I won’t treat 160k people differently

For just a couple of hours last night, it looked like 400,000 people were all going to get their wish and go to one of five Garth Brooks concerts. Dublin City Council said it would allow all five performances to go ahead — as long as two were matinees.

However, the singer had other ideas. In his press conference before the statement from Dublin City Council emerged, Brooks was asked about the possibility of matinees and said he did not want to give a “half-assed” show.

Then, despite saying he would “crawl, swim, fly” to Ireland and “drop on my knees and beg” to be allowed to play to the 400,000 people, the singer’s team were quick to pour cold water on the matinee notion. “To treat 160,000 people [in the two matinee shows] differently than all the rest who will be seeing the show the way it was meant and created is wrong.” said his publicist Nancy Seltzer. “He does not understand why, once again, it is put upon him to treat people less than they deserve to be treated.”

A short time later, Aiken Promotions, one of the bodies which had negotiated the compromise, confirmed matinees were not feasible.

The grim assessment from the singer came following a day when the omens had been looking good that some if not all, the ticketholders would get to see the shows.

Earlier, people living close to Croke Park signalled a change of stance, with the Croke Park Community and Handball Centre — which had been opposed to the concerts going ahead — releasing a statement in which it said it was now prepared to go in a “new direction” over the concerts.

Rumours began to circulate of a deal that would see Brooks play the three shows for which promoters had council approval, and then play the other two concerts, which had been refused, at a later date. Then talks between Peter Aiken of Aiken Promotions and Owen Keegan, chief executive of Dublin City Council, on the matinee compromise emerged.

Less than two hours earlier, at his press conference in Nashville, Brooks called the Irish system “flawed” and focussed on wanting to play five shows to the 400,000 ticketholders.

“My opinion is the Irish system got some weight on it and it buckled in. It’s the system’s job to look at itself and fix itself.”

Referring to the stage set-up, he said: “Ireland does not know what’s coming”. He said the video screen alone was 255ft wide and 20ft tall, and that 75% of people who bought tickets are aged 25 or younger. “I don’t want to disappoint them,” he said.

Referring to Dublin City Manager, Owen Keegan, he said he should be allowed “do his job” but that “there should be someone over him who should be able to go and say ‘you’ve done your job’.

“I don’t think you can talk about a future with Ireland until Ireland has a system that works.”

He added that of anyone who was sad about the current situation, “you’re not one-billionth as sad as I am.”

Yesterday the spokesman for the Croke Park Community and Handball Centre, Eamon O’Brien, said: “In the interest of all the Croke Park communities we are prepared to consider a new direction with a view to facilitating the holding of the Garth Brooks concerts.”

On RTE’s Morning Ireland programme yesterday, Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello said Enda Kenny should become directly involved in speaking with Garth Brooks to ensure the three licensed concerts go ahead.His party leader, Tánaiste Joan Burton, also said she was ready to help, adding: “I want to see the issues resolved.”

The fallout

Some of the more eye-opening quotes surrounding the Garth Brooks saga:

- Dublin Lord Mayor Christy Burke speaking to Brooks (if he was watching RTÉ’s Six One News): “The country wants you. The country needs you.”

- Mr Burke again perhaps overstating the issue a tad: “This, to me, is like a funeral without a corpse. There’s a sadness throughout the nation.”

- Louis Walsh: “Shane Filan was meant to be supporting. He’s so disappointed. He’s the most disappointed of anybody I know.”

- Cllr Niall Ring said Brooks should come before an Oireachtas committee to explain himself: “Someone else who should be asked to appear before that committee meeting is Garth Brooks. He should be flown over and asked to say why, if he loves the Irish fans so much, he decided to cancel these concerts. He was prepared to do two concerts and make a profit. And suddenly he didn’t want to do three.”

- Taoiseach Enda Kenny also feels the reputation of the country is on the line here: “It’s a shock to the system, in terms of the economy of this city, and the reputation of our country.”

- Promoter Peter Aiken confirming Brooks was “in it for millions”: “He is devastated, he’s down for millions in this deal, if it was any other artist maybe they’d say let’s play the three and recoup some money. He was in it for millions.”

- Even the White House was made aware of our national crisis with White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden confirming the US president won’t be getting involved: “This is an issue we’ll leave to Mr Brooks and the city of Dublin to resolve.”

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