Music News

Saturday 26 July 2014

Taoiseach steps in after late Brooks plea

Louise Hogan, Fionnan Sheahan and Niall O'Connor

Published 10/07/2014|02:30

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Singer Garth Brooks on the pitch at Croke Park after announcing his series of comeback gigs. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Singer Garth Brooks on the pitch at Croke Park after announcing his series of comeback gigs. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Singer Garth Brooks on the pitch at Croke Park when he announced his series of comeback gigs. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Garth Brooks issued a statement saying his equipment is still en route to Ireland, despite his concerts being called off. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Ballybough residents campaigning for 5  Garth Brooks Concerts in Croke Park on Clonliffe Road, Dublin.
Photo:  Gareth Chaney Collins
Ballybough residents campaigning for 5 Garth Brooks Concerts in Croke Park on Clonliffe Road, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

A last-ditch plea from Garth Brooks to the "powers that be" in Ireland to save his concerts has sparked a government reaction.

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Furious behind-the-scenes moves involving the Taoiseach, Dublin City Council, the GAA and the lord mayor were under way last night to see if there was any way of reviving the gigs.

Brooks said that a cargo ship carrying his massive staging equipment is still en route to Ireland.

He said that unless he was told by promoter Peter Aiken "thanks but it is all over" he would "faithfully" to the last second try to fulfil his dream of playing to 400,000 fans at Croke Park. However, the tenuous chances of the concerts going ahead still hinge on whether he can get permission for all five nights.

The singer is set to address the issues surrounding his now cancelled Dublin concerts at a press conference in Nashville later today.

After Mr Brooks' letter was issued to the media, Taoiseach Enda Kenny asked mediator Kieran Mulvey to contact City Manager Owen Keegan and Lord Mayor Christy Burke.

The leaders of the four main political parties were phoned and it was established that they were all in favour of talks.

Sources close to Taoiseach Enda Kenny said emergency legislation was being ruled out, but the Government was open to other options being examined. “In light of Garth Brooks’ letter, if there was something we could do that would facilitate a positive outcome, we would consider it,” a senior government source said.

“We are sending a signal that the door is not shut.”

The lord mayor told the Irish Independent: “Let’s hope there can be a rapid review... there is now an olive branch thrown.

“The tickets haven't been refunded. People can say things at 10pm and change their mind at 11pm.

“People still have their tickets, flights and holidays, if it’s done rapidly.”

Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan has been adamant that the council had given permission for three of the five concerts, and the refusal for two gigs could not be overturned.

Speaking this morning on RTE radio, Mr Burke said he hoped to meet with Mr Keegan "at some stage today". It is understood that Mr Mulvey will also be involved. Mr Burke also revealed that the Mexican Ambassador to Ireland has offered to mediate, and that a group of residents from Ballybough in Dublin intended to contact US President Barack Obama over the issue.

Mr Burke indicated that splitting the five concerts into groups of three and two would be among the discussions with Mr Keegan.

It has now emerged that Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar suggested to the concert promoters that he was willing to travel to Nashville to meet with the singer if they thought that would help. Brooks is due to hold a major press conference in the city today at which he will announce a world tour.

Permission

In his letter to promoter Peter Aiken, Brooks said: “If you think for any reason that the ‘powers that be’ in Ireland can fix this, then I will faithfully go to the last second.” As a result Mr Aiken told the Irish Independent that he was holding on to a sliver of hope after Brooks gave him permission to release the letter publicly.

“I rang him and said, ‘Can I send it out?’. He said, ‘If you think it will do any good’,” Mr

Aiken explained. “I said, ‘You never know.’”

A High Court action endangering the three licensed concerts was withdrawn by resident Brian Duff yesterday after he claimed his family received death threats on social media.

Just hours later Mr Aiken appeared to feel there was renewed hope with the removal of the legal threat, a withdrawal of objections from many residents and confirmation that some of the letters opposing the concerts were forgeries.

Despite the announcement on Tuesday that all five concerts were off, the music star confirmed his crews were “still en route”.

“He is still willing to come,” said Mr Aiken, however, Brooks was “making it clear” it was for the five concerts.

A cargo ship carrying 18 trucks with the customised equipment and staging – which Brooks personally helped design as he viewed Croke Park earlier this year – had left the US for Ireland.

In addition, Brooks had expected to record his comeback dream

for a documentary with the show planned by a producer behind the US ‘Super Bowl’ extravaganza.

“If there is any chance that the five planned concerts can be salvaged and nobody is being let down then we can proceed as planned until the refunds begin,” Brooks wrote.

“If you tell me, ‘Garth, thanks but it is over’. I will cease my efforts and bring our people and gear back to the States.”

Meanwhile, Ticketmaster confirmed it was still planning to begin issuing refunds from Monday.

“We haven’t been told that the situation has changed,” a spokesman said. “We can’t do anything until we have notice of something happening.”

Holidays

Key figures from the tourism industry have met to try ensure the 70,000 people due to travel to Ireland for the concerts turn their journey into a holiday instead, as hotels and restaurants count the costs.

Mr Aiken described how if only three concerts went ahead they held fears over thousands of disappointed fans with cancelled tickets from the two shows turning up at the gates of the licensed concerts. “Can you imagine a couple of thousand from all over Ireland, England and American,” he said.

The Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications confirmed the GAA and Mr Aiken have accepted invitations to appear before the committee tomorrow, to explore the chain of events that led to the concerts being cancelled.

Mr Kenny said the Government could be accused of acting “heavy” with residents in the Croke Park area if they tried to rush through emergency legislation to allow an appeal of the council’s decision.

He said the cancellation was a “bitter economic lesson that has been learned”.

Last night, the city council said that there would be no further comment, and the GAA said it was “out of their hands”.

Irish Independent

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