Keegan rejects GAA claim he backed five Garth Brooks gigs

Páraic Duffy said it was ‘incomprehensible’ five gigs did not get go-ahead

Promoter Peter Aiken of Aiken Promotions has been addressing the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Transport and Communications today following the Garth Brooks debacle.

Wed, Jul 16, 2014, 20:08

Dublin city manager Owen Keegan tonight rejected claims from the GAA that he was fully in support of five Garth Brooks concerts before controversially limiting the singer’s come-back shows to just three nights.

At the second day of hearings before a joint transport and communications committee yesterday, the GAA’s director general Páraic Duffy said it was “incomprehensible” the five gigs were not given the go-ahead.

He said there was not “even a hint” a licence would be refused for all five shows which had become an “unmissable national event”.

Conversely, he said, prior to the submission of a licence application earlier this year, Croke Park stadium director Peter McKenna had received a phone call from Mr Keegan advising him the council would “support a licence application for all five”.

“Mr Keegan asked Peter McKenna to make the decision-making process as easy as possible for DCC,” he said. “I am obliged to emphasise that all our contact with DCC on the Garth Brooks concerts led us to believe that we would be granted a licence for all five concerts.”

This contradicted remarks by Mr Keegan before the same committee on Tuesday in which he said to permit all of the shows would have been “totally unbalanced and inappropriate”.

In a statement last night, Dublin City Council sought to clarify the nature of Mr Keegan’s telephone call with Mr McKenna last February.

“In this conversation Owen Keegan reiterated his position that the City Council is supportive of special events and concerts in Croke Park. However, no assurance was given, or indeed could be given at that stage, that all five proposed concerts would be licensed,” it said.

Rather, the lodgment of an event licence application initiates a formal statutory process on which a decision is eventually arrived at.

Mr Duffy also told the committee he felt the “most disturbing aspect of the entire business” was the fraudulent objections filed to Dublin City Council and the effect this may have had on the decision.

Eleven such instances were referred to gardaí, he said, and there may have been more as part of an “orchestrated campaign” to block the licence.

Alerted to this situation three weeks before reaching a decision, the council should have “taken the time to cast a more rigorously sceptical eye” and perhaps have reached a different decision, he said.

Regarding the cited “over-intensification of Croke Park”, he felt this was a “selective” argument and had not applied during the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road when soccer and rugby games were hosted at the ground on top of scheduled events.

“Croke Park feels let down by this whole process. But, more than that, the country has been let down. I do not think it unreasonable to claim that the people of Ireland and those abroad who have followed this affair find the decision to refuse a licence for five concerts incomprehensible. And they’re right, it is incomprehensible.”

Promoter Peter Aiken told the committee that while he accepted licensing procedures were followed, the process was not “reasonable, balanced or fair” and, ultimately, wrong.

He said that after the five shows had been rejected, one option to allow them proceed was for an uncontested judicial review of the planning decision. However, Mr Keegan said the council would “vigorously” oppose any such move.

An offer to facilitate alternative nights in October would not work as they would clash with other dates on the singer’s world tour.

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I feel that an event which any city in the world would have been proud to host should have been viewed with an informed strategic eye and encouraged - not dismissed.”

Brooks had sold 400,000 tickets, all of which have now been cancelled after the parties involved were unable to reach a compromise.