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Saturday 17 March 2018

A tale of turmoil, threats, vitriol and vindication

Croke Park local resident Sean Burke in his street yesterday
Croke Park local resident Sean Burke in his street yesterday
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

'DON'T ask in there – the GAA own that shop," said two elderly ladies, pointing instead to a neighbour's house across the street, with a prominent sign protesting against the Croke Park concerts.

Behind the fallout of legal turmoil, disappointment, vitriol and vindication of the Garth Brooks debacle, lies a tangle of politics that shows how complicated this issue always was.

In the ongoing battle of the GAA versus residents living in the shadow of the colossus, the power of the association is palpable. It is difficult to get people to speak, let alone to give their name.

"This is not like Wembley, which is not in a residential area. There are no transport links here. People are virtually imprisoned in their homes during these concerts," said a mother of two who answers the door of a pleasant, well-tended family home in Ballybough.

Her husband is an architect who works from home and the couple have a toddler and a baby who "did not sleep" during the recent One Direction concerts.

Between the building of the stage and other works and the concerts themselves, the disruption spread over 20 days in total, she revealed.

The family had planned on going on holiday for Garth Brooks. But now they feel "vindicated".

"When I heard Garth Brooks was to go ahead for five nights I thought it was preposterous – it went against all sense of rights of the people in the area.

"It was pure greed," she said.

She admitted that she realised people were disappointed. There was a sense that this was a battle between town and city, she said.

"But it's not about Garth Brooks – it's not an issue of taste," she said.

"If this was Mozart playing five nights at Croke Park I'd be against it – not that I think he would fill Croke Park for five nights."

The quaint little warren of terraces around the stadium was almost completely deserted, the polar opposite to match days when they are packed with fans.

"This is a different place then," agrees Sean Burke, who was born in his home on Fitzroy Street barely 20 paces from the stadium grounds and who had dropped into 'Margaret's' corner shop for a chat.

He never minds the match crowd and hears "every word" from concerts that take place there – but five nights was "too much", he said.

"They blocked off the streets and Margaret couldn't make any money – it wasn't fair," he added.

"It's pretty unpleasant," said neighbour John Ryan, who adds: "We didn't cancel the concerts. The promoters sold tickets they shouldn't because they didn't have a licence."

Spreading the net wider into Drumcondra, the economics of the cancelled concerts came to the fore.

"It's a few newcomers in the area who are instigating this. You know what people are like – they're easily persuaded," said the brisk landlady of a guesthouse in Drumcondra.

"It's disgraceful they've cancelled them."

She had no doubt about who to blame for the shambles – it was Dublin city manager Owen Keegan, she believed.

"He made a mess of the traffic when he was in there and now he's back," she said.

With a 'houseful' of concert-goers, mostly from Northern Ireland, booked into her guesthouse for the run of five nights, she was bracing herself for the phone to ring with the cancellations.

Quinns pub – the well-known GAA haunt – was staying silent on the row.

"He doesn't want to say anything – somebody's been in already," said a barman of the owner, as regulars nursed their pints with half an eye on the horses.

A worker at Centra said that they had been inundated with customers for One Direction.

The cancellations were bound to affect business, he said.

At the Independent Pizza Company, the manager said five concerts would obviously have been better than three – except for the matter of the deliveries. "It would make it very difficult," she said.

Thomas O'Connor of McGrath's Bar remembered the first Garth Brooks concert in 1997.

"It was like three All-Ireland's rolled into one," he said.

"From our point of view it is disappointing – but the residents got their way in the end," he grimaced.

Meanwhile, at the Cheese Pantry, Melanie Berry revealed how they had been putting plans in place for later opening hours, more staffing and a special menu to cater for concert-goers.

"It would be huge for us – 85,000 people coming into the area for five nights. Now we don't know what's happening," she said.

Irish Independent

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