Country music mega-star Garth Brooks clearly has friends in high places after some of Ireland’s most influential representative bodies expressed their support for his dream of playing five nights in Croke Park.
ublic opinion appears to have turned more in the 59-year-old’s favour since the 2014 ‘Garthgate’ fiasco and Covid-19 decimated the live entertainment industry.
One-third of all submissions to Dublin City Council (DCC) about his proposed concerts were positive and urged the planning authority to green-light the gigs.
The Irish Independent can reveal that DCC has received a total of 122 submissions and observations in response to an application for an outdoor event licence (OEL) lodged last month on behalf of Aiken Promotions.
This related to two concert dates in the northside venue on September 16 and 17, 2022. Croke Park has already received the green light for Brooks’s three dates on September 9, 10 and 11 under its special event licence.
The closing date for submissions or observations was October 12 and the application is “still under adjudication”.
It has sparked such a huge response from business owners, local residents, interested parties and some of Ireland’s largest lobby groups that submissions were still being received up until the closing date.
Of the total observations received, roughly two-thirds of them were negative, but one-third were in favour of all five concerts going ahead.
One local said it was a “thundering disgrace” what happened last time in relation to the five concerts being cancelled in 2014 and wanted to show support for the 2022 gigs.
Another resident wrote to say how “live music is good for the soul” and how she saw Brooks previously and he was “just amazing”.
“I was on a high for days after the concert,” she said.
Among the bodies supporting Brooks’s five-night dream are Ticketmaster Ireland, the Licensed Vintners Association, Fáilte Ireland, the Irish Hotels Federation and the Irish Country Music Association.
Donal O’Keeffe of the LVA said its members had endured a “catastrophic impact” on their businesses as a result of Covid and were slowly rebuilding. The two concerts would attract 160,000 people into the city and represent a “significant opportunity for the wider hospitality sector”.
Ticketmaster Ireland managing director Keith English said the live entertainment industry was trying to emerge from an “extremely difficult period” with the lifting of restrictions on October 22 being “the light at the end of the tunnel”.
On the gigs’ value to the Exchequer, he cited the Ed Sheeran concerts in Croke Park next April and said one night alone is expected to generate more than €500,000 in Vat from ticket sales.
According to Fáilte Ireland, the economic activity generated from the five concerts will be critical to the recovery of the country’s tourism industry.
Before the pandemic, tourism accounted for 260,000 jobs and €9bn in revenue and 23c from every €1 went back into public funding. Since March 2020, it has lost €6bn in value and the stress on business owners was “immense”.
It understands Brooks and the promoter are considering a five-concert series package that could be worth an estimated spend of €73m from music fans both here and abroad.
The concerts could collectively generate 192,000 tourist bed nights, it said.
Another resident said that after the difficulties of the past 18 months, Ireland “needs to send a message to the world’s tourism market that we are open again for business”.
Having 400,000 attending an entertainment event could “only positively impact on the morale of a huge section of the population”.
One observer cited RTÉ’s documentary, David Brophy’s Frontline Choir, and was “very moved by the sacrifices certain cohorts of people have had to endure”. He said while he was “not a fan” of Brooks’s music, the demand for tickets last time showed the “hunger for such entertainment”.
There were also dozens of objections to the proposed concert dates from locals and representative bodies including the Clonliffe & Croke Park Area Residents’ Association.
Spokesperson Pat Gates expressed unhappiness that there was no consultation with locals before the announcement of the proposed dates, as had been agreed previously.
He said An Bord Pleanála had capped the number of special events at three a year “in order to protect the amenities of local residents”. “Nothing has changed since that cap – in fact, things have got a lot worse for locals in terms of the intensification of use of Croke Park,” he said.
The magnitude of the proposed events is “wholly without precedent” and went against DCC’s own development plan. The concerts will result in “martial law conditions and noise pollution being imposed day and night on the local communities over a 15-day period”, he added.
Other issues include parking, traffic congestion, drunken and other anti-social behaviour and noise pollution from the concert and the crowd.
“Please do not fall into the trap of thinking that three concerts one weekend followed by two the next weekend is in any way more acceptable to local residents than the five consecutive ones proposed in 2014. The notion that five concerts split over two weekends is less offensive than five in a row, in my opinion, is absurd,” Mr Gates said.
Another resident cited concerns over accessing his home during the weekends of the concerts and the spike in anti-social behaviour.
“On one occasion outside my gate, I observed two males sniffing coke,” he said.