Monday 20 May 2019

Brooks row 'very badly handled'

Garth Brooks was due to play at Dublin's Croke Park
Garth Brooks was due to play at Dublin's Croke Park

Irish premier Enda Kenny has described country superstar Garth Brooks' decision to pull out of a comeback special expected to pump millions into the country's recovering economy this month as a shock to the system.

The top-selling US singer cancelled a sold out run at Dublin's Croke Park after city chiefs granted permission for just three out of the five planned gigs, expected to draw 400,000 fans into the capital.

Brooks, who turned his back on touring to raise his family in Oklahoma 13 years ago, had issued an all-or-nothing ultimatum last week, saying he would play the five nights or none at all.

The star said to choose one show over another "would be like asking to choose one child over another".

Mr Kenny said the unprecedented fall-out, which has pitted Government ministers, tourism chiefs, business leaders and city representatives against each other, was "very badly handled all round".

"But there is a planning process in place, which is the law, and that planning process allowed for three concerts," he added.

The Taoiseach said the pull-out would cost Dublin's economy in the region of a quarter of billion euro.

"It's a shock to the system in terms of the economy of this city and the reputation of our country and I do hope that these kind of issues can be more efficiently handled on the next occasion that they arise," he said.

Dublin City Council moved to ban two of the concerts last week because of an agreement between the stadium owners the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and local residents about the number of major music events that can take place a year.

The resulting row - which has dominated the national airwaves - prompted frantic efforts by Lord Mayor Christy Burke to relocate the two banned gigs, while State arbitrators attempted to negotiate compromises between all sides involved.

During the fiasco a split emerged among residents.

A solicitor for some lodged papers in the High Court demanding the remaining shows be cancelled while at the same time another group from the neighbourhood handed a petition to the city manager appealing for all five shows to go ahead.

A crisis meeting of the city council last night heard claims Brooks was preparing to divert a ship containing equipment for the stage, which former junior minister Ciaran Cuffe said was akin to "putting a gun" to the Lord Mayor's head.

In a brief statement today, promoters Aiken Promotions said it had "exhausted all avenues regarding the staging of this event".

Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan said the debacle was an embarrassment for the country while junior trade minister Joe Costello accused Mr Brooks of "petulance and arrogance, with scant regard for his paying fans".

The decision not to grant a licence for all five shows - announced last week after an application was made in April - could not be directly appealed.

Licences were granted for three nights only, on July 25, 26 and 27.

Dublin City Council laid the blame with the promoter, saying it was "very disappointed" at its "decision not to proceed", adding that it hoped Aiken would reconsider its decision.

"Once again, we would like to reiterate that Dublin City Council granted a licence for three concerts," a spokesman said.

But stadium owners the GAA said it was never told any concerts would be refused planning permission when it notified city chiefs earlier in the year.

"From the outset Croke Park Stadium, as it does with the planning of all events staged in Croke Park, and with a view to avoiding surprise late difficulties, engaged fully with Dublin City Council officials and addressed comprehensively every issue presented during this planning process," a GAA spokesman said.

"At no stage were we given any indication that a licence was likely to be refused for any of the five concerts."

In a signal of the global reach of the controversy, former US diplomat Richard Haass - who last year attempted to broker a deal on outstanding issues in the Northern Ireland peace process - joked on Twitter that he was willing to step in to help resolve the row.

He tweeted: "big #GarthBrooks fan. will consider mediating in exchange for 2 pina coladas."

Press Association

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