No way to change licensing decision, DCC tells committee

Tuesday 15 July 2014 22.10
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Garth Brooks confirmed last night that he will not be performing at Croke Park this summer
Garth Brooks confirmed last night that he will not be performing at Croke Park this summer
Owen Keegan said the holding of five Garth Brooks concerts was going to be controversial
Owen Keegan said the holding of five Garth Brooks concerts was going to be controversial

The chief executive of Dublin City Council has said it was not possible to go back on the licensing decision on the Garth Brooks concerts.

Owen Keegan told the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications that it would be a matter for the Oireachtas to amend legislation for the Minister for the Environment to change regulations.

The holding of five concerts was going to be controversial and any number in excess of one would have created a new precedent, he said.

It comes as Mr Brooks confirmed that he will not be performing at Croke Park this summer.

Mr Brooks last night said his heart was broken and he is crushed over the failure to stage the five events.

Mr Keegan said he believes the right decision was made and that Dublin City Council is obliged to follow a process.

The damage was done when the tickets were sold in February, he said, adding that the council was in a difficult situation.

In outlining the application made by Aiken Promotions for the five concerts, he said the application for a licence was first submitted on 17 April.

It was made clear at all of the meetings with Aiken Promotions that no decision had been made on the licence for the five concerts, he said.

Mr Keegan said the promoters were told of the serious concerns about impact the concerts would have on local residents.

He told the committee that he believes the decision made was "appropriate, balanced and reasonable" and he would not change the decision.

Mr Keegan said the city council informed Aiken Promotions on the evening of 2 July, as a matter of courtesy, of the decision to award a licence for just three concerts.

There was a discussion about a fourth concert when it became clear Mr Brooks wanted to perform all five, he said.

When Mr Brooks rejected that offer, he said, he went ahead with his decision of three concerts.

Mr Keegan said he was conscious of disappointed ticket holders and he considered an application for matinee concerts.

As recently as yesterday, he said, Dublin City Council offered to act as co-promoter and move the concerts to another location or hold them at a later stage.

Mr Keegan said this was later rejected.

He described as "disturbing" the significant number of bogus objections to the concerts.

However, he said that the council contacted gardaí when it became concerned and there is now a garda investigation into the matter.

Mr Keegan said the council fully recognises the economic benefits of the concerts, but he said they are not central or intrinsic to the decision-making process.

He said the place Mr Brooks has in the hearts of people in Ireland does not override the planning process or the concerns of residents.

He said he regrets Mr Brooks's decision not to go ahead with the three concerts and examine proposed options by Dublin City Council for the two not permitted.

However, he said it was the decision of Mr Brooks and Aiken Promotions not to go ahead with the concerts and they must accept the consequences.

In a statement last night, Mr Brooks said: "I just received the news the Irish council cannot change their earlier ruling to not allow the licenses for all five shows. To say I am crushed is an understatement.

"All I see is my mother's face and I hear her voice. She always said things happen for a reason and for the right reason.

"As hard as I try, I cannot see the light on this one. So it is with a broken heart, I announce the ticket refunds for the event will go as posted by TicketMaster."

Aiken Promotions said it examined "all possible solutions" in an attempt to get the concerts back on.

It is understood that Dublin City Council was willing to offer three more concerts in October, but Mr Brooks rejected this proposal.

He had previously turned down a compromise of four shows and he also rejected the option of two matinee performances.

Ticket refunds will go ahead as planned for the 400,000 fans from 9am on Thursday.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny today said he was "disappointed" for the 400,000 ticket holders. 

He described the saga as "a mess" and said it was clear there needed to be legislative change. 

"For those who bought tickets to see their superstar, I am disappointed," he said.

The representative body for Dublin publicans said the cancellation of the gigs was a "body blow" to the pub trade.

Yesterday, the Department of the Environment announced a review of the concert licensing system in the wake of the controversy over the concerts.

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly said he was committed to carrying out a wholesale review of the way major events are handled.

He said this would be progressed in the coming months, "as opposed to carrying it out in a rushed manner that is in neither the interests of concert-goers, residents or the planning system in general".