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Friday 29 August 2014

DCC boss Owen Keegan says council made no effort to verify Garth Brooks' objections

Niall O'Connor Political Correspondent

Published 15/07/2014 | 15:28

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Owen Keegan. Photo: Arthur Carron
Owen Keegan. Photo: Arthur Carron
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
Country music star Garth BraCountry music star Garth Brooks speaks at a news conference ooks speaks at a news conference on Thursday, July 10, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Brooks, one of the last musicians to refuse put his music on iTunes, said he will make his songs available digitally though his own website. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Country music star Garth Brooks speaks at a news conference

DUBLIN City Manager Owen Keegan has issued a staunch defence of the council's role in the Garth Brooks fiasco.

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Mr Keegan today came under robust questioning from TDs after days of talks aimed at salvaging the five Croke Park gigs ended in stalemate.

The council chief attempted the shift the blame away from the council and insisted a number of compromises were put forward.

These included the prospect of staging two concerts at a later date or in a different venue - a proposal revealed by independent.ie this morning.

Mr Keegan also confirmed that the council was willing to consider the staging of two matinee concerts which would have seen the musician perform five times over 72 hours.

The City Manager refused to accept any responsibility for the fiasco and said that the concerns of residents overrided the €40m windfall that the concerts would have provided to the city.

Mr Keegan said that the rules governing planning and licensing precluded him from granting the five concerts on consecutive nights.

"If the integrity of the planning system is to be maintained it is important that the interests of no single individual or organisation, no matter how cherished a place they occupy in the hearts of the nation, are allowed to unduly influence that system," he said.

"The genuine concerns of local residents which were a factor in the City Council’s decision cannot and should not be disregarded notwithstanding the short term commercial or economic arguments for doing so," he added.

Mr Keegan was questioned by Sinn Fein Deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald over the number of bogus objections made against the concerts.

As previously revealed, gardai have established that some of the signatures belonged to a child, people living abroad, dead people and a prisoner.

Mr Keegan admitted that the council made no efforts to verify whether the objections were real. Mr Keegan also claimed that he was told by unnamed individuals that people were put under pressure to sign objections at public meetings.

At this morning's meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications, the heat was also placed on Dublin City's senior planner Jim Keogan.

It emerged that Mr Keogan, who was directly involved in the decision not to award the five concerts, has family and property interests in the Croke Park area.

Mr Keogan owns a property in Clonliffe gardens which is occupied by his son and daughter-in-law.

But he and Mr Keegan said they did not believe there was a conflict on interest.

Mr Keegan also apologised to TDs and senators who are members of the committee after he wrote a letter last week suggesting that they could be conflicted if they have GAA connections.

It emerged that the meeting that Mr Keogan, the head of the planning department, has GAA connections.

Meanwhile, the two officials said that the "cumulative effect" of the five concerts would have had a "detrimental" impact on the area.

But they refused to shoulder any blame and said they were merely acting in the interests of residents and the city.

"I very much regret the decision of Garth Brooks/Aiken Promotions not to hold the 3 permitted concerts and to examine options in relation to the two concerts that were not permitted. This was their decision and they must accept the consequences," Mr Keegan said.

Irish Independent

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