Electric Picnic organisers make final plea to Government to let event go ahead

Catherine Martin is said to be exploring all options to allow for holding of festival

The crowd at the Main Stage at Electric Picnic on the Sunday night of the 2018 festival. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

The crowd at the Main Stage at Electric Picnic on the Sunday night of the 2018 festival. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

 

The organisers of Electric Picnic have made a final plea to the Government for the music festival to be allowed to proceed this year.

Festival Republic wrote to senior Government figures on Thursday asking for the festival to go ahead as a Government pilot event for people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

It comes as Minister for Culture Catherine Martin was said to be exploring all options to allow for the holding of Electric Picnic this year, including the possibility it could be designated as a pilot. However, planning regulations that require large outdoor concerts to have licences from local authorities could prove to be a major hurdle.

Organisers had hoped the Stradbally festival could proceed for up to 70,000 attendees on the weekend of September 24th to 26th. However, Laois County Council refused the application for a licence earlier this month, citing HSE advice and the public health measures in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The council said on Wednesday there is no provision in law for it to revisit the rejected application. It also said that even if a new application is made “statutory timelines” do not allow for the processing of a new application in time for the dates originally proposed for the festival.

Planning regulations include a requirement that the licence application must be submitted 13 weeks before the concert is due to go ahead.

While Minister for Housing and Local Government Darragh O’Brien has the power to amend such regulations without Oireachtas approval, his department cast doubt on whether this would happen.

A statement said the current regulations were the outcome of detailed consultations with stakeholder groups. “It would arguably be difficult to justify amending the regulations and to vary the current timeline provisions for the purpose of one specific event,” it said.

Committee meeting

Ms Martin is to raise the issue of Electric Picnic at Friday’s Cabinet Covid sub-committee meeting on the roadmap for easing the remaining pandemic restrictions. She is expected to have support from Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, who is also pushing for the music festival to be allowed to proceed alongside the reopening of other businesses to people who are fully vaccinated.

Ultimately, Attorney General Paul Gallagher’s input could be sought on proposals for how the event could go ahead.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Mr Varadkar and Ms Martin were among those contacted by Festival Republic as part of its renewed appeal for Electric Picnic to go ahead as a pilot event.

It is understood the organisers had proposed as far back as July 22nd that it would be held as a pilot event for vaccinated people.

Previous Government pilot events for music and sport did not fall under the event licensing regime.

The live music events in this regard were for much smaller crowds and fell under the 5,000-attendee threshold above which a licence must be secured from a council.

Events like the All-Ireland hurling final in Croke Park – where there were 40,000 fans in attendance – did not need a local authority licence.