Garth Brooks: 5 shows or no show

Garth Brooks at Croke Park, Dublin, for the announcement of his stadium concerts. Picture: Niall Carson/PA

Garth Brooks last night issued an ultimatum that he will play five concerts in Ireland later this month or "none at all".

Dublin City council yesterday morning refused to grant a licence to two of the five sell-out shows, leaving 160,000 ticket-holders due to be in Croke Park on July 28 and 29 facing the possibility that they would miss out on seeing their musical hero.

In a short statement, issued on his behalf by a spokesman, the country superstar said: “I can’t thank the people of Ireland enough for how welcome they have made me feel. I have faith that Dublin City Council will make the best decision for the people of Ireland.

“For us, it is five shows or none at all. To choose which shows to do and which shows not to do, would be like asking to choose one child over another. However this plays out, Ireland has my heart and always will.”

Earlier concert promoter Peter Aiken warned he could not guarantee the three remaining Garth Brooks concerts would go ahead. “He [Brooks] was devastated. The way this started out was two concerts and then this rolled into this massive event, five shows,” he said. “The whole world was talking about it. No one could believe a country this size could sell 400,000 tickets, or 70,000 people coming in from overseas. He started getting all excited. So what started out as this simple show became a monster.”

The promoter told RTÉ that Brooks had kept upping the technology involved in the show. “He kept putting more video screens in, ‘Lets put more sound and more special effects’. He is going to come up through the stage, it’s going to go on fire. We are doing everything, people are never going to forget the show. That takes five shows to get right.

“Now we are saying, ‘OK Garth, you can only do three’. He does not want to disappoint the people who have bought tickets for three shows. But more importantly, he does not want to disappoint people who have bought tickets for two shows. I think it is up in the air, I can’t turn around and say the three shows are definitely going to happen.”

In its decision to refuse the licences for two of the performances, the council said the five-concert run at Croke Park was “unprecedented” and cited issues such as potential antisocial behaviour and disruption to local homes and businesses. The decision was welcomed by residents living near Croke Park.

Talks between the sides will intensify to see if a solution can be found, but with no appeal process open to the promoter and Brooks, the only option left would be to challenge the council’s decision in court.

When news broke of Dublin City Council’s decision offers of alternative venues to stage the concerts began to flood in. Páirc Uí Chaoimh was one such option. Cork North Central TD Dara Murphy said he had spoken with Cork County Board secretary Frank Murphy who told him he had been in contact with Mr Aiken informing him that the ground could accommodate the shows.

Mr Murphy said the template for hosting such large-scale concerts was already in place with the staging of the Bruce Springsteen show last year.

Elsewhere, Horse Racing Ireland said Punchestown was an option, and politicians in Limerick suggested either the Gaelic Grounds or Thomond Park could host the two concerts.

However, Mr Aiken said the show would not go on elsewhere. “This is a one-off show, it’s not going to happen anywhere else in the world. All the customised pieces of video equipment he is bringing in — we can’t strip that down and move to another venue. It’s a rumour we are going to go somewhere else. He is saying to me, give me a solution to the 160,000 people.”

The GAA said it will not make a comment until Monday.

The solicitor representing local residents, Anthony Fay, said it was time for the GAA to “mend fences” with the local community. Colm Stephens, the chairman of the residents group, said they were “delighted” with the DCC decision. “If we had real consultation and genuine engagement we could have avoided last-minute decisions like this.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he hoped a solution could be found which would allow the two concerts to go ahead.

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