Taoiseach says return of Garth Brooks ‘great’ after ‘tough 18 months’

Micheál Martin said Croke Park has learned a lot since 2014 in engagement with local residents

Brooks’ plans to hold five concerts in Croke Park in 2014 led to more than 300 objections from local residents. .Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Brooks’ plans to hold five concerts in Croke Park in 2014 led to more than 300 objections from local residents. .Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin responded to country music star Garth Brooks’ plans to return to Ireland saying it is “great” that people are coming back to perform after a “tough 18 months”.

Dublin City Council has granted a licence for three concerts in Croke Park, next September. It is understood the concert licences refer to to gigs by the US singer. An application for two more dates has also been received by the council.

Speaking to reporters in New York, Mr Martin was asked if he thought Mr Brooks would get five nights and replied joking: “We could have a few in Cork as well you know.”

Brooks’ plans to hold five concerts in Croke Park in 2014 led to more than 300 objections from local residents. He subsequently said he would perform all five concerts in Croke Park or none at all. None of the parties involved could reach a compromise and Brooks cancelled all five concerts. Some 400,000 ticketholders were refunded.

Mr Martin said that progress has been made on how concerts are organised since then.

He said: “I think Croke Park has learned a lot, in terms of its engagement with local residents.

“I think venues more generally now have more proactive policies, working with local residents to resolve issues, issues of significant concern - and that applies to sporting occasions as well.

“People do need access to concerts and to iconic stars and that’s something that we’ve always been good at in Ireland.”

Asked if he would like to attend one of the concerts Mr Martin said “take if one step at a time” but added: “I would actually”.

He said: “The point I’m making is we’ve had a tough 18 months with the pandemic.

“Isn’t it great now that people are coming back to perform and that we have concerts.”

Earlier a Dublin councillor said the relationship between the GAA and the community around Croke Park is now “much better” which augurs well for plans for a series of Garth Brooks concerts at the venue next year.

“There was an absolutely toxic relationship between the GAA and the local community (last time). It was all to do with the community centre and handball centre, which the GAA were trying to get from the community,” Cllr Nial Ring told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny show.

“The communications were also appalling. There was the announcement of three concerts -before we even had to digest that in the local community, they announced four and then five. It was treating the local community with absolute contempt.”

Mr Ring said the relationship with the GAA was now “much better”, as well as a new €15 million handball and community centre for the area. “The whole relationship is different. “If we can sit down — which we will as adults, and without any of the sideshow like the Mexican ambassador or Garth whinging over in America — I think we can actually come to some agreement.” Consultation with the local community was the key to any agreement, he said.

Ballybough resident Susan Mangan, who has been invited to a meeting next week about the concerts, said a series of big concerts would be positive news for the area, especially after the impact of Covid-19 over the last 18 months. “No-one wants a repeat of what happened seven years ago. We’ve moved on — we’ve sat around the table many times, and worked out what we don’t want a repeat of. As long as the fans and Croke Park respect the residents’ wishes, it’s going to bring much-needed business to the pubs, hotels, and street traders who are finally going to sell those hats they’ve had to put away for seven years.”