Council offered to co-promote rescheduled Brooks gigs

Council showed flexibility where there was ‘no budge from the other side’

Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan  and executive manager  Jim Keogan arrive at Leinster House for a meeting with the Oireachtas transport committee to discuss the Garth Brooks concerts. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan and executive manager Jim Keogan arrive at Leinster House for a meeting with the Oireachtas transport committee to discuss the Garth Brooks concerts. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Wed, Jul 16, 2014, 01:00

Dublin City Council offered to be a “co-promoter” for two rescheduled Garth Brooks concerts, but the offer was turned down, council chief executive Owen Keegan has told an Oireachtas committee.

Mr Keegan was before the joint transport and communications committee yesterday to explain the council’s decision to license three of the five concerts planned for Croke Park at the end of this month, for which 400,000 tickets had been sold.

Brooks formally announced the cancellation of all his Croke Park concerts on Monday night.

The council had shown “considerable flexibility” throughout the process but “there was absolutely no budge from the other side”, Mr Keegan told the committee.

To grant a licence for five concerts would have been “totally unbalanced and inappropriate” given the effect five consecutive shows would have on residents, he said. “Nothing that has occurred since the decision was made has changed my opinion that the decision was appropriate, balanced and reasonable.”

He said it was open to anyone who thinks otherwise to seek a judicial review. “I should state, however, that any such proceedings will be vigorously defended by the city council.”

Integrity

The integrity of the statutory planning system must be maintained and no individual or organisation “no matter how cherished a place they occupy in the hearts of the nation” must be allowed “unduly influence” that system.

Brooks had made his decision and “must accept the consequences”, Mr Keegan said.

The council chief outlined the various attempts made to reach a solution, without reversing the licensing decision. These involved agreeing to matinee shows, which had been proposed but later rejected by promoter Peter Aiken, Mr Keegan said. He said the council, as late as two days ago, also offered to become a “co-promoter” for two rescheduled concerts. Bringing the council on board would reduce the time needed to process the licence application to about five weeks. But this was also rejected by Brooks.

Mr Keegan also said he offered to ask the council’s planning department if a fourth concert would be possible.

Mr Keegan said he spoke to Jim Clarke of Aiken Promotions the night before the licensing decision was made to say it was likely only three concerts would be permitted. Mr Clarke said Brooks would not perform three and Mr Keegan offered to see if a fourth would be possible, but Mr Clarke rejected the offer.

Regret

Mr Keegan told the committee he “very much” regretted making the suggestion. “I can be rightly criticised for making that offer and looking back now I probably regret that I did.” Later in proceedings he said: “I very much regret I even mentioned it.”

Mr Keegan also rejected suggestions the licensing decision had been based on fraudulent submissions. The council received 348 submissions from members of the public as part of the licensing process and issued acknowledgements to all but eight that had not had legible addresses. Eleven people replied that they had not made submissions. The council referred the matter to the Garda.

Mr Keegan said the decision was not made on the quantity of the submissions but the issues raised in them.

Several TDs objected to a letter sent by Mr Keegan last week asking if any of the Oireachtas committee members were also GAA members. Committee chair John O’Mahony said he was a member of the GAA and a Garth Brooks ticket holder but had “no hand act or part” in Croke Park’s decision making.

Mr O’Mahony also asked if any of those before the committee lived near Croke Park.

The executive manager who issued the licences for the concerts, Jim Keogan, said he was from Ballybough and his son still lived there.

Aiken Promotions and the GAA are due before the committee this morning.