Wednesday 22 May 2019

Forget friends in high places, what's needed is a miracle in the courts

Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

WE can do it. We guaranteed the banks to the tune of €400bn in the wee small hours on foot of an incorporeal cabinet meeting.

And we liquidated the former Anglo Irish Bank in a spectacular dawn raid following an all-night session in the Dail.

Surely, Finance Minister Michael Noonan could invoke the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2013 to stage Garth Brooks at Croke Park for five nights in a row?

For the sake of the economy or to avoid incurring the wrath of 400,000 voters?

Indeed, short of introducing (constitutionally dubious) emergency legislation to strike down Dublin City Council's decision, there seems little that can be done as a matter of planning or contract law to resolve the debacle through legal means.

But in a country overpopulated with lawyers, there is no doubt #garthgate will end up in the courts, which have – in the not so recent past – considered the saga of planning and pop concerts.

Last night, the Four Courts was gripped with rumours that Aiken Promotions was bringing an emergency legal action against DCC.

To what end?

Before the Celtic Tiger, organisers of major outdoor events, such as music concerts, had to seek planning permission to stage them.

That all changed when the Planning and Development Act came into force.

The 2000 Act replaced planning permission with the grant of a licence for outdoor events with more than 5,000 people.

The law was given effect in the 2001 Planning and Development (Licensing of Outdoor Events) Regulations, which stipulates, among other things, that applications have to be made some 16 weeks before the event.

Local authorities must wait at least five weeks before providing a response under the regulations.

This being Ireland, which has a tendency to do certain things such as planning in an arse-about-face fashion, it has been a long-established practice that promoters sell tickets before they are granted a licence.

And so promoters and artists proceed on a subject-to-licence wing and prayer and hope that the licence will materialise in the end, as it usually does.

What complicates the Garth Brooks controversy is that An Bord Pleanala, as part of its conditions allowing the GAA to revamp Croke Park, stipulated that only three concerts or special events could be held each year.

But the Bord's conditions preceded the 2000 Act, and now big-ticket, "non-development" items at Croke Park are subject to licence under the 2000 law.

Whatever the rights and wrongs – happily, I'm not a Garth Brooks fan – DCC is entitled to take a range of criteria into account such as public and fire safety and the concerns of the residents in a year that has already seen One Direction belt out hits in three concerts at Croke Park.

Could DCC's decision be overturned by the Supreme Court, which previously allowed two U2 concerts to proceed at Lansdowne on the basis that they were a transient, once-off event?

They might grant an expedited hearing in light of the public controversy.

But the courts are unlikely to quash the decision of Dublin City Council, whose decisions are final, unless it can be proven that it broke the law or acted outside of its powers.

And even if Aiken began a fresh licensing process, the timescales of the 2000 Act would have to be obeyed.

Short of engaging an international broker like Bill Clinton, or an emergency law, tomorrow might never come for some Garth Brooks fans.

Irish Independent

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