Monday 20 May 2019

Lord Mayor seeking Brooks solution

Garth Brooks is scheduled to play gigs in Dublin
Garth Brooks is scheduled to play gigs in Dublin

Country superstar Garth Brooks is preparing to divert a ship containing equipment for his long-awaited comeback because of a furore in Ireland over the gigs, it has been claimed.

In the latest twist in a controversy over the decision to ban two of the planned five shows in Dublin later this month, an emergency meeting of city chiefs heard the US singer was about to drop anchor on his globally anticipated return to the stage.

Despite hundreds of thousands of tickets sold around the world, the concerts were not granted planning permission because of opposition by residents around the Croke Park stadium.

Lord Mayor Christy Burke said he had made last ditch attempts over the weekend to have the shows put on at the Aviva Stadium on the capital's southside instead.

But he was told by promoters Aiken Promotions and the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), which runs Croke Park, that it was logistically impossible.

"What I was told this morning - by Aiken Promotions and the GAA - is that the ship leaves tonight with material for the stage and if there are not five concerts on board, there will be none," he told a crisis meeting of Dublin City Council.

Ciaran Cuffe, a former junior minister and now Green councillor, said the implied threat was the equivalent to "putting a gun" to the Lord Mayor's head.

Mr Burke said Aviva - home of Ireland's national rugby and soccer teams - had offered to stage the remaining two concerts but issues over seating capacity, a stage move across the city and ticketing meant it was "ruled completely out".

The Lord Mayor said Government ministers told him their hands were tied under law and there was nothing they could do to intervene.

"The (city) manager cannot in any shape or form reverse his decision - there is no appeal mechanism," he added on the decision to ban two of the concerts based on an agreement between residents and the GAA.

"The laws need to be changed," Mr Burke added.

"They are old fashioned, they are outdated and they are unfair."

Amid the surreal fallout over the botched comeback extravaganza, a split has emerged among the residents in the area of the gigs.

A solicitor representing some householders has lodged proceedings in the High Court seeking the cancellation of all five concerts, while a new group in the Ballybough neighbourhood has handed a petition into the city manager demanding they go ahead.

The decision not to grant a licence for the five shows - announced last week after an application was made in April - cannot be directly appealed against or reviewed.

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

But there may be an option to challenge the city manager's decision in the courts, as well as the attempt to block all of the perfomances.

Owen Keegan, chief executive of Dublin City Council who enforced the planning decision, said it had been made appropriately.

"Dublin City Council hopes that Garth Brooks will avail of the licence that has been granted and plays the three shows," he said.

"Of course the city council has sympathy for those ticket holders who purchased tickets for the shows on Monday and Tuesday and would hope that these two shows could be facilitated at some stage in the future."

Mr Keegan said the council has always been consistent in saying its main concern was the impact that five consecutive concerts would have on the local area.

Brooks turned his back on touring to raise his family in Oklahoma 13 years ago and his comeback sent ripples throughout his worldwide fan base.

It has also fuelled fevered rumours of a global tour.

A press conference ahead of the unprecedented run of shows in Ireland has been planned for Thursday in the US.

The GAA was expected to give its views on the debacle today - five days after being told the money-making run was off.

Brooks issued a statement from the US to warn that the prospect of only holding three of the sold-out gigs was not likely.

Aikens have insisted that the style of show, lighting, TV screens and sound system was being created specifically for Croke Park's dimensions.

Press Association

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section