'Toxic' Croke Park dispute must end says mediator
Published 06/07/2014 | 02:30
A SMALL group of residents living near Croke Park who have an aversion to the GAA are vehemently opposed to any compromise over the future use of the stadium, according to Labour Relations Commission chief executive Kieran Mulvey.
Mulvey, in his role as a mediator between the GAA and Croke Park residents, had a number of separate meetings with both parties, meeting the residents on four occasions for three hours at a time, and says that while the majority were in favour of compromise over issues going forward, a small group of people who are ill-disposed towards the GAA appeared to want no progress at all. This included the staging of any concerts in the years ahead.
Mulvey was asked to mediate after a meeting of the GAA and residents broke down over what was described as a complete lack of trust on the part of residents as to how events are organised at the stadium. GAA director-general Páraic Duffy asked Mulvey to intervene with the goal of targeting "long-term agreement around the staging of events at Croke Park".
Mulvey's report recommended a Garth Brooks legacy fund of €500,000 for the local community which the GAA said they would fund. Mulvey was also critical of the GAA over the Garth Brooks saga, agreeing with residents that five nights was excessive. He said the concerts would have a negative impact on the quality of life of nearby residents. However, he called on all sides to work together.
"This toxic relationship cannot continue - both parties can spend the next 10 years attacking one another, but that will achieve nothing," Mulvey said. "The fear is there will be no regeneration of Croke Park Villas and no further input from Croke Park itself into the area.
So to help gain trust, I recommended that between 2015 and 2016 the GAA would reduce the number of shows to three or less and I thought both parties could work from there." In the region of 400,000 tickets were sold for five Garth Brooks concert dates later this month but with about 27,000 households in the vicinity, there were a number of objections and concersn over those concerts. One problem was that residents made their objections known through different units and associations, rather than under one umbrella.
"Most residents wanted a compromise but there were some hardliners represented that just wanted no concert ever," Mulvey told the "I think that most residents would have lived with a compromise looking forward and my report certainly identified future arrangements that would be necessary. The report gave a structure and procedure, it put limits on concerts. It recommended that the community would go ahead with the regeneration of the Ballybough Road which is an urban eyesore.
"To a large degree, the four meetings I had with the residents, aside from my meetings with Croke Park, City Council and the Gardaí were all positive. But I came across a small group of residents and no matter what you did, you wouldn't satisfy them. If you tore down the stadium and gave them all a free brick they would probably complain about the site.
"I repeat, though, that most residents wanted a deal. I felt that the community group (Croke Park Area Residents Association) that Pat Gates led, for example, recognised that an agreement limiting the number of concerts, limiting the community and nuisance problems would be a positive and my report delivered that.
"But with the Brooks concerts, I simply couldn't get involved," the LRC boss added.
"That was a matter for the licence holder and I couldn't interfere because I didn't want to be drawn into any recommendations on those concerts. I could have been the person that might have been held up for recommending a breach of contract.
"So the minute I heard one of the residents saying to me that they were going to law over those concerts, I decided that I was not interfering with that process. That comes under the remit of the licence authority and it's separate to my work.
"Mulvey admits, however, that he was concerned at the quick nature of how the Brooks concerts were announced and said that the rapid increase of concerts had angered the locals.
"The GAA recognised the need to establish new relations with the locals and Páraic Duffy asked me to identify those. Most residents felt it was a fair report but I saw at first hand that there was also an anti-Croke Park agenda among a few individuals with an antipathy to the GAA. These people kept bringing up the history with Croke Park. I said I would take all that on board, but I added that we simply had to move on. They kept saying: 'We don't trust them. We're never going to trust them'.
"On an overall basis, with regard to the Brooks concerts and the cancellations, I have to say that no one wins. Not Ireland, not Dublin city, not our businesses and not the Croke Park community either as they might still have three concerts on their doorsteps anyway. The promoters don't win and neither do Croke Park."
It has emerged that Brooks had plans to produce a high-tech video based on the sell-out shows, which were to be shown on US tv and would have hugely boosted Irish tourism. Special production facilities had been in place for a shoot over five gigs. Meanwhile, the Dublin Chamber of Commerce has said the benefit to the economy will drop from an estimated €50m to €30m as a result of the two concerts being jettisoned.
With up to 70,000 visitors preparing to jet into Ireland, tourism sources said those people would now meet a country that advertises concerts that they couldn't guarantee. And many of these would not receive refunds for their hotel and booking deposits.
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