Published 15/07/2014 | 02:30

Garth Brooks has confirmed that the five Croke Park concerts will not be taking place. Photo: Getty Images
Garth Brooks has confirmed that the five Croke Park concerts will not be taking place. Photo: Getty Images

GARTH Brooks last night finally pulled the plug on his Croke Park concerts despite an offer to push back some of the shows until later in the year.

He released a statement confirming the five planned concerts would not take place, dashing the hopes of 400,000 fans who had been hoping for a last-minute breakthrough.

In a desperate bid to save the shows, it is understood that the Brooks camp was offered the chance to play three gigs this month and then two or even three more in October.

But the plan fell down late last night as the singer said he was "crushed" to announce that Ticketmaster refunds for all the shows would go ahead.

Aiken Promotions said it regretted to announce that despite pursuing all possible solutions, the concerts were cancelled. Refunds from Ticketmaster begin on Thursday at 9am.

The message from Brooks said: "As hard as I try, I cannot see the light on this one." He asked Irish fans to come and see him elsewhere in the world.

A senior government source said that negotiations yesterday had looked at holding three shows on the last weekend in July, as originally planned.

The other two shows might then have been delayed until October, with the prospect of a sixth gig even mooted as a sweetener for the deal.

However, another source close to the negotiations acknowledged that logistics and planning issues meant that the offer was never clear-cut.

Government sources dubbed the plan to split the gigs as the "Joe Costello proposal", after the Labour TD suggested it directly during a phone conversation with Brooks' management team. But the option failed to materialise following what was described by informed sources as "deeply frustrating negotiations".

One source said: "It was a runner and it was workable. More importantly, it would ensure every ticket was honoured – is that not what Garth Brooks wanted?"

But a separate source involved in the discussions said that while a range of solutions were explored, there was "no budging".

The new Environment Minister Alan Kelly has vowed to change the laws to ensure the fiasco surrounding the concerts is not repeated.

Brooks had intended the shows to be a showpiece to kick off his comeback tour, but since city planners refused to license all five events, no compromise agreement could be reached.

"I have always been advised to never send a message in the moment," he wrote in his statement last night. "It is said it is best to take a walk, wait a while and think about it.

"With that said, I just received the news the Irish council cannot change their earlier ruling to not allow the licences for all five shows.

"To say I am crushed is an understatement. All I see is my mother's face and I hear her voice. She always said things happen for a reason and for the right reason. As hard as I try, I cannot see the light on this one.

"So it is with a broken heart, I announce the ticket refunds for the event will go as posted by Ticketmaster."

The statement appears to end weeks of speculation about whether a deal could be struck.

"I want to thank the Irish authorities for going the distance for all of us who wanted to share songs and dance together," added the 52-year-old Oklahoma star.

"I really want to thank all the people around the world that continued to think good thoughts that this would actually happen.

"Most of all, to Peter Aiken and those 400,000 people who believed enough to go through what they have been through to get to this point . . . I love you, always have, always will.

Disappointing

"I encourage any and all of them that can – come see the show, at some point around the world, to bring your Irish flags and wave them proudly at the concerts. I will be looking for you . . . Garth."

Dublin Central TD Joe Costello said: "It is very disappointing that Garth Brooks didn't see fit to go ahead and accommodate his quarter of a million fans in the three sell-out concerts for which he was granted a licence."

Independent councillor Nial Ring called it "a fiasco from start to finish" and said Dublin had lost out hugely in financial terms. "Thanks for the side show Garth – now we can get back to reality," he added.

The Brooks statement came as politicians prepare to scrutinise the decision to approve only three of the five shows at the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications today.

And Dublin City Council manager Owen Keegan has come under fire for suggesting TDs with links to the GAA might be banned from the committee hearing on the concerts fiasco. Mr Keegan wrote to the committee asking if members involved in the GAA would remove themselves from today's meeting in case of a conflict of interest.

Committee member Patrick Donovan said he was "absolutely flabbergasted" by Mr Keegan's suggestion. The Limerick TD, who is a member of a GAA club, said it was the "most outrageous" comment he ever heard from a civil servant.

Fianna Fail TD Timmy Dooley said he was surprised Mr Keegan would not be aware there were rules in place on conflicts of interest for members of the Oireachtas.

Concert promoter Peter Aiken and GAA officials will face the committee tomorrow.

It is believed that crew involved in setting up the stage in Croke Park were due to land in Dublin today. Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary described the situation surrounding the concerts as "bizarre".

He added: "It wouldn't happen in any other country in the world."

Irish Independent

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