Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Kenny rules out Brooks intervention

Garth Brooks pulled out of all five of his comeback concerts in Croke Park after residents objected

Premier Enda Kenny has rejected calls for emergency laws to rescue a Garth Brooks comeback special as details were unveiled to refund 400,000 disappointed fans worldwide.

City chiefs, concert promoters and stadium owners have been summoned before a parliamentary watchdog about the fiasco which is estimated will cost the country's recovering economy more than 50 million euro.

Parliamentarians said they wanted to question all sides involved about the axed shows at Dublin's Croke Park stadium as early as tomorrow.

Selling agent Ticketmaster will automatically refund all those who bought tickets online, over the phone or by mobile within the next 10 days.

Service charges will also be paid back.

Fans who got tickets at a shop will have to fill out a refund form at the outlet and wait up to three weeks to be reimbursed, while anyone who bought from touts or third parties could be left sorely out of pocket.

Around 70,000 planning to go to the gigs were travelling from overseas, with tickets sold in the UK, Europe, North America and Australia.

Brooks dramatically pulled out of the extravaganza after Dublin City Council last week granted permission for three out of five announced gigs.

There is an agreement between Croke Park and residents that only three major music events can be put on in any one year.

Licences were granted for sold-out concerts on July 25, 26 and 27.

The top selling US singer, who turned his back on touring to raise his family in Oklahoma 13 years ago, issued an all-or-nothing ultimatum, saying to choose one show over another "would be like asking to choose one child over another".

Keith English, managing director of Ticketmaster, said the task of refunding all customers was massive and costly to the company.

"The scale of this operation is unprecedented and therefore we would ask customers to continue to be patient," he said.

Customers seeking a refund by post can print a form from ticketmaster.ie/gbrefunds and return it along with the tickets to PO Box 4695, Dublin 2, for a full refund within 21 days.

In the Dail (parliament) today, the cancelled concerts dominated leader's question time, with opposition Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin appealing for emergency legislation to be passed to rescue the shows.

"Surely the Government should have intervened at some stage in this debacle," he said.

"Many hoteliers, restaurant owners, publicans, young people looking for work, simply can't believe that the country can almost nonchalantly say we don't need that."

An estimated 200,000 hotel room bookings have been cancelled, while transport companies face costly refunds for specially arranged journeys to the gigs.

Mr Martin said there was an air of disbelief across the country that "a major economic project" has been allowed to collapse.

It was not beyond parliament to pass emergency legislation to give a clear signal that Ireland dealt hands-on with events that had such an economic impact, he said, adding that his party would back such legislation.

"Is anybody going to do anything about it?" he asked.

"Can it be retrieved and can it be rescued?"

But Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Government risked being accused of "doing down" the rights of residents around Croke Park and interfering with the planning process if it intervened.

Describing the fall-out as a "bitter economic lesson to have learned", he said he had ordered a review of the planning process for major events.

"It's a major loss to the country, to the goodwill and good feeling of all those fans of Garth Brooks that this is lost, not to mention the hard economic loss to people here," he said.

"It's a mess."

Dublin City Council, Aiken Promotions and the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), which owns the Croke Park stadium in Dublin where the gigs were to be held, were being ordered before the parliament's Transport Committee over the affair.

Patrick O'Donovan, an elected representative of the Government party Fine Gael and member of the parliamentary watchdog, said TDs (MPs) and senators wanted to get to the bottom of what went wrong.

"Four hundred thousand people have been inconvenienced and thousands, who had booked flights or hotels, will be out of pocket, due to this decision," he said.

"Fingers have been pointing in every direction over the past few days, people are angry and they are bitterly disappointed."

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