Friday 6 December 2019

We should always be grateful to Garth for the past week

We love a fit of apoplexy and 
Garth Brooks gave us one
we could truly enjoy because
 the stakes were so low

Garth Brooks visited Croke Park stadium in Dublin early this year to announce his plans for the summer gigs
Garth Brooks visited Croke Park stadium in Dublin early this year to announce his plans for the summer gigs
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

Even if the Garth Brooks gigs don't go ahead - and given the time lag of hours between me writing this and you reading it, I would be foolish to speculate on where the saga will be at right now - you'd have to say we've got great entertainment out of it all.

You see, we have become addicted in this country to our little fits of pique, our weekly arc of indignation about CRC, Alan Shatter, Irish Water, whatever. But the Garth hissy-fit has been truly special because on this occasion, the stakes, like the places from whence Garth's friends hail, were low. Of course there was anything between 25 and 250 million at stake for the economy, but when you think about it, most of this was just a transfer of wealth from rural Ireland to the capital. And of course there would be a lot of disappointed fans of the chubby tunesmith's sentimental stylings.

But nobody died. And we were free to treat this particular scandal as a bit of harmless fun, a bit like a cabinet reshuffle.

The irony of it all is that Garth could probably have sold out another five nights after all the publicity he got. Even some of us urban sophisticates found ourselves wondering what it was we were missing, what drove one tenth of our population to madness that they were to be denied this evening of song. Maybe, we wondered, this Brooks chappy had something. Maybe we should check him out.

But as the week went on, it became clear too that there is such a thing as bad publicity. Anyone who knows the rules of these periodic fits of apoplexy knows that the good guys become the bad guys very quickly in these situations, and there is a need for more villains all the time. The blame game is the most satisfying part of these paroxysms and even before it was all over, we had newspaper articles saying now that the dust is settling we really need to move on to the blame game.

And Garth's press conference on Thursday night surely represented some kind of tipping point, where we did the unthinkable, and turned on Garth himself. Of course, Garth had predicted this earlier in the week when he or one of his spokespeople intimated the unthinkable - that Garth Brooks didn't feel welcome in Ireland anymore, which is surely some kind of crime against the laws of nature and country music.

Certainly the welcome was wearing thin as Garth agonised, with more ham than you'd find in all the sandwiches in Croker on a big match day, about the situation in which he found himself. With a kind of weird signing thing that perhaps suggested why he communicates well to audiences of 80,000 people, Garth played out what could have been the last act of Garthgate.

He could not understand, he said, why people were expecting him to have the answer (points and motions extravagantly to self) when the problem lies back over there (makes large motion to suggest over here). You see, Garth is just a simple country boy and he couldn't understand what all the fuss was here. Why couldn't those bureaucrats down at City Hall just fix it so everyone could just come along and have a good time, and sort out the laws later?

And right there could have been the tipping point. No one tells us how to run this country of ours (apart from Britain for a while and Germany). Garth Brooks certainly doesn't tell us how to run our country. Garth may ease our broken hearts with his sentimental ballads, but we have no place for him in the reality of things. He is just a bit of fun, and he needn't start thinking he matters that much. Down there for dancing, Garth, up here for running the country.

The fact he was telling us how to run our country while flatly refusing to the compromise offered by the Irish authorities did not go down well. Garth was starting to look a bit petulant by the end of the week.

Mainly though, at this point, we were thrilled the eyes of the world were on us again. We love the notion that the whole world is always fixated on Ireland, for better for worse. In this case, we feigned dismay at what this must be doing to our international reputation as the best little country in the world in which to have Garth Brooks concerts. But behind it all is the pride that in Nashville, Tennessee, the home of country music, Garth Brooks, of all people, is talking to the
world's press about the Irish situation.

We even felt Barack Obama should get involved. Obama showed he is no Bill Clinton by opting to stay out of it. Bill, you can be sure, could have brokered a deal here. Bill was more a Garth Brooks kind of guy anyway, a chubby good ole boy who knows how to tell Paddy what Paddy likes to hear.

As Garth became the bad guy, previous bad guys in this saga must have started breathing a sigh of relief. It had been a bad week for example, for Northside handballers, who for a time, were getting blamed even by their neighbours for all this.

Faceless cycling bureaucrat Owen Keegan was centre stage for a time too. Keegan had charge of planning decisions like this due to a brief glitch a few years back when we all felt really bad about planning and we were involved in an orgy of self recrimination and self flagellation. We decided at that time, in order to ensure another Priory Hall would never happen again or something, that planning should be put in the hands of faceless bureaucrats and not gombeen councillors.

Of course it was never intended this new regime would also mean we would never have five Garth Brooks concerts again. We now regret that particular fit of righteousness and last week we found ourselves reminiscing fondly about the days of previously-discredited leaders like Bertie and Charlie, who would have looked into their hearts, seen what the people wanted, and made sure it happened, laws or not.

Perfectly upstanding people spent last week asking if they couldn't just change the law, or introduce a new law, to make things like they used to be. 'What the hell were we thinking when we took the power of planning out of the hands of our upstanding elected officials?' was the drift.

There was plenty of sideline colour too. If Owen Keegan became more unpopular last week, a new public figure was born and his popularity rocketed. Christy Burke added greatly to the gaiety of the nation through all this and there is a general feeling around now that we have uncovered this gem of a man, he will continue to provide fun for a few years to come. Indeed, you would imagine if they were to hold the elections for directly-elected mayor of Dublin tomorrow, Christy would be a shoo-in.

There was even a man given a suit and a large amount of money by shadowy figures he met at a hurling match, figures from both sides of the border who were "sympathetic to the cause".

What cause this was we are not even sure anymore. This poor man was then forced to come knocking on the door of the Mansion House to seek sanctuary from Christy and to recant and repent for seeking an injunction against the five concerts.

All in all, no matter what size screen Garth has on the ship, it couldn't match the widescreen madness of this last week. We will enjoy recounting it for a long time to come and we will forever be grateful to him.

Sunday Independent

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