Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Garth Brooks Croke Park gigs fiasco: last glimmer of hope for Dublin shows finally gone as prospect of judicial review disappears

Garth Brooks fans can get refunds on their tickets from today

A glimmer of hope for Garth Brooks fans in yet another twist in the 'will-he-won't-he' saga appears to have been snuffed out.

The row started when Dublin City Council would only grant an events licence for the US country star to stage three out of five nights of gigs at Croke Park, prompting Brooks to refuse to come at all.

Last night the prospect of a judicial review at Dublin High Court against the decision by the council was raised, but it would have had to be uncontested to have any chance of success.

However, no application in connection with the concerts went before the court yesterday. An application may be made today.

It's understood the grounds for the judicial review were that a council official involved in the licensing process owns a house in the vicinity of Croke Park and that many of the objections from residents were bogus.

It was also claimed that assurances were given to Croke Park management that the council was fully behind the event and it would go ahead.

Dublin City Manager Owen Keegan has now refused to facilitate the 11th-hour legal bid aimed at salvaging the concerts because he fears it will make his position untenable, despite pleas from Dublin's Lord Mayor.

Mr Keegan will now appear in front of a Dail committee for the second time in four days as pressure builds over his role in the fiasco.

There is speculation his resignation will be called for.

From today the 400,000 people who bought tickets for what would have been Ireland's biggest music event are able to claim refunds.

The legal move came after the Belfast promoter behind the concerts and GAA chiefs gave evidence to the Irish parliament's transport and environment committee yesterday morning.

Peter Aiken revealed that he has already spent a "seven-figure sum" on the concerts including rent, sound, lights, staging, ground cover, advertising, deposits for the venue as well as hotels for the 320-strong entourage that Brooks had been planning to bring with him.

Mr Aiken admitted that he was speaking to his lawyers about whether he will seek compensation from Dublin City Council.

"It's all pretty raw at the moment," he told the committee.

"The person I feel the most sorry for is Garth Brooks, the effort that he put into this and what he was going to do.

"People will never see a show like this again.

"I don't care what happens going forward in terms of technology, they will never see the show that he was going to put on.

"He was putting everything into this.

"This was his comeback special, and if he was motivated by money he would have done the three shows and recouped something, but he is right in what he did."

Brooks fans have voiced their heartache about losing the first chance to see their idol since he performed in Ireland in 1997.

Mr Aiken said he was shocked at the level of demand for tickets and said the event would have made history.

"It was unprecedented, never seen it in my time promoting," he told the committee.

"It would have been the biggest event in the history of live events in Ireland.

"It would have been the equivalent to the time Michael Jackson did eight nights in London, it would have been the equivalent of Springsteen doing 10 shows in Giants Stadium in New York."

He added: "This was our big moment."

He said all hope was not completely gone.

"At this stage if somebody pulled the switch we could do it, but I don't know how you do that, I've been down every avenue open to me."

Ireland’s loyal fans still standing by their man

The Croke Park concerts saga has all the ingredients of a country and western classic — a disappointing story of unanswered prayers.

Garth Brooks said he was “crushed” that his five Croke Park shows won't go ahead, claiming his mother always said “things happen for a reason”.

Tell that to the 400,000 fans now awaiting ticket refunds — or still hoping the show will go on. No one involved in this comeback concert debacle emerges blameless.

But what of Brooks himself, an artist so revered by his loyal Irish fan-base, he's been elevated to a status akin to Elvis Presley?

While his devastated fans continue to accuse Aiken Promotions, Dublin City Council, the GAA and objecting residents, it seems Brooks is the only participant who's come up still mostly smelling of roses.

Brooks spoke of his love for Ireland and his heartbreak over the scuppered shows. He thanked promoter Peter Aiken and the 400,000 people “who believed enough to go through what they have been through to get to this point”. He wrote: “I love you, always have, always will.

“I encourage any and all of them that can come see the show, at some point around the world, to bring your Irish flags and wave them proudly at the concerts. I will be looking for you.”

Nice, but not quite the same as performing for them in their own back yard.

Brooks explained that having to choose which shows to do and which to give up “would be like asking to choose one child over another”.

It's understandable that he didn't want to let some 60,000 fans down, but surely three night-time and two matinee gigs would have been a better resolution than none at all?

His comment that his concerts were only meant to be staged at night seems rather churlish. But, hey, Brooks, never mind the unanswered prayers of your 400,000 fans.

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