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Wednesday 1 October 2014

Dublin City Manager has refused to facilitate eleventh hour bid to salvage Garth Brooks concerts

Niall O'Connor and Joyce Fegan

Published 16/07/2014 | 11:35

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DUBLIN City Manager Owen Keegan has refused to facilitate an eleventh 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 mounts over his role in the fiasco.

Stadium director Peter McKenna had claimed that he was told by Mr Keegan in February that the council was fully behind the five concerts taking place.

He said that Mr Keegan told him that 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".

But this evening, Dublin City Council released a statement rejecting Mr McKenna's claims surrounding the telephone conversation.

"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 statement said.

"The lodgement of an event licence application initiates a formal Statutory Process on which the decision is made. In this instance the application was lodged on the 17th April and was determined on the 3rd July."

Dublin City Council said it would welcome an independent, impartial review of all aspects of the event licencing process pertaining to the Garth Brooks concerts.

Earlier, hopes had been raised that the five Garth Brooks concerts could be saved following a meeting of the Oireachtas Committees and Transport Committee.

GAA director general Páraic Duffy
GAA director general Páraic Duffy

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.

Aiken Promotions said it was the "only remaining option" that could save the gigs.

The basis for the review is that the councils decision to only grant three concerts was influenced by the large number of objections to the concerts.

But a number of the objections are now at the centre of a Garda investigation amid suspicions that they are fraudulent.

The GAA and Peter Aiken agreed today that in light of the revelations , a judicial review should be considered.

Newly appointed Environment Minister Alan Kelly has said he cannot interfere in the process.

Sources say Peter Aiken of Aiken Promotions is likely to make contact with Dublin City Council Manager Owen Keegan later today.

"Aiken and the GAA's case for five gigs has been boosted after members of the  committee expressed support for a judicial review," said a source.

Both the GAA and Aiken Promotions today said if a judicial review was "uncontested", the five concerts could be saved.

The committee heard that the GAA and the Croke Park authorities were assured by Dublin City Manager Owen Keegan that the council was fully supportive of plans to stage the five Garth Brooks concert.

Meanwhile, GAA chief exeuctive Paraic Duffy today said Croke Park feels "let down" by the decision to not allow two Garth Brooks' concerts to proceed, adding that the move has resulted in a "self inflicted wound on the country".

Addressing the Oireachtas Communications committee today, Mr Duffy said the integrity of the council's decision making process was "undermined" by the fact it was influenced by the large number of bogus complaints.

Significantly, Mr Duffy told TDs that he and his officials were given no indication that the plans for five concerts were at risk of being scuppered.

"I must state that at no point did DCC even hint that a license would not be granted for all five concerts," he said.

Mr Duffy insisted that it was the Irish people who decided that there should have been five concerts and not two.

"What had simply been a night out, became an unmissable national celebration," he said.

He added that he is concerned Croke Park may now be seen as a "big organisation bullying the little man".

Peter Aiken of Aiken Promotions will also address the committee today in relation to the concerts fiasco.

Meanwhile, Peter Aiken gave fresh insight into the last ditch negotiations aimed at salvaging the five gigs.

He said that he sought agreement from the council on the prospect of a judicial review of the decision. However, Mr Keegan said it was an option he was not willing to consider.

Mr Aiken also told the committee that the option proposed by Dublin City Council for Garth Brooks to perform two concerts in October was not feasible.

The music promoter said the dates would interfere with the singer's world tour.

"It was impossible for Garth to accept this proposal as he was committed to his world tour which is due to start in Chicago on September 4 and was already scheduled to perform elsewhere on the dates suggested," he said.

"Garth treats his fans equally and fairly and therefore, could not treat 160,000 people who had bought tickets for the 4th & 5th Shows differently to the fans who had bought for the first 3 nights so his position would have to be that it was 5 Shows or nothing," Mr Aiken added.

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