Thursday 14 December 2017

Dublin City Council: 'No assurance was given in February that all five proposed concerts would be licensed'

Council 'would welcome an independent review of all aspects of the event licencing process pertaining to Garth Brooks concerts'

Garth Brooks
Garth Brooks

Dublin City Council this evening issued a statement to clarify issues raised at the Oireachtas Committee today.

In particular DCC clarified issues regarding a telephone conversation which took place between DCC's CEo Owen Keegan and Peter McKenna, Croke Park, in early February, two months before the licence application was received. 

DCC's statement said: "In this conversation Owen Keegan reiterated his position that the City Council is supportive of special events and concerts in Croke Park. However, no assurance was given, or indeed could be given at that stage, that all five proposed concerts would be licensed."

"The lodgement of an event licence application initiates a formal Statutory Process on which the decision is made. In this instance the application was lodged on the 17th April and was determined on the 3rd July.

Dublin City Council would welcome an independent, impartial review of all aspects of the event licencing process pertaining to the Garth Brooks concerts, the statement said.

Statement from DCC's CEO Owen Keegan:

"I would like to respond to a number of criticisms that have been levelled at the Council since the decision was made on the event licence. The main criticisms are as follows: 

  • In light of the decision of the promoter/Garth Brooks not to proceed with the 3 permitted concerts and given the importance of the concerts to the Dublin economy and the number of individuals who purchased tickets in good faith the City Council should amend its decision. In refusing to amend its decision the City Council has been unduly inflexible.
  • As has already been stated an event licence decision made under the Planning & Development Act cannot be amended or appealed. It is not legally possible for the Council to reopen the decision to grant a licence or to amend the conditions attaching to that licence.
  • Notwithstanding this I am satisfied that the City Council displayed considerable flexibility both immediately prior to the decision on the licence being made and since the decision was announced in an effort to ensure the Garth Brooks concerts will proceed. This flexibility is demonstrated by the following:

Possibility of four Concerts

On the evening of Wednesday 2 July 2014 prior to a decision being made on the event licence application I spoke to Jim Clarke of Aiken Promotions. I wanted to advise him as a matter of courtesy of the imminent decision on the licence application. In the course of that conversation I informed Mr Clarke that the likelihood was that only 3 concerts would be permitted. Mr Clarke rang me back later to say that Garth Brooks would not perform 3 concerts. I then offered to discuss with the decision maker in the Planning Department (Mr Keogan) the possibility of permitting a fourth concert if Mr Clarke could give me a guarantee that Garth Brooks would fulfil the 4 concerts. I gave no commitment to Mr Clarke in this regard. On the morning of Thursday 3 July and before any conversation took place with the decision maker, Mr Clarke rang me back to say that unless all 5 concerts were permitted Garth Brooks would  not come to Dublin at all. I then withdrew my offer. The decision was made to grant the licence for 3 concerts.

Possibility of Matinee Shows

I met with Peter Aiken of Aiken Promotions and a senior civil servant on Thursday 10 July. At that meeting a proposal was made by Mr Aiken in respect of matinee performances designed to break the impasse that had arisen. Under the proposal the City Council would consider an updated Event Management Plan, to be submitted in accordance with the licence, whereby the 3 concerts would proceed but the Saturday and Sunday concerts would start earlier to facilitate separate matinee audiences on these two days. While there would still only be 3 concerts there would be 5 separate audiences. This would have allowed everyone who bought a ticket to go to a concert in Croke Park on Friday 25 July, Saturday 26 July or Sunday 27 July. I agreed to consider a revised Event Management Plan prepared on this basis and within the statutory framework, in response to the disappointment of ticket holders who purchased tickets in good faith for the cancelled Monday and Tuesday concerts and in light of concerns that these ticket holders could turn up on the other days creating security and public safety. DCC to ‘Co Promote’ Concerts

As recently as 14 July 2014 the City Council offered to act as a ‘co promoter’ if Aiken Promotions decided to reschedule the 2 concerts (that were refused permission by the Council) to an alternative venue in the City Council area requiring an event licence or in Croke Park at a later date. This would have reduced the time period to process the event licence application to about 5 weeks.

Timing of DCC's decision:

The outdoor event licensing process is a statutory process. The licence application in respect of the Garth Brooks concerts was submitted on 17 April. A final decision was made on 3 July. The Council is satisfied that it would not have been appropriate to advise the applicant or anyone else of the decision it intended to make until it had fully processed the licence application. Any other position would expose the Council to legal action on the basis that it had prejudged the outcome of a statutory planning process.

The Regulations for event licensing provide for consultations between the applicant and the local authority, at the request of the applicant. When the applicant and the local authority agree to enter into consultations on the submission of an application including the draft Event Management Plan for the management of the event, the authority may in such instances offer advice to the applicant regarding a proposed application. It is important to note that such consultations cannot prejudice the performance of the local authority of its functions nor can they be relied upon in the process of determining an application, or for that matter in any legal proceedings arising.

In this instance, no such formal pre application consultation took place. There were a number of informal discussions with the promoter and his agents prior to the lodgement of the application on 17 April. Dublin City Council and its officers have been consistent in informing the promoter and his agents that its main concerns were the impact the proposed 5 consecutive concerts would have on the surrounding area and the precedent it would set.

Prior to lodgement of the application the proposed concerts were debated at a City Council meeting on 7April, 2014 and at an Area Committee meeting on 11 March 2014. The minutes of these meetings indicate that there was widespread concern among Elected Members at the proposal to have 5 concerts, based on the impact on local residents. There were numerous media reports of the concerns of local residents at the proposal for 5 consecutive concerts. It is difficult to understand how, in face of real evidence of disquiet among local residents that the promoters could have anticipated no difficulty in securing an event licence for the 5 concerts.

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