By Noel Baker, Irish Examiner
More than 160,000 Garth Brooks fans are in limbo after Dublin City Council axed two of the country music superstar’s Croke Park concerts.
The local authority announced that it was granting a licence for three concerts, and not the five sought by show organisers Aiken Promotions, despite the sale of 400,000 tickets.
The news sparked consternation among fans of the American musician, with the GAA stating it would keep silent on the issue until Monday and the Irish Hotels Federation claiming the move would “damage Ireland’s tourism brand.”
Fears that some of the concerts would have to be scrapped had been raised following strong and vocal opposition from Croke Park residents, and a resolution process which recommended that in future a maximum of three consecutive shows at the venue should be allowed.
The news that DCC had ruled out the fourth and fifth shows means that only the concerts of July 25, 26 and 27, will go ahead, amid fears that all five concerts could be cancelled.
It also prompted speculation as to possible alternative venues, with management of the Aviva stadium refusing to rule out a switch there, while Henry Mountcharles said his Slane Castle venue would not be available.
Outlining its decision, Dublin City Council revealed it had received 373 submissions from members of the public on the licence application and cited the possibility of “anti-social behaviour” as a reason for two shows being axed.
It gave three main reasons for refusing licences for two of the shows:
* The “unprecedented” nature of the concerts, with 80,000 capacity sell-out shows on five straight nights;
* Croke Park played host to three consecutive One Direction concerts from May 23 — 25, so another string of shows “is considered an over-intensification of use of the stadium for the holding of special events/concerts” — and would in effect double the maximum number of concerts that had previously been held in Croke Park in any given year since the redevelopment of the stadium;
* The “cumulative effect on residents and on some businesses” in the area, with the potential for unacceptable levels of disruption and the possibility of problems such as illegal parking and antisocial behaviour.
Aiken Promotions said it was “disappointed” with the ruling, while Irish Hotel Federation President Stephen McNally said the cancellation of the shows would harm tourism.
Henry Mountcharles said he had made a “strategic decision” earlier this year that Slane would not host a concert in 2014 and said: “That position will not change.”
“The bottom line on this, from a logistical point of view, is it would be very difficult,” he said.
“This breaks down to the fact that maybe doing five gigs in a row, in this context, is over-egging the pudding.”
But one person who was not disappointed was Junior Foreign Affairs Minister Joe Costello, who said: “I’m delighted with the decision. I think it’s a decision for the community and it’s a decision for reason.
“It was never appropriate that there should be five consecutive concerts there after three One Direction concerts and there had been no consultation with public representatives, with the community, in relation to them.”
He said the decision by DCC meant the Croke Park residents “were now being taken seriously” and that recommendations in the Mulvey resolution process of last week, recommending no more than three straight concerts at any one time, was “an enforceable structure” that could be applied in future.
Deputy Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Kenneth N. O’Flynn, said he had written to Aiken Promotions and Cork GAA requesting that they consider using Cork City as the venue for the two concerts.
Meanwhile, Iarnród Éireann has confirmed that customers who booked rail travel to attend any Garth Brooks concerts which are cancelled will be refunded for their train bookings in full.
The company says it has already blocked further bookings on its website for extra late night services which had been planned to operate on the nights of July 28 and 29.