Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Garth Brooks: Enda Kenny received 1,000 emails over Croke Park concert fiasco

Garth Brooks on the pitch at Croke Park in January to launch his comeback special
Garth Brooks on the pitch at Croke Park in January to launch his comeback special

Taoiseach Enda Kenny received 1,000 emails from members of the public about the recent Garth Brooks controversy.

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act to TV3 News show that large numbers of fans got in touch with Mr Kenny, begging him to intervene.

In one email, a fan writes: "I want to ask you to do something to save this country from a complete shambles.  The chance is there and you need to grab it…. We listened to you when you were begging for votes and granted your wish, now it's time for you to pay us back." 

Another member of the public writes: "I would argue that the morale of the country is at risk here…. I would call on you as Taoiseach to do everything in your power to make an exception for these concerts."

A further email reads: "I am writing to you in desperation to ask you to intervene in this disaster… you can't stand idly by and let it fall away… Think about the emotional lift that this will give the country". 

And another fan wrote: "By changing this law it would bring great happiness to many and the country as a whole…"

At his press conference in Nashville last month Garth Brooks said he'd get down on his hands and knees to beg the Taoiseach to allow him perform his five gigs. The country music star never came to Ireland but his fans have been doing plenty of begging on his behalf. TV3 News can reveal that Taoiseach Enda Kenny received one thousand emails from members of the public and they've been released to TV3 News under the Freedom of Information Act.

But not all the emails are in favour of the concerts, one member of the public wrote: "This Brooks debacle began as amusing but has quickly descended into an embarrassment.  Why on EARTH is the office of An Taoiseach getting involved? The planning laws were breached by Croke Park, Mr Brooks and Aiken Promotions. End of Story."

It's normal for the Taoiseach's office to be contacted about topical issues but it is unusual to get one thousand emails about something in such a short space of time.

In replies from his office, the Taoiseach agrees with some of the concerns raised, writing: "…this issue has not been handled well by the stakeholders involved… The cancellation of these concerts is a loss to this country not only in terms of the impact on the goodwill of Garth Brooks fans but also for the economy." 

But the reply goes on to say that it's not open to the Taoiseach to intervene in planning matters and that the Minister for the Environment has been asked to examine to the concert licencing system to prevent such problems ever arising again.

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.

July 11: Croke Park residents were incensed after Dublin City Council offered Garth Brooks' two additional matinee concerts.

July 14: Garth Brooks confirms his Croke Park concerts will not go ahead despite an offer to push back some of the shows until later in the year.

July 16: Hopes raised that the five Garth Brooks concerts could be saved following a meeting of the Oireachtas Committees and Transport Committee.

Further Reading

Garth Brooks: Gardai suspect up to 40 per cent of objections to Croke Park concerts are forgeries

Garth Brooks: 'Crushed' singer pulls plug on Croke Park concerts 

Brooks refunds delayed amid talks

Garth Brooks to Taoiseach: Save my Croke Park gigs 

Garth Almighty: A profile of the country music legend 

Garth Brooks: Surreal meeting with the Elvis of our generation 

Brooks rejects five-gig compromise 

Garth Brooks: Croke Park residents angry over matinee concert offer 

Garth Brooks 'sceptical' about Dublin City Council proposal for matinee concerts 

Garth Brooks: Star's last-gasp plea sparks a behind-the-scenes flurry over Croke Park concerts

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