Sunday 23 November 2014

Garth gigs objecter had friends in high places

Handball club's solicitor helped scaffolder take High Court injunction

Published 20/07/2014 | 02:30

DUBLIN/IRELAND
Garth Brooks pictured with GAA President Liam O'Neill and concert promoter Peter Aiken at Croke Park earlier this year.

PICTURED-Garth Brooks and GAA President Liam O'Neill

PHOTOS- JOHN DARDIS
Garth Brooks

THE community handball club behind the hard-line campaign against the Garth Brooks' Croke Park concerts helped a scaffolder who collects empties in the club house to take a High Court injunction to stop the shows going ahead, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Brian Duff emerged out of nowhere as a key player in the country-and-western farce when he launched a legal challenge a fortnight ago, then dramatically called it off claiming his life had been threatened.

Mr Duff, who lives in a council flat off Parnell Street, claimed that he was a concerned local resident who was given €15,000 from unnamed figures "north and south of the border" who "wanted to take the GAA down" to fund the High Court action, and a new suit to boot.

However, the Sunday Independent has confirmed that Mr Duff collects glasses in the Croke Park Community and Handball Centre, the club that is at war with the GAA and mounted a vigorous action against the concerts on behalf of its 570 members.

Nial Ring, an independent councillor on Dublin City Council who is on the community handball centre's management committee, confirmed that Brian Duff was associated with the handball club but said it didn't fund his legal action.

"Brian Duff collects glasses in the club house and he has the odd pint," he said. "He was never approached by the management committee to take an injunction. As far as I am aware, he approached Eamon O'Brien, said he was going to do it and he put him in touch with Tony Fay (the solicitor for the community handball club)."

The independent councillor also said the club did not fund Mr Duff's legal action, and said the management committee would "never have contemplated" doing so.

"As an accountant who has overseen the accounts of the club, I can tell you that the club does not have €15,000," he said. Mr Duff and Mr O'Brien did not return calls to the Sunday Independent last week.

The mystery of Mr Duff's backers has fuelled the drama, as the final curtain fell on the Garth Brooks farce last week.

Promoter Peter Aiken sold 400,000 tickets for five Garth Brooks concerts at Croke Park, but the council licensed only three. Brooks pulled out and last ditch talks to save the shows failed on Monday. Tickets are now being refunded.

The fiasco ended in recrimination before an Oireachtas committee with Owen Keegan, the council's chief executive, who was summoned twice last week to respond to the GAA's claims that he had supported the five shows. Mr Keegan admitted he initially indicated his support for the five concerts, but insisted he gave no assurances they would go ahead.

Eamon O'Brien, who lives in Castleknock, angered some north inner city residents when he emerged as the public face of locals objecting to the concerts. Locals formed a counter campaign supporting the concerts, referring to Mr O'Brien as a "so-called spokesperson representing residents" who "wasn't from the area".

Mr O'Brien chairs the Croke Park handball club, which rejected mediation talks to facilitate the concerts. The club's 570 members are being sued by the GAA, in an acrimonious dispute over plans to relocate it. He also fronts the Croke Park Streets Committee, which claimed to represent 600 local residents and was just as trenchantly opposed to the concerts.

Mr Duff's application for an injunction was heard in the High Court on July 8. His senior counsel, Frank Callanan, said his client was involved in the Croke Park Streets Committee but had taken the case as a local resident. His objections centred on fears of anti-social behaviour.

Sunday Independent

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