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Saturday 23 August 2014

Taoiseach rules out emergency legislation to allow Garth Brooks concerts to go ahead

Promoter Peter Aiken: 'It's game over for the Garth Brooks concerts'

Lise Hand, Niall O'Connor and Geraldine Gittens

Published 09/07/2014 | 08:50

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The Taoiseach Enda Kenny today ruled out the passing of emergency legislation to allow an appeal of the decision by Dublin City Council on the Garth Brooks concert.

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He said the the government could be accused of “coming the heavy” with the local residents.

Describing the cancellation of the five concerts scheduled for Croke Park next month as “a bitter economic lesson that has been learned,” Mr Kenny said the proposed bill cannot be applied to the immediate problem “you’re still bound to have a period of public consultation about an issue.”

He said “It’s not for decision this week,” adding that it hadn’t been possible for the Government to get involved in the controversy.

“Dublin City Council made its decision in accordance with the current planning regulations and I suppose were government to attempt to say there were three concerts already for One Direction and now you want five for another artist outside the agreed parameters, government would certainly be accused of coming the heavy on an issue like this,” he said.

Describing the scrapping of the five shows after 400,000 tickets had been sold and 200,000 hotel rooms booked as “a mess” and “a major loss to the country”, Mr Kenny said he has instructed the Environment Minister Phil Hogan to look at the current legislation covering the granting of licensing to concerts, particularly the time-frames for the consideration of licence requests and also the lack of any appeal mechanisms.

He added that he had received “a deluge of contacts” from disappointed fans.

Meanwhile, representatives from the GAA, Aiken Promotions and Dublin City Council are to be hauled in front of an Oireachtas Committee to explain their roles in the Garth Brooks fiasco.

Aiken Promotions said it has accepted the invitation from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications. It said it is awaiting confirmation of the date.

Members of the committee on Transport and Communications today agreed in private session to invite the stakeholders to discuss the matter tomorrow.

Fine Gael TD for Limerick Patrick O'Donovan told independent.ie that the public deserve the know "who is responsible for this disaster".

"The public need to be told the full sequence of events that led to five concerts going to three and then to zero," Mr O'Donovan said.

"This has done serious damage to this country's reputation and representatives from Dublin City Council, the GAA and Aiken Promotions have a lot to answer," he added.

Meanwhile, Cllr Nial Ring from Ballybough, near Croke Park, has said that Garth Books should be “flown over” to Ireland to explain why he cancelled his concerts at Croke Park.

“Someone else who should be asked to appear before that committee meeting is Garth brooks.”

“He should be flown over and asked to say why  if he loves the Irish fans so much why he decided to cancel these concerts”

“He was prepared to do two concerts and make a profit. And suddenly he didn’t want to do three.”

In the Dail today, the cancelled concerts dominated leader's question time, with opposition Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin appealing for emergency legislation to be passed to rescue the comeback special.

"Surely the Government should have intervened at some stage in this debacle," he said.

"Many hoteliers, restaurant owners, publicans, young people looking for work, simply can't believe that the country can almost nonchalantly say we don't need that."

Mr Martin said there is an air of disbelief across the country that a major economic project in its own right has been allowed to be cancelled.

It was not beyond the parliament to pass emergency legislation to give a clear signal that Ireland deals hands-on with events that have such an economic impact, he said, adding that his party would back such legislation.

"Is anybody going to do anything about it? Can it be retrieved and can it be rescued?" he asked.

But Mr Kenny said the Government risked being accused of "doing down" the rights of residents around Croke Park and interfering with the planning process if it intervened.

Describing the fall-out as a "bitter economic lesson to have learned", the Taoiseach said he has ordered a review of the planning process for major events.

"It's a major loss to the country, to the goodwill and good feeling of all those fans of Garth Brooks that this is lost, not to mention the hard economic loss to people here," he said.

"It's a mess."

Meanwhile, promoter Peter Aiken has said there is no possibility of Garth Brooks coming to Ireland – it is effectively “game over”.

Mr Aiken said he is personally “shell shocked” and “devastated” that all five Garth Brooks gigs have been cancelled, and the whole debacle has taken its toll “personally” and “financially”.

“It’s game over,” Mr Aiken told RTE’s Morning Ireland.

“We couldn’t have done a scaled down version. He didn’t want to leave 60,000 people without tickets... and I think he made the right decision. All along I told him it was going to be OK.”

“It was a comeback special. We all got caught up in it, it would have been special. It certainly wasn’t driven by greed.”

“If it was greed, Garth Brooks would come back and do the three shows. He’s into this for millions,” Mr Aiken said.

The concert promoter said he is living in a “nightmare”, and he blamed Dublin City Council for its “ludicrous” change of mind.

“You presume you’re going to get the license. They did tell us that it was a big ask to get the five shows. But I never got the inclination that five would have been too much.”

“They did say that it was going to have an impact and that we would have to have additionality, more stewards etc, and we did have that.”

 “How can they turn around and say to ‘you can have three’, and then come back and say ‘you can have four’, and then ‘three’, how silly does that sound?”

“That’s what made the whole thing so ludicrous. They should have said none, and that would have been a lot easier.”

The country and western singer is “frustrated” by what happened, Mr Aiken said.

 “It’s like living in a nightmare... I’m facing up to it and it’s not easy.”

“When I spoke to Garth and his manager they just made it quite clear that he was [only] going to do five shows.”

“I’ve only spoken to him briefly... I think he feels frustrated that I’m offered three, and then four, and then back to three, and then he says I’m only doing five.”

 “It’s dreadful. It would have been five days, of a lot more than five concerts, it would have been a celebration.”

“This would have been a spectacular show... it couldn’t have gone anywhere else (to another stadium).”

Mr Aiken said neither he nor Garth Brooks predicted the demand for the concerts.

“It started at two (shows) because he’d been away for 17 years and we were coming back... even then we thought it was a risk.”

“It’s a huge blow to me personally, it’s a huge blow to the company, we’re 53 years on the go.”

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