As Garth Brooks’ record run at Croke Park went from five nights, to three, to none, to fiasco, the hospitality industry has been left reeling with losses estimated at €50m and Ireland’s reputation in ruins.
The country superstar blamed the controversy and confusion for pulling the plug, the concert promoters blamed Dublin City Council, Dublin City manager blamed the planning process, and the GAA and Government said ‘don’t blame us’, as 400,000 fans were left angry, frustrated and demanding answers.
Ticketmaster, the selling agent, said it was working on ways refunds would be made and would outline plans. “However the scale of this operation is unprecedented in the Irish entertainment industry and therefore we would ask customers to be patient while we finalise our plan,” a spokesperson said.
Concert promoter Peter Aiken said Brooks is “devastated” by the situation and claimed every avenue had been exhausted in trying to get the shows to go ahead. He claimed at one point the council offered Brooks the chance to do four shows, while the country music star had also discussed matinee concerts, but was intent on five shows as he felt three would be “an anti-climax”.
“He is sticking by his principles, that’s his decision, it’s disappointing and we are devastated,” Mr Aiken said. “It was going to be the biggest musical event — there will never be another artist in my lifetime who was going to do 400,000 tickets.
“He is devastated. He is down for millions on this deal.” On proposals that might have allowed the concerts to go ahead, Mr Aiken said: “You don’t get a chance for discussion, you just get ‘no’.” He said it was now “uncertain” if Brooks would play concerts in Ireland.
In response, Dublin City Council said prior to a decision being made on the licence application, conversations took place between the city chief executive Owen Keegan and a senior representative from Aiken Promotions, in which the council said it was likely only three concerts would be permitted.
DCC said Mr Keegan offered to discuss the possibility of four shows with the decision maker in the planning department, “if a guarantee was given by the promoter that Garth Brooks would fulfil the four events”. When Brooks declined “the offer to approach the decision maker was then withdrawn”.
Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan said the cancellation of the concerts was “an embarrassment”, while Enda Kenny told the Dáil the entire affair had been badly handled.
Hoteliers, the restaurant sector and the pub trade were among those bemoaning the scrapping of all the concerts, which were due to take place from July 25.
Lord Mayor of Dublin, Christy Burke, said he was “sick” with the outcome, despite frantic efforts since last Thursday to ensure at least some of the concerts went ahead.
He said of Brooks: “It’s his call and that’s the end of it and we are all sick. We need to step back from this collapse and maybe think is there anything we can rescue or salvage.”
In a statement, the GAA expressed its “regret” none of the concerts will now take place and said it shared “the intense disappointment of the 400,000 people who have purchased tickets”.
The GAA said it “engaged fully with Dublin City Council” ahead of the concerts and added: “At no stage were we given any indication that a licence was likely to be refused for any of the five concerts.”
Former Westlife star Shane Filan, who was due to play support at some of the concerts, said: “I am so devastated that Garth Brooks has had to cancel his shows in Ireland. I am a huge fan and couldn’t wait to see him perform.”
Brooks is still due to hold a press conference at 5pm tomorrow during which he is expected to outline plans for a world tour. It remains to be seen if Ireland will feature on the itinerary.
€4m loss for GAA
The GAA’s coffers will lose out by close to €4m as a result of the five Garth Brooks concerts in Croke Park being cancelled.
In a statement last night, the organisation said it shared the “intense disappointment of the 400,000 people who have purchased tickets”.
However, they insisted they had received no suggestion there was an issue with the licence for the gigs until last week when city manager Owen Keegan gave the go-ahead for three of them.
“From the outset, Croke Park Stadium, as it does with the planning of all events staged in Croke Park, and with a view to avoiding surprise late difficulties, engaged fully with Dublin City Council officials and addressed comprehensively every issue presented during this planning process.
“At no stage were we given any indication that a licence was likely to be refused for any of the five concerts.”
The GAA have already accrued close to €2m from the three One Direction gigs at Croke Park in May, while there have been a higher than usual number of replays in this year’s senior football and hurling championships, which will boost gate receipts.
In the statement, the GAA reiterated they would follow through on the recommendations set out by mediator Kieran Mulvey. They include a one-off investment in a legacy project or project to the value of €500,000 and a 20% increase in the stadium’s annual community fund, bringing it to €120,000 per annum. They also expressed their appreciation for those residents in the vicinity of the stadium who had protested in support of the concerts going ahead.
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