Licensing system like a Victorian courtship

The Garth Brooks concerts episode was an accident waiting to happen

The most interesting word used to describe the Garth Brooks cancellation has been “unprecedented”. Photograph: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

The most interesting word used to describe the Garth Brooks cancellation has been “unprecedented”. Photograph: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey


Call it a fiasco, a debacle, or a farce – whatever your view of the Garth Brooks concerts’ cancellation, the most interesting word used to describe it has been “unprecedented”.

Given the way the licensing system works it is remarkable that a licence had not previously been refused for a concert for which tickets had been sold. Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan yesterday outlined to the Oireachtas transport committee a process and interaction between licence applicant and the council more mannered and delicate than a Victorian courtship.

He said he was satisfied no council official had given assurances to Aiken Promotions that permission would be granted for five concerts by Brooks. He said Aiken had been made aware the council had “serious concerns” about five concerts and the promoter could not have had a “legitimate expectation” five licences would be granted. But when in February five concerts were announced, or in April, when a licence application was made, did the council tell Aiken five concerts would not be licensed? “No,” Keegan said.

Had the council done so, it could be accused of prejudging a statutory process, leaving it open to legal action, he said. However, had the promoter engaged in formal pre-planning consultations before making an application, the council could have given “advice” which would not prejudice the process. The promoter opted to have informal discussions instead.

This was an accident waiting to happen. The event- licensing laws, introduced in 2000, are relatively young. The promoter’s “legitimate expectation” was probably based on the fact he had never before been refused a licence.

If Brooks talked any sense in the last week it was when he said at his Nashville press conference: “It’s my opinion the Irish system got some weight on it and it buckled.”

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