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Saturday 20 September 2014

Council boss won't back last-gap effort to save gigs

Niall O'Connor and Joyce Fegan

Published 17/07/2014 | 02:30

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Garth Brooks
Garth Brooks
Mr Keegan will now appear in front of an Oireachtas committee for the second time in four days as pressure builds over his role in the fiasco
Mr Keegan will now appear in front of an Oireachtas committee for the second time in four days as pressure builds over his role in the fiasco
The fiasco over the Croke Park Garth Brooks concerts is the biggest crisis Peter Aiken has ever faced.
The fiasco over the Croke Park Garth Brooks concerts is the biggest crisis Peter Aiken has ever faced.

DUBLIN City Manager Owen Keegan has refused to facilitate an 11th-hour bid aimed at salvaging the Garth Brooks concerts because he fears it will make his position untenable.

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Mr Keegan will now appear in front of an Oireachtas committee for the second time in four days as pressure builds over his role in the fiasco.

In an extraordinary twist in the saga, Croke Park stadium director Peter McKenna claimed that he was told by Mr Keegan in February that the council was fully behind the five concerts taking place.

He said Mr Keegan told him he "wanted us to make the process easy for him", adding: "There was not a mention or whiff that the application wouldn't be given.

"I know it's very dramatic, but I would be willing to swear an affidavit and let that here in front of the committee. I'm that certain of that telephone conversation," Mr McKenna told the committee.

But last night, Dublin City Council released a statement rejecting Mr McKenna's claims.

"In this conversation, Owen Keegan reiterated his position that the City Council is supportive of special events and concerts in Croke Park," the statement said. "However, no assurance was given, or indeed could be given at that stage, that all five proposed concerts would be licensed."

The clear conflict arose out of a dramatic second day of hearings at the Committee on Transport and Communications.

Concert promoter Peter Aiken and GAA director general Paraic Duffy claimed that a judicial review of the decision could salvage the concerts if the proceedings were lodged in the High Court immediately. However, no application in connection with the concerts went before the court yesterday. An application may be made today.

The argument for the judicial review is that the council's decision to reject the five concerts was largely influenced by the large number of objections.

But the GAA and Aiken argued that because gardai suspect many of the objections to be fraudulent and bogus, the council's decision in refusing the licences must be reviewed.

Support

But the mechanism would only succeed, the committee was told, if it was uncontested by the City Council.

Members of the committee then met in private as Mr Aiken prepared the relevant papers in preparation for a High Court appearance.

Three members visited Lord Mayor Christy Burke and secured his support for the proposed judicial review.

It's understood that Mr Burke contacted Mr Keegan directly and pleaded with the City Manager to facilitate the proposal.

But last night, two sources close to the council said that if Mr Keegan budged on the issue, it was his belief that he would have to step down.

Mr Keegan will now appear in front of the committee tomorrow, with speculation that his resignation will be called for. "We are not a court of law but we are willing to go the whole way on this," one member said.

Queries to the council and attempts to contact Mr Keegan's direct spokesperson were unsuccessful last night.

On Tuesday, Mr Keegan refused to accept any blame for the concerts fiasco. He said the decision taken was "fair, reasonable and balanced".

Irish Independent

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