Garth Brooks fiasco still possible under new plans, Dáil hears

Timmy Dooley says Government’s proposed regulation changes will not address concerns

Garth Brooks in Croke Park, where he was due to play five concerts last year.  File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Garth Brooks in Croke Park, where he was due to play five concerts last year. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Proposals issued by the Government this week will not prevent a fiasco like last year’s cancellation of the Garth Brooks concerts in Croke Park recurring, the Dáil has heard.

Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley said current legislation did not adequately address all the potential concerns with outdoor events such as concerts, “nor do I believe that the proposals that the Government has brought forward adequately address the problem”.

Mr Dooley was speaking as he introduced a Private Members’ Bill drafted 12 months ago in the wake of the cancellation of five Garth Brooks concerts, after Dublin City Council decided not to grant a licence for three additional concerts on top of the two originally scheduled.

“The Garth Brooks fiasco, which this legislation sought to respond to, could easily happen again under the changes the Government is making,” he said, in relation to the regulation changes announced last week for the licensing of outdoor concerts.

Mr Dooley believed his bill would provide certainty for all concerned and would allow the Minister the power to provide a licence “in exceptional circumstances” and to overturn a decision by a local authority “in the interests of economic activity of the region and the State in general”.

Minister of State for the Environment Paudie Coffey said in response that “political interference in the planning system has in the past caused many problems, leading among other things to long and costly tribunals, and it is important that we do not return to those times”.

He said that, in proposing to bring the Minister for the Environment back into the decision-making process, Mr Dooley’s Bill runs contrary to the 2002 Planning Act.

This act specifically precludes the Minister from exercising any power or control in any particular case that a planning authority or An Bord Pleanála is concerned with.

The act’s provisions “have established an important principle that political interference in the planning system should no longer be allowed. We have moved on from this and we should not be returning to past practices.”

Sinn Féin environment spokesman Brian Stanley said that a vote by Westmeath County Council on conditions for the building of a wind farm was overruled by then minister of state Jan O’Sullivan under the critical infrastructure legislation, which allowed An Bord Pleanála and the Minister to overrule planning objections and decisions by local authorities if the project “is deemed to be of vital economic or strategic importance”.

Mr Dooley said the licensing of concert events “cannot be confused with the poor planning decisions taken through political interference in the past”.

He said he had expected the Government would introduce proposals to completely separate the licensing of concerts from the Planning and Development Act.

He said the Minister “has not really changed the mechanism. He has only tinkered around with the dates”.

The Clare TD said he was “still at a loss as to why the Government has not put in place the appropriate legislative framework”.

Licensing proposals

Proposals for changes to licensing regulation announced last week by Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly and Mr Coffey include a requirement to lodge an application 13 weeks before an event, which would increase the current requirement by three weeks.

Mr Dooley said that Aiken Promotions submitted the licence application 14 weeks before the proposed first concert.

He said that the pre-consultation process included in the new arrangements could still lead to the same situation of a licence ultimately being refused, despite the same “tacit support or acceptance of the proposal that was given to Aiken Promotions and Croke Park by Dublin City Council”.

He said the regulations did not provide for an appeals mechanism, “despite an attempt by the department to suggest otherwise”.

The Minister said there had been a “deep consultation process” with all stakeholders.

“I was happy to sign off on amendments to those regulations.”

He said that the changes “will bring greater clarity and extended notice to those involved in the licensing of large-scale events in this country”.