Concert fiasco - Coalition pulls out all the stops

Four hundred thousand fans will be absolutely delighted this morning that the Garth Brooks concerts at Croke Park are on the cards again. While the number of gigs has yet to be decided, the critical development came when residents most opposed to staging the concerts agreed to some going ahead.

For the singer, the multi-million dollar question is how many concerts will he play? Three this month and two more at the end of his global tour? The U-turn by residents will be depicted as a public relations coup for Taoiseach Enda Kenny. But what does it say of Government priorities when a Taoiseach devotes his energies to salvaging a country and western music concert while seemingly putting the Cabinet reshuffle on the backburner? Short of sticking its nose into the planning process, the Coalition has pulled out all the stops in a bid to save Ireland’s ‘reputational image’. When the entire event was axed, it responded instantly to calls for action from hoteliers, restaurateurs, and vintners hoping for a bonanza and looking to concert-goers, including 70,000 ‘tourist’ fans, not only to enjoy themselves but to spend around €50m in Dublin, revenue the sector badly needs.

Coalition involvement at the highest level in this affair is in stark contrast with its year-long foot-dragging failure to resolve the medical card controversy until forced by Labour’s decimation at the hands of voters in the local elections. With the Coalition in neutral for weeks now, concerts have suddenly taken precedence over politics.

Hopes that three, four or all five concerts might yet be saved, were first raised by news that the set was on the sea. Then came diplomatic intervention from Mexico, a bizarre suggestion that US President Obama should encourage Brooks to play, a letter from the singer and withdrawal of a High Court action. And finally, last evening’s meeting between promoters and City Hall officials to see if a compromise could be reached to break the logjam on the number of concerts Brooks might play.

Meanwhile, back in the world of realpolitik, speculation is mounting that place names around the Cabinet table will finally be changed today. But there is no getting away from Garth Brooks, with Tánaiste Joan Burton making it clear during leaders’ questions yesterday that she also wants the concert issue to be resolved in discussions among the various interests. The Government is positively disposed to do all it can, was how she put it.

Mr Kenny has been accused of sitting on his hands amid claims that a mediator like former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern would have sorted out this mess long before now. Those who hold that view should reflect on the fact that the law had to be changed to prevent politicians from interfering in the planning process.

The concert debacle has erupted because those pivotally involved – the GAA, Garth Brooks and the promoters — heard the kind of bells that ring when someone hits the jackpot. On the arrogant presumption that everything would be okay, they ignored the need to thrash out thorny planning and licensing issues. It is glaringly obvious that such vital matters should now be the subject of radical review.

Compared with the Garth Brooks fiasco, the formation of a working government is a far more pressing issue. It is in the public interest that the vacuum in governance be filled without further


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