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Friday 29 August 2014

Key council official in Brooks fiasco has house near Croker

Niall O'Connor

Published 16/07/2014 | 02:30

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Owen Keegan (with bike) and Jim Keogan, both of Dublin City Council.
Garth Brooks

FRESH controversy has arisen over the Garth Brooks concerts fiasco, with TDs alleging a conflict of interest on the part of a senior Dublin City Council official who played a central role in the process.

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The council's head of planning and economic development, Jim Keogan, stunned TDs yesterday when he revealed that he owns a property in the vicinity of Croke Park.

It emerged that the senior official had not told Dublin City Manager Owen Keegan that he has a property in Clonliffe Gardens, which is currently occupied by his son and daughter-in-law.

Several TDs last night said that Mr Keogan should have removed himself from the licensing process due his family and property connections in the vicinity of Croke Park.

But Mr Keogan denied that there was a conflict of interest.

"I don't think it has altered my decision-making and judgement in relation to the proposed application before me.

"I didn't hear it being said in 2009 when I was the relevant officer who signed off on the very controversial U2 concerts that year," he said.

"I had to deal with the issue. The people I grew up with raised them with me but I felt that I dealt with it in a fair and balanced manner, as I have in this instance as well. I don't think there is any prejudice there."

Ironically, the alleged conflict of interest was revealed just days after Mr Keegan had suggested that members of the committee were compromised over their GAA connections.

He wrote to the committee on Friday suggesting that members should consider absenting themselves from the hearing if they were members or officers of the GAA. He has since apologised for any offence caused as a result of the letter.

Fianna Fail's transport spokesperson, Timmy Dooley, told the Irish Independent: "In light of the what has transpired and the potential that a conflict of interest has arisen, there are now grounds for Environment Minister Alan Kelly to announce a judicial review into this whole affair."

Mr O'Donovan said it was clear that Mr Keogan should have absented himself from the entire licensing process.

"It is remarkable that this did not happen and even more extraordinary that Owen Keegan only became aware of the connection during the committee hearing," he added.

Speaking at the meeting, Mr Keegan said he saw "no difficulty" with Mr Keogan's property, despite only learning of it at the meeting. His colleague Mr Keogan insisted that his son and daughter did not submit an objection to the concerts or any previous concerts.

Meanwhile, Mr Keegan refused to accept any blame for the concerts fiasco that has left 400,000 fans in limbo and resulted in the country losing out on a €50m windfall. He said the decision taken was "fair, reasonable and balanced".

He told the committee that granting five concerts would have led to an unacceptable level of disruption for the community and would have set an undesirable precedent.

Rejected

Mr Keegan said that the council had been willing to co-promote the staging of two additional concerts at a later date but that this was rejected by the singer.

But after robust questioning from Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald, Mr Keegan admitted that none of the statutory bodies, including An Garda Siochana, objected to the staging of the five concerts.

He also admitted that the council did not try to verify the validity of the hundreds of objections that were made, many of which have turned out to be bogus.

The GAA and representatives of Aiken Promotions are due to appear in front of the committee today.

Despite intense negotiations involving respected negotiator Kieran Mulvey, it appears that no gigs will now take place.

Sports Minister Michael Ring said that a special 'City and Western style' festival will be held in Dublin in order to compensate for the cancelled concerts.

Irish Independent

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