Latest score from Croke Park: Democracy 2, Garth Brooks Concerts 0 (late own goal by Garth Brooks)

by Michael Nugent on July 8, 2014

Update: Garth Brooks was at first happy to do two concerts in Dublin, he was then given permission to do three instead of five, and now he has decided to do none. His decision to cancel the three concerts that he was given permission for is a matter between him, Aiken Promotions, the GAA, and the people to whom who they sold tickets for events that they did not have permission to hold.

To be honest, I had assumed that the business and political pressure would work and that the five concerts would go ahead, because I am so used to seeing the wrong decisions being made in Ireland and people getting away with it. So I was as surprised as I was pleased when the Council’s decision was announced.

Original article written before the above update: Dublin City Councillors trying to reverse the Garth Brooks concert decision is exactly why the power to make planning decisions was removed from them. They should abide by the democratic decision to allow three concerts take place instead of five, a decision that balances the rights and interests of all concerned.

I live in Drumcondra, and I enjoy the atmosphere of the crowds on Croke Park match days, apart from some of their inability to distinguish gardens from toilets, but the shift from a sports stadium to a much larger sports plus music gig stadium had to be negotiated with the local community as part of the process of the GAA getting planning permission to redevelop Croke Park.

I was part of the negotiating team for the local residents at that time. It was difficult, and not everybody on either side was reasonable, but the process eventually resulted in a planning permission that allowed expansion of the stadium, but with a limit of three special events every year, and any further special events requiring planning permission.

This year the GAA have already held their three special events (the One Direction concerts) under the agreement and planning permission for redeveloping the stadium. I know from being part of the original negotiations that the idea of five extra concerts in a row was not even contemplated at the time. The idea would have been laughed at, even by the GAA people present.

Now you can argue that times change, and that agreements can change, and that is of course correct. But such changes, like the original agreement, should also be negotiated. The GAA makes a big deal of being good neighbours and part of the local community, and they should live up to that.

Instead, they and Aiken Promotions decided to unilaterally create a fait-accompli, which they assumed, in typical Irish fashion, would be retrospectively vindicated by the Council. They started selling tickets for five extra events in January/February, and didn’t even apply for permission to hold the events until April.

They essentially tried to create a situation where not getting permission would be interpreted as something being cancelled that was already underway, rather than something not getting permission to happen.

The Council took the statutory time to consider the application, and also waited to see if the then-started conciliation talks between Croke Park/Aiken and local residents would come up with an agreed resolution. As an aside, I am not part of these current negotiations.

When that did not happen, the City manager took a decision based on the law, the conditions of the planning permission for the redevelopment of Croke Park, and the impact of the proposed event on the organisers and the community. The decision proved to be a perfect example of democracy in action.

Then we had typical Irish end-of-the-world melodrama, seasoned with Garth Brooks issuing an ultimatum from across the Atlantic, and the City Councillors embarrassed themselves by voting to try to reverse the decision even though they knew that their vote had no legal power.

This was nothing more than grandstanding for popular approval at the expense of those of their citizens who had been partly vindicated by the decision on the concerts. As I said, it shows exactly why the power to take such decisions had to be taken out of their hands in the first place.

If the Councillors wanted to represent the views of the Dublin citizens who wanted the five concerts, they had two more legitimate choices. One, they could have expressed the dissatisfaction of those citizens, and asked them to also consider the rights of their fellow-citizens. Or two, if they wanted to be partisan, they could have expressed the dissatisfaction of those citizens, and called for a change in the law to ensure that promoters cannot sell tickets for events until they get permission to hold them.

Any damage to the economy and tourism has been caused by the GAA and Aiken acting unilaterally, and assuming that democracy would not be implemented in a way that stopped them from doing this. The decision by City Manager Owen Keegan was incredibly courageous in the circumstances, and he should be commended for standing up to the pressure piled against him.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Austin Grehan July 8, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Hi Michael;
Brilliant article, thank you for laying out both sides, in a calm dispassionate manner, and for explaining the methodology behind the farce that is going on right now. I agree with your second solution, that the law should be changed to ensure that promoters CANNOT sell tickets, until they get permission. I thought that this was the case all along, but thanks, for enlightening me.

Talk soon,

Austin

2 Denis Rusk July 9, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Just a brief comment. I have never bought a ticket forum major concert that did not have the words ‘subject to licence’ or some variation of those words on it. The concert promoter was just doing exactly what they had always done without any problems. Perhaps that’s where the problem lies.

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