Will tomorrow ever come on this Garth?

THE last week was a country music song, performed during a surreal interlude in a cranky summer. We had achy breaky hearts, and forlorn love and a concert that up and died, only to be revived, by either Jesus or Enda Kenny, depending on who you want to dropkick you through the goalposts of life.

We had farce, hype and hysteria, linking together for the perfect line dance that informs how we do things.

A couple of notable highs during the last few days should be observed. Yesterday, just after 8am, the Lord Mayor of Dublin Christy Burke was interviewed on Newstalk FM. He gave Ivan Yates an up-to-date assessment on the concert debacle, saying he was trying to “save the nation from sorrow and misery”. Christy revealed that he had received correspondence from residents in the vicinity of Croke Park urging him to use his office to “seek a meeting with the US ambassador to ask Mr Obama to appeal to Garth Brooks to come to Dublin”.

If getting the leader of the free world involved wasn’t enough, Christy spread the net into the developing world. “Also, the Mexican ambassador, Carlos, indicated to me yesterday at the Mansion House that his diplomatic skills would be available if needed,” the lord mayor said. He didn’t let the listeners know whether Carlos had a surname, or whether he’s known just as Carlos the Ambassador. (For the record, the man’s name is Carlos Garcia de Alba).

It also emerged yesterday that a legal attempt to block the concerts was conducted, not on behalf of local residents, but some other elements “north and south” of the border. The man taking the action, Brian Duff, revealed that he’d been offered €15,000 at a hurling match last week to take the action.

“Garth Brooks was just a stepping stone,” he told reporters. “This money came from people in GAA circles. It’s GAA clubs who are sympathetic to the cause.”

He was also offered a suit of clothes as part of the deal, to be worn for his court appearances. It is unclear whether Mr Duff was to be given the suit on loan, or whether he could hold onto it as payment-in-kind for taking the action.

While all this was gong down, the man himself was, in the best tradition of country music songs, refusing to take “no” for an answer. In an email addressed to promoter Peter Aiken, but obviously designed for Enda Kenny’s eyes, he told of his achy breaky heart.

“I cannot begin to tell you how badly my heart is breaking right now,” he wrote. “If you think for any reason that the ‘powers that be’ in Ireland can fix this, then I will faithfully go to the last second. Please let me know how to proceed.

“All my gratitude, respect and love to you and Ireland.”

Garth’s highly emotional state is entirely understandable. Last Monday, he reportedly watched, from his home in Nashville, a live podcast of a Dublin City Council meeting.

That is the kind of activity that might have driven lesser men to the depths of insanity.

And if he thinks that’s bad, wait till he has to appear before the Oireachtas committee on Tourism. Fine Gael TD John O’Mahoney has suggested that the singer should give evidence on his role in the whole farce.

All of this was played out against a backdrop of middle Ireland calling Liveline to talk to Joe, that they might unburden their woes on the therapeutic couch of the national airwaves. For these poor, benighted souls, things went from bad to worse when they picked up the phone. Joe wasn’t at the end of the line. Instead, they got Philip Boucher Hayes, a fine broadcaster, but he ain’t no Joe show. Presumably, Mr Duffy will also be called before an Oireachtas committee to explain why he was not on hand when required to moderate the nation’s weeping and wailing.

Right now, it looks like there’s going to be one major winner in the whole affair. If, as the smart money says, the concerts go ahead, expect Garth to big it up for Enda on stage. He may even dedicate Friends In Low Places to the Taoiseach, whom, Kenny’s advisers will no doubt ensure, will be present to accept the plaudits.

Kenny may not be the best at sums. He may not have a vision for the country beyond the next Leader’s Questions. But, by God, he can spot 400,000 first preferences halfway into next week. He will be credited with saving the day, fixing Garth’s broken heart, and will no doubt append to his next speech abroad the declaration that Ireland is the best small country to hold a concert in.

There are serious issues involved in this farce. Who is really responsible for a licensing decision being issued at the Eleventh Hour? When did the matter first raise its head as one of concern within the process, and who was informed? And why have the Croke Park residents been treated with complete disdain by the stadium’s management? On a deeper level, it is imperative for the national psyche that the concerts go ahead.

The last few days have resembled nothing as much as the immediate aftermath of Roy Keane’s flight from Saipan. Through those dark hours, a divided nation mulled over whether anything could be salvaged. Would Roy return? Would he get on a plane and do his thing? Could a compromise be found? Today, it’s Garth who holds the breath of a nation. Will tomorrow ever come and let us get the whole thing behind us? Otherwise, we’re never going to hear the end of it.

Timeline- How the saga unfolded.

Noel Baker takes us through a timeline of the events surrounding the planned Garth Brooks comeback at Croke Park, as efforts step up to salvage his five concerts.

January 19 — News breaks of the possible announcement of two Garth Brooks shows for Croke Park. The country star played two shows in the venue back in 1997.

January 20 — Brooks is in GAA HQ to make the announcement of concerts on July 25 and 26. “I was quoted then [in 1997] as saying ‘when this stadium is finished, I would love to come back and try to fill it again... this time to the brink.’ And we’re back to do just that.”

January 24 — Speculation of a third show if the first two sell out.

January 30 — Tickets for the two shows of the Garth Brooks Comeback Special Event go on sale at 9am.Tickets sell out for the first two shows within an hour and tickets are released for a third date, which in turn sells out. Concert promoter Peter Aiken is asked on Newstalk if another concert could be added. “I don’t think so. The qualifiers are on the following weekend.” Bob Doyle, Brooks’ manager, says: “We’re thrilled.”

February 1 — Reports that TDs are coming under pressure at clinics to get tickets or for a new date to be added, with reports of tickets selling online for €800-plus.

February 3 — It is announced that Brooks will play a fourth night. He tells John Murray on RTÉ the newly added date would come on his daughter’s 18th birthday — “It’s going to be a very special day.”

February 6 — Tickets for the fourth date go on sale, and sell out. A fifth date is added. It too sells out.

February 7 — Dublin City Council confirms that while the GAA headquarters is permitted to host three concerts per year through the 1993 planning permission granted during its redevelopment, additional concerts must be sought through a public event licence, and says it has “not received a public event licence application for the proposed Garth Brooks’ concerts to date”.

There are rumblings of discontent from local residents as rumours of a sixth show do the rounds, with Patrick Gates of the Clonliffe and Croke Park Area Residents’ Association confirming that residents are seeking legal advice and considering looking for an injunction.

February 11 — Peter Aiken, of Aiken Promotions, says no further dates will be added to Brooks’ comeback special “either in Croke Park or anywhere else in Ireland this year”.

February 12 — A meeting between residents and Croke Park officials over the staging of the five Brooks’ gigs and three One Direction concerts fails to find a solution. Local councillors back the residents.

February 19 — Residents threaten protests over the eight concerts.

February 21 — Around a dozen residents protest as delegates arrive for the GAA annual congress.

March 5 — Labour Relations Commission chief Kieran Mulvey, agrees to chair talks relating to the gigs.

March 6 — The Croke Park Streets Committee say they are considering taking legal action over the concerts and in a letter to Aiken Promotions call on the promoters to hold the concerts in other venues.

March 26 — Residents vote unanimously to try and stop the concerts from going ahead, with a meeting in the local community hall hearing the five-night run would breach their human rights.

March 27 — Residents say they are considering legal action.

March 29 — The GAA holds a Public Information forum on the gigs.

April 7 — Dublin city councillors call for a public hearing into licences for the concerts at Croke Park.

April 17 — The application for the outdoor event licence is received by Dublin City Council.

May 2 — A limited amount of extra tickets go on sale.

May 21 — Closing date for public submissions on the concerts; in the end over 370 complaints are received.

June 3 — Residents hand in a letter to the Garda Commissioner seeking an investigation into the legality of the sell-out concerts, while the council holds a meeting with Aiken promotions and venue management relating to the production/build/decommissioning of structures schedule that was received with the application of April 17.

June 8 — Director of Croke Park Peter McKenna says: “We hope to get the licence in the next couple of weeks and then we’ll give certitude to the event. “In my view it will go ahead and the five concerts will happen.” Patrick Gates, spokesman from the Clonliffe and Croke Park Residents Association, said: ‘It’s likely that Dublin City Council will grant the licence so it looks like they’re going to go ahead.”

June 11 — A meeting is held to discuss traffic management and transportation in the context of a review of the One Direction concerts and to discuss the transport arrangements, and Aiken’s traffic management/transportation proposals for the Brooks concerts.

June 16 — The first of two statutory meetings are held between Dublin City Council, Aiken, and the GAA “to get an update on the application and arrangements for the proposed concerts if licensed and to discuss issues raised in the submissions/observations”.

June 19 — Shane Filan and Nathan Carter are announced as support acts.

June 20 — Residents are told there will not be an oral hearing into their objections.

June 24 — Second statutory meeting is held.

June 27 — The GAA says it accepts recommendations put forward by Kieran Mulvey in his report aimed at settling the dispute, setting a limit of three concerts in a row from 2017, and a yearly maximum of nine concerts, as well as a proposal for a €500,000 legacy fund provided by the GAA for local projects. Croke Park Streets Committee chairman Eamon O’Brien states: “That’s a joke. The first thing they were told was don’t try to prostitute our community.”

June 28 — Solicitor Anthony Fay, representing the Croke Park Streets Committee, instructed to seek an injunction under the Planning Acts against Aiken. Both the GAA and promoters were in “clear contravention” of section 230 of the Planning and Development Act 2000.

June 30 — First mention of possible forged signatures on some of the submissions made to the council objecting to the event, with gardaí subsequently launching an probe.

July 3 — Dublin City Council announces it is granting licences for the first three nights only of the five-night concert run. Just hours later Brooks, in a statement, declares: “For us it is five shows or none at all.”

July 4 — Amid the fallout, Peter Aiken says it is “standard practice” to sell tickets in advance of a licence being sought. Residents in favour of the gigs launch a campaign.

July 5 — Kieran Mulvey says he will hold crisis talks in a bid to resolve the row, but the council says in a statement: “It should be noted that event licence decisions made under the planning and development acts cannot be amended or appealed.”

Timmy Dooley of Fianna Fáil is among the politicians seeking answers. He says publishing a draft bill would allow an appeal of such decisions and ministerial discretion. On online petition is launched calling for the five concerts to go ahead.

July 6 — In an interview with RTÉ, Kieran Mulvey says it is “too late for the blame game” and says a solution needed to be found within the next 24 to 48 hours. It also emerges that the Government has no intention of passing legislation that could allow the concerts to proceed, stating it is a local authority matter.

July 7 — Injunction proceedings are formally lodged at the High Court aimed at preventing any of the shows from going ahead. They are brought by Brian Duff. The council says it hopes the three concerts can go ahead, Aiken says a decision will be made on Tuesday.

July 8 — It’s off. Brooks informs Aiken that he can only do five shows. “To choose which shows to do and which shows not to do, would be like asking to choose one child over another,” he says. Dismay is expressed by the Taoiseach, while Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan says it is “an embarrassment”.

July 9 — Peter Aiken describes being “blindsided” in the planning process and describes as “a nightmare” the cancellation of the concerts, but in a letter sent to him by Garth Brooks, the singer says: “If you think for any reason that the ‘powers that be’ in Ireland can fix this, then I will faithfully go to the last second.”

The Taoiseach intervenes to kick-start fresh talks.

July 10 — Tánaiste Joan Burton gets involved and Dublin’s mayor says the Mexican ambassador has offered to help. There are calls for USpresident Barack Obama to step in.

Garth Brooks holds a press conference in Nashville where he says he is ready to swim the Atlantic and beg the Taoiseach if it would resolve the issue.

Dublin City Council and Aiken agree compromise deal for matinee shows on the Saturday and Sunday.

Brooks rules out matinee shows proposal saying: “To treat 160,000 people differently is wrong.”


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