He hasn’t gone away, you know.
A senior communications officer at Dublin City Council has recalled how the local authority was swamped with demands for information during the Garth Brooks saga of summer 2014 in a situatiuon he likened to Saipan in 2002.
Alan Breen also said he understood that a garda investigation into allegations of bogus submissions against the concerts, purportedly from local residents, was “inconclusive.”
Mr Breen made a presentation last week at a conference held by the Public Relations Institute of Ireland on how Dublin City Council (DCC) dealt with the matter.
Aiken promotions initially announced a five-night run of concerts by the country music star, only for Dublin City Council to rule that he could only play three. Ultimately, Brooks said it was a case of all five shows or none, and despite all the shows having sold out, none went ahead.
Mr Breen said: “It was a drama of epic proportions,” adding that it “divided the nation” and its impact was probably only overtaken by Roy Keane’s dismissal from the Irish World Cup squad during the Saipan training camp in 2002.
He said the number of different stakeholders involved, plus the limitations of legislation as it existed at the time, meant it was “the perfect storm”.
He said DCC’s customer service centre received more than 600 emails and 350 calls between July 3 and July 21 last year, with 200 separate media inquiries made, leading to 460 different articles, as well as international focus courtesy of social media and international websites.
Mr Breen said some “horrible stuff” was written about DCC city manager Owen Keegan and assistant chief executive for planning and development Jim Keogan but that, despite the circumstances, “we decided not to enter that maelstrom on the basis that we had to remain detached”. Instead, DCC used appearances before the Oireachtas Transport Committee to put across its side of the story.
He said the media fascination with the story was “understandable”, as it was the first time a license application had been reduced in the number of performances allowed and “so many stakeholders each apportioning blame to each other. Except DCC. We remained professional and detached despite the high level of emotion in the country at the time.”
Another remarkable aspect of the story, he said, was the doubt cast on the veracity of some of the public submissions made to the local authority regarding the concerts.
“We had 370 submissions from the public,” Mr Breen said.
Some of those submissions were later the subject of a garda investigation led by officers in Mountjoy Garda Station. Mr Breen said he understood that the investigation had been completed.
“There were some bogus ones certainly, but my understanding is that there were not a significant number involved,” said Mr Breen
Since the debacle, the regulations around the licensing of events has changed, with the licensing application now having to be lodged 13 weeks in advance of the event.
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