Saturday 22 November 2014

Give Brooks mob the bread and circus it wants, Enda

The Taoiseach needs to break the rules and sanction the Garth Brooks concerts - all five of them

Published 13/07/2014 | 02:30

Garth Brooks speaking at Thursday's press conference in Nashville
Garth Brooks speaking at Thursday's press conference in Nashville

What we had last week was a demonstration of a crisis which exists not just in Ireland, but throughout Europe and most of the western world.

No, not the delay in forming a new Government, which is no more than stale bread for the jaded masses, but the national tragedy that is the Garth Brooks concerts controversy.

I kid you not.

This shambles, in a way, reflects what is nothing short of a widespread crisis in both the legitimacy and effectiveness of politics throughout the western world.

Here is a question: what would China have done?

What is at stake, in fact, is no less an issue than the liberal values of democracy and liberty versus the authoritarian values of command and control.

The problem is, it is getting more and more difficult to know which side to be on anymore.

In this new era of not big, but 'smart' government, it is said that the success of a country depends on its ability to reinvent the state.

In the past, we know what Charlie Haughey, Albert Reynolds and Bertie Ahern would have done: they would have sorted the mess before the mess took hold.

That is especially true of Albert, the original purveyor of country and western, the defiant melancholy of which is the back beat to a downtrodden nation.

In a similar manner, Enda tried to sort it too, but failed because he was too busy trying to get to the bottom of Joan Burton, which we are led to believe took longer than expected last week.

The manner in which the GarthBrooks concerts controversy is, eventually, to be sorted will tell us a lot about whether Ireland has been reinvented, or if the country has changed at all: we already know the answer - it hasn't changed at all, really.

This is where I am on the issue: As a Croke Park area resident, every summer strangers park their cars on our street, people on their way to what was one of the good things we did in the Celtic Tiger era - rebuild Croke Park.

It's worth recalling now that the GAA received a series of grants - taxpayers' money - of around €108m to rebuild the 'field of dreams'. So the stadium belongs to us all, not the few.

Every weekend, they park their cars and come and go; I watch the match on TV, open the door and hear the crowd roar, and then they return the following weekend.

Truth be told, it can be pretty cool actually, all considered, to have such a summer buzz in your neighbourhood.

By and large, the GAA crowd are the Garth Brooks crowd, so I have no problem with five concerts on successive nights. I might even sit out and have a listen one of the nights. But I have to accept that neighbours, who live closer to the madness, have more reason not to be so accommodating.

The dilemma for Enda Kenny is, to what extent he should sanction what has already been, Irish style, a bend in the rules, or the Golden Rule, in fact - love thy neighbour as yourself.

We already know the answer: the rule is that there should be no more than three concerts a year at Croke Park. This year, there have already been three.

To allow Garth Brooks a further three, as offered, is to bend the rules; to offer four of the planned five, as was also offered, is to bend the rules even more; to propose messy matinees is to pretend that the rules do not exist at all.

So what will Enda Kenny do? Should he take the liberal and democratic route - Irish style - and further bend the rules; or should be take the authoritarian route, sanction a bend to the point that the rules will break - and then sort out the planning laws when the dust settles?

We know where Garth Brooks stands: he wants the Taoiseach to go over the head of the City Manager and have all five concerts on successive nights.

I'm with Mr Brooks on that, but for a different reason, I suspect.

They say we all partied, back in the day, during the Celtic Tiger; which is not strictly true, but not entirely false either. And boy, have we paid the price.

In the European Parliament last week, 'Ming' Flanagan gave voice to one of the consequences of such severe austerity.

His voice has gained traction in Ireland and across Europe, that is, in opposition to the elites who insist that the remedy for Europe's woes is "more Europe" when a third of the electorate want less.

Which explains why there is a crisis of political legitimacy and effectiveness throughout Europe and much of the western world.

The only curiosity here is in which direction the new Labour leader will go to reinvent the State.

There is an alternative to the 
authoritarian route of command and control, which is best expressed by the economist Joseph Stiglitz.

He rails against the extremes in inequality and says that reforms to corporate and personal income tax, for example, are essential to restore economic vitality.

He also says reforms must be made with the understanding that deficit reduction, in and of itself, is not a worthy goal; but must help grow the economy, improve distribution and encourage socially beneficial behaviour on the part of business and the individual.

To answer the question: China would have razed Croke Park to the ground and built a train track to the Bertie Bowl. Overnight.

Maybe China is right. Maybe Joseph Stiglitz is also right; but on what seems to matter most this week, Garth Brooks is dead right.

After austerity, there must be a release: it's time for a party, and Garth Brooks is it, a week-long festival in tune with the defiant melancholy of the age.

We've had enough; break the rules Enda - it's time to give the mob bread and circus.

Sunday Independent

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