Although Prince spent less than 12 hours in Cork, it was estimated that traders at the time enjoyed a £4m bonus as fans flocked to the city.
Promoter Oliver Barry brought Michael Jackson to Cork two years before Prince arrived here in 1990 and also staged the successful Siamsa concerts. Reports in the then Cork Examiner had sources saying that Barry faced considerable costs — including £80,000 to the Cork County Board for the use of Pairc Ui Chaoimh and fees of £500k for Prince himself.
To add to the festival air in Cork on the weekend Prince played, Cork Film Festival organised a screening of Sign O’ The Times in Cork Opera House. And in what could be seen as a real sign of the times, admission was £5, or £4 for the unwaged. And a serviced camp site was available at Monahan Rd. Irish Rail organised special pre-booked trains for Dublin pop fans travelling to Cork for the Prince concert. Fares were £17 for a one-day return or £21 for a two-day return.
There was plenty of controversy over Prince’s Cork concert too — then Lord Mayor of Cork Chrissie Aherne refused to greet Prince at Cork Airport or to attend the concert, saying: “I leave it to the people of Cork to do what they want to do, but I think I have more respect for my children and the children of Cork. I’ve listened to his music, deliberately, and I wouldn’t go for that kind of thing at all. I’m not stopping the people of Cork from going... it’s up to them. But I don’t want it for my children, or anything like it.”
RTÉ radio presenter Joe Duffy broadcast his programme from Princes St in Cork and chaired a debate on whether Prince’s music would contaminate young people.
Duffy himself proved rather impartial, declaring that he had listened to Prince’s songs and “they’re all rubbish”.
Indeed, the Cork Examiner’s editorial noted that “apparently his act in Cork will be very much a toned-down version of Prince’s more explicit performances elsewhere”.
“But certainly questionable is the involvement of the Cork County Board of the GAA with Prince, who might be regarded as the very antithesis of the association’s Gaelic ideals. Without again belabouring the point, the GAA has refused its grounds to other sports organisations, and yet is prepared to allow the park to be used by a pornographic performer. Croke must certainly be turning in his grave.”
Forbes magazine at the time estimate that Prince’s enterprises earned $20m in pretax profits and his 1984 film Purple Rain grossed more than $75m.