Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 1 November 2014

Garth Brooks to Taoiseach: Save my Croke Park gigs

Country legend's 11th hour plea as ticket refunds are due to start

Garth Brooks performs during the Oklahoma Twister Relief Concert in Oklahoma (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Shock Ink)
Garth Brooks performs during the Oklahoma Twister Relief Concert in Oklahoma (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Shock Ink)

County music star Garth Brooks has officially reached out to Ireland's Prime Minister in a bid to salvage his five Croke Park concerts.

Time is running out for a solution to be found for the cancelled shows in Dublin which have caused heartache for 400,000 fans.

With refunds for tickets bought online due to start on Monday, time is of the essence for Dublin City Council, the Northern Irish concert promoters Aiken Promotions and Mr Brooks to come to a speedy resolution.

It is understood the star's representatives emailed Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday in the hope he can find a way to get the shows back on.

A source close to Mr Brooks last night said: "We have tried to reach out but his immediate camp has not heard anything back yet.

"We believe he has a lot on his plate today forming a new government," added the source, referring to his cabinet reshuffle.

Mr Kenny also received a telephone call from Irish country singer Pete Kennedy, who is based in Nashville.

"I received a very warm reception and I phoned them and explained in detail to them the scale of the situation and they listened, basically," said Mr Kennedy.

"And I asked them to please do everything they possibly can in the interest of our national reputation," he added.

As an award-winning country musician based in Nashville, Mr Kennedy said he felt a responsibility to phone the Taoiseach.

"In the interest of the Irish music industry and the economy and for us to be able to show the world that we are open, willing and able to facilitate any major event and to be welcoming, I felt a responsibility to call An Taoiseach," Mr Kennedy said.

"I felt they took my call very seriously even though it was a busy day for the government," he added.

It is understood that after Mr Kennedy rang Mr Kenny's mobile at 5.30pm he then received a phone call from the Taoiseach's private secretary at 5.55pm.

The phone conversation lasted approximately 15 minutes.

Mr Kennedy also tried to make contact with the newly appointed Minister for Arts in the Republic, Heather Humphries, but he was unsuccessful.

It is believed that Mr Brooks is still hopeful that all five concerts can go ahead as scheduled even though it would involve the passing of emergency legislation.

An Irish Government committee hearing on why the Croke Park gigs were shelved was due to take place yesterday, but was postponed.

The parliament's joint committee on transport and communications said it wanted to "provide the space for negotiations to continue unimpeded".

The latest developments come after the country idol's live Press conference on Thursday in Nashville Tennessee.

Hopes of anxious fans were raised once again after a proposal by Dublin City Council that Brooks could perform three night shows and two matinees.

But Brooks rejected the suggested compromise within hours of saying he would do whatever it takes to put on the performances. He said to play to 400,000 people over three days "cannot possibly compare" to five concerts at night.

His publicist Nancy Seltzer said: "To treat 160,000 people differently than all the rest who will be seeing the show the way it was meant and created is wrong."

Timeline: How the fiasco unfolded

January 20: Garth Brooks announces he will return to Croke Park for two nights in July as part of his comeback tour. The singer flies into Dublin to make the announcement, nearly 16 years after he last played sell-out concerts at the venue.

January 30: Around 240,000 tickets for three dates sell out in just 90 minutes. Tickets went on sale at 9am for two concerts on July 25 and 26. A third date went on sale at 9.30am due to demand and also sold out. In Dungannon fans had been camping outside Stewart's music store in the town a full five days before tickets went on sale.

January 31: Tickets for the sold-out gigs are being flogged on eBay for up to £500 each, it emerges.

February 6: A fourth and fifth date quickly sell out.

February 7: It emerges Croke Park has yet to ask authorities for permission to host any of Brooks' summer concerts. Meanwhile, disgruntled residents in the Croke Park vicinity say they were not consulted by concert organisers over the extra dates.

February 14: Residents reveal they are considering legal action against the organisers over the likely disruption.

March 6: Amid a growing row between residents and organisers, the GAA asks the chief executive of the Labour Relations Commission to chair mediation talks between the two sides.

July 1: Dublin City Council says it has received about 370 submissions from residents, businesses and other parties while it considers the licence application, which, it says, was lodged on April 17.

July 3: The council refuses licences for two gigs, granting permission for just three of the five planned concerts. It says five concerts would cause "an unacceptable level of disruption". Promoter Peter Aiken says he is hopeful but not optimistic that all five will go ahead. Garth Brooks warns it is five shows or none at all: "To choose which shows to do and which shows not to do, would be like asking to choose one child over another."

July 4: A decision to refuse permission for two of the gigs cannot be changed or reversed, Dublin City Council says.

July 5: Peter Aiken says moving the dates or venues is not an option as crisis talks continue.

July 8: All five concerts are cancelled. Aiken Promotions says it is with "great regret" that it has to make the announcement.

July 9: Garth Brooks fiasco reaches leaders' questions in the Dail. And emergency meetings are held with Dublin City Council while Ticketmaster release details of the ticket refund process.

July 10: Garth Brooks holds a live press conference in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. Here he addresses the Ireland saga. He said: "If the Prime Minister (Taoiseach) himself wants to talk to me, I will crawl, swim or fly over there this weekend and sit in front of him," the star pleaded."I will drop to my knees and beg." That evening there was a proposal from Dublin City Council for Brooks to perform three night-time and two matinees instead. But within hours of saying he would do whatever it takes to put on the gigs, Brooks said the proposal "cannot possibly compare" to five separate night concerts.

Further Reading

Garth Almighty: A profile of the country music legend 

Surreal meeting with the Elvis of our generation... while that ship still keeps sailing

Ireland shamed by the Garth Brooks Croke Park gigs fiasco 

How I became a go-between in transatlantic negotiations 

Garth Brooks rules out any role as a matinee star

Brooks rejects five-gig compromise 

Gerry Adams gives radio listeners rendition of Garth Brooks' song 'If Tomorrow Never Comes' 

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