Belfast Telegraph

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

By Niall O'Connor, Gareth Morgan and Philip Ryan

Garth Brooks last night finally confirmed his Croke Park concerts will not go ahead despite an offer to push back some of the shows until later in the year.

He released a statement confirming the five planned concerts would not take place, dashing the hopes of 400,000 fans who had been hoping for a last-minute breakthrough.

In a desperate bid to save the shows, it is understood that the Brooks camp was offered the chance to play three gigs this month and then two or even three more in October.

But the plan fell down late last night as the singer said he was "crushed" to announce that Ticketmaster refunds for all the shows would go ahead.

Aiken Promotions said it regretted to announce that despite pursuing all possible solutions, the concerts were cancelled. Refunds from Ticketmaster begin on Thursday at 9am.

The message from Brooks said: "As hard as I try, I cannot see the light on this one." He asked Irish fans to come and see him elsewhere in the world.

A senior government source said that negotiations yesterday had looked at holding three shows on the last weekend in July, as originally planned.

The other two shows might then have been delayed until October, with the prospect of a sixth gig even mooted as a sweetener for the deal.

However, another source close to the negotiations acknowledged that logistics and planning issues meant that the offer was never clear-cut.

Government sources dubbed the plan to split the gigs as the "Joe Costello proposal", after the Labour TD suggested it directly during a phone conversation with Brooks' management team. But the option failed to materialise following what was described by informed sources as "deeply frustrating negotiations".

One source said: "It was a runner and it was workable. More importantly, it would ensure every ticket was honoured – is that not what Garth Brooks wanted?"

But a separate source involved in the discussions said that while a range of solutions were explored, there was "no budging".

The new Environment Minister Alan Kelly has vowed to change the laws to ensure the fiasco surrounding the concerts is not repeated.

Brooks had intended the shows to be a showpiece to kick off his comeback tour, but since city planners refused to license all five events, no compromise agreement could be reached.

"I have always been advised to never send a message in the moment," he wrote in his statement last night. "It is said it is best to take a walk, wait a while and think about it.

"With that said, I just received the news the Irish council cannot change their earlier ruling to not allow the licences for all five shows.

"To say I am crushed is an understatement. All I see is my mother's face and I hear her voice. She always said things happen for a reason and for the right reason. As hard as I try, I cannot see the light on this one.

"So it is with a broken heart, I announce the ticket refunds for the event will go as posted by Ticketmaster."

The statement appears to end weeks of speculation about whether a deal could be struck.

"I want to thank the Irish authorities for going the distance for all of us who wanted to share songs and dance together," added the 52-year-old Oklahoma star.

"I really want to thank all the people around the world that continued to think good thoughts that this would actually happen.

"Most of all, to Peter Aiken and those 400,000 people who believed enough to go through what they have been through to get to this point . . . 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 . . . Garth."

Dublin Central TD Joe Costello said: "It is very disappointing that Garth Brooks didn't see fit to go ahead and accommodate his quarter of a million fans in the three sell-out concerts for which he was granted a licence."

Independent councillor Nial Ring called it "a fiasco from start to finish" and said Dublin had lost out hugely in financial terms. "Thanks for the side show Garth – now we can get back to reality," he added.

The Brooks statement came as politicians prepare to scrutinise the decision to approve only three of the five shows at the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications today.

And Dublin City Council manager Owen Keegan has come under fire for suggesting TDs with links to the GAA might be banned from the committee hearing on the concerts fiasco. Mr Keegan wrote to the committee asking if members involved in the GAA would remove themselves from today's meeting in case of a conflict of interest.

Committee member Patrick Donovan said he was "absolutely flabbergasted" by Mr Keegan's suggestion. The Limerick TD, who is a member of a GAA club, said it was the "most outrageous" comment he ever heard from a civil servant.

Fianna Fail TD Timmy Dooley said he was surprised Mr Keegan would not be aware there were rules in place on conflicts of interest for members of the Oireachtas.

Concert promoter Peter Aiken and GAA officials will face the committee tomorrow.

It is believed that crew involved in setting up the stage in Croke Park were due to land in Dublin today. Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary described the situation surrounding the concerts as "bizarre".

He added: "It wouldn't happen in any other country in the world."

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

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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