Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 16 July 2014
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications
Concert Licensing: GAA and Aiken Promotions
The purpose of this morning's meeting is to engage with representatives of the GAA and Aiken Promotions in order to ascertain the facts from their perspectives in regard to the arrangements for the Garth Brooks concerts and their subsequent cancellation. As the witnesses are no doubt aware, we met the chief executive of Dublin City Council and his officials, who explained the council's role as the event licensing authority for the concerts.
On behalf of the committee, I welcome Mr. Páraic Duffy, director general of the GAA, Mr. Peter Aiken of Aiken Promotions and his colleague, Mr. Eamon O'Boyle of Eamon O'Boyle & Associates. They are all very welcome. I did not include among them Mr. Peter McKenna, who is also very welcome.
I draw the witnesses' attention to the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by it to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence.
Witnesses are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and are asked to respect the parliamentary practice that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Any submission or opening statements witnesses have submitted to the committee will be published on the committee's website after the meeting.
Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
I now invite Mr. Duffy to make his opening remarks.
Mr. Páraic Duffy:
I commend the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications on its prompt response to the regrettable cancellation of the Garth Brooks concerts and thank it for granting the GAA the opportunity to place important facts relating to this matter on the public record.
The first issue that needs to be addressed is the circumstances that led to two planned Garth Brooks concerts becoming five concerts. While a complex dynamic of fast-moving events ultimately came into play, how two concerts became five can be explained by one observation: the informed music industry opinion of the artist's appeal, based on entirely reasonable assumptions, was simply overwhelmed by what can only be called an extraordinary and utterly unpredictable social phenomenon. Let me explain. Garth Brooks in recent years had played only occasional concerts in the USA, had not toured abroad for many years, had not been in Ireland since 1997, and had not released newly recorded material since 2001. Two concerts, catering for 160,000 people, seemed perfectly adequate, particularly as the same artist had drawn a total of 140,000 fans on his last appearance in Ireland. These reasonable assumptions were, however, rendered redundant by the truly astonishing demand for tickets. This was simply a case where a public reaction utterly defied logic and conventional wisdom. Within two hours, three concerts had sold out and an incredible total of 240,000 tickets were sold. What had simply been a concert became a national event; what had simply been a night out became an unmissable national celebration. There may be something particularly and exuberantly Irish in the way people suddenly became aware that they were creating, and would be participating in, what would be the great Irish celebratory experience of the summer of 2014. An irresistible social force took over, and suddenly five concerts had sold out and 400,000 tickets had been sold.
When Aiken Promotions, aware of what was happening after three concerts had instantly sold out, approached Croke Park seeking two extra nights, we had concerns about the impact on the local community of a larger than usual number of concerts taking place on successive evenings. These concerns, however, were allayed somewhat by several factors. One, there was to be a two-month gap between the One Direction concerts and those of Garth Brooks. Two, the Brooks audience would be easily managed and very unlikely to be troublesome. Three, concert licences in Dublin have never been declined; moreover, Croke Park concerts are run to the absolute highest standards. Indeed, Dublin City Council told us that the One Direction concerts were run as close as it is possible to get to a textbook standard. Four, Croke Park has never run more than three concerts on consecutive nights since its redevelopment in 1993 and did not host any concerts in 2013, and this would be a one-off national event over five nights that would never be repeated. Finally, in agreeing to the request from Aiken Promotions for two extra concerts in Croke Park, the GAA was conscious of its own tradition of making the stadium available for important events of national significance, be it the Special Olympics, soccer and rugby internationals, the Eucharistic Congress or a possible Rugby World Cup in Ireland.
Of course the GAA was set to make extra money from the extra concerts. That is exactly the point: it was extra money, bonus revenue that we had not allowed for in our budgets and that we were not dependent upon. We were content with two concerts, while a third was already a bonus. In any case, concerts or no concerts, the GAA will drive on with its plans for 2014.
I would also like to clear up some confusion that exists in the public mind about the number of concerts permitted in Croke Park. Croke Park has planning permission for three concerts per annum. This is in-perpetuity permission. If we wish to hold additional events catering for more than 5,000 people, we must apply for a special events licence. The Garth Brooks concerts were such events. The mechanism of special events licensing is the most common approach employed in Dublin, and Croke Park's use of this mechanism is not unusual. For example, concerts in Marlay Park, the Phoenix Park and the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, as well as the St. Patrick's Day Parade, etc., are all licensed. We have successfully applied for special events licences in the past and have never been refused by Dublin City Council. Legally, there is no limit to the number of special event licences we may apply for.
I would like to turn now to the issue of Croke Park's neighbours and to the GAA's relationship with these residents. In his mediator's report on the long-term management of concerts in Croke Park, Kieran Mulvey noted the lack of trust expressed by residents' representatives in Croke Park. On the one hand, I accept that we need to work harder to change that negative perception where it exists. On the other hand, there are two unpalatable facts that must be faced: first, not all of those who objected most vociferously to the concerts even live in the area adjacent to Croke Park, and, second, many of the objections lodged with Dublin City Council were fraudulent. In addition, it has to be recognised, and it is now clear, that the majority of residents in the area were not opposed to the staging of five concerts.
It is important, too, that everyone be aware of the very positive elements of the relationship we have developed with the Croke Park residents, notably through our community gain initiatives. The GAA spent €1.5 million to provide a community centre on Distillery Road, and we employ a full-time community and public relations officer to liaise with local residents. We established the Croke Park community fund in 2008, through which the GAA donates €100,000 every year to the community located within 1.5 km of Croke Park. Since 2008 we have allocated over €500,000 to local community initiatives, groups, charities, and individual streets and associations. This year alone, the GAA has funded 22 local groups, covering street committees, local sports and cultural groups, local charities and day-care centres. Under our youth community gain initiatives, the GAA subsidises the participation every year of children from the area in the Croke Park community GAA Cúl camps. This summer, over 200 local children participated in the camp. We also run a weekly computer coding class in Croke Park for children from the community; these are free of charge and are well attended every week. The GAA also distributes match tickets to local residents. Elsewhere, in a composting and recycling initiative, 15 tonnes of Croke Park compost was given free to local community gardens and homes in 2014. Finally, every Christmas the GAA organises and funds a Christmas party for senior citizens from the local community; the 2013 party was attended by 650 local people.
These facts, I hope, give an indication of how seriously the GAA takes its relationship with the local Croke Park community and how it strives to treat this community with respect and consideration. These same principles informed our engagement with this community over the Garth Brooks concerts. We were genuinely concerned about the impact on the local community of a larger-than-usual number of concerts taking place on successive evenings. The GAA, therefore, in conjunction with Aiken Promotions, undertook an extensive and vigorous consultation process with the local community so as to better understand, address and resolve local concerns relating to access, parking, cleaning and any possible anti-social behaviour arising from the concerts. This consultation process had four distinct stages: we held a local residents' meeting on 12 February; we held two meetings, on 18 February and 11 March, with local public representatives; in the first half of March, we sent out a survey questionnaire to 27,000 households living within 1.5 km of Croke Park; and at the end of March, we ran a community information sharing forum at which we communicated the results of this survey to local residents. At this meeting, we gave a draft events plan for the concerts to local residents, and management personnel from Croke Park and Aiken Promotions discussed this with residents. The feedback we received from residents through this process was recorded, reviewed and used where possible in the drafting of a hugely comprehensive event-management plan that was ultimately submitted to Dublin City Council as part of the licence application.
It is fair to say that Croke Park has a reputation for running well-organised and safe events.
It has developed a close working relationship with Dublin City Council in the successful staging of these events. A spirit of honest exchange and mutual trust has characterised the relationship between Croke Park and senior Dublin City Council officials and this approach has ensured all concerns are adequately dealt with in finalised event management plans for major events.
The planning for the Garth Brooks concerts followed the protocols established by previous events held in Croke Park. As part of this process, it is customary to hold formal and informal discussions with statutory agencies and Dublin City Council to review event-specific issues and agree a joint strategy for addressing these issues before committing to an event management plan. During our discussions with Dublin City Council the impact of five shows on local residents was always raised. During both informal and formal discussions the council stressed heavily the need for what it called additionality in our licence application, in other words, the need to do things that had not been done before in the staging of such events, for example, in the quality and extent of the arrangements. I stress the vital point that at no stage was there ever even a hint that a licence would not be granted for all five concerts. Prior to the submission of the draft event management plan for the concerts and the application for an event licence, the Croke Park stadium director, Mr. Peter McKenna, received a telephone call from Mr. Owen Keegan, chief executive of Dublin City Council, who was returning a call made by Mr. McKenna to Mr. Keegan. In their telephone conversation Mr. Keegan advised Mr. McKenna that Dublin City Council would support a licence application for all five concerts. Mr. Keegan asked Mr. McKenna to make the decision making process as easy as possible for Dublin City Council. Mr. McKenna assured Mr. Keegan that he and his team would work closely with Mr. Keegan's colleague, Mr. John Downey, in making a complete and comprehensive submission. Mr. McKenna also assured Mr. Keegan that he would ensure the One Direction concerts would be held in an exemplary manner. All further liaison with Dublin City Council after that conversation was with Mr. Downey.
As preparations for the Garth Brooks concerts continued, the One Direction concerts held in Croke Park on 23, 24 and 25 May were used to trial additional event management measures, as follows. A residents-based community team was deployed to monitor the cordon area with the primary function of assisting fellow residents. Additional gardaí were deployed to support Dublin street parking services in order to enforce legal parking. A co-ordinated public transport and parking information campaign was run in conjunction with Dublin City Council and An Garda Síochána. A 24 hour community freefone hotline was staffed by members of the community team during the concert period. An additional community litter team was deployed to support the Dublin City Council cleaning operation. These new measures were hugely successful and only three complaints were lodged with Dublin City Council over the three nights of the concerts, a low figure that is unprecedented in the running of major events running in the city. Some 240,000 people attended over three nights.
After the One Direction concerts, Croke Park and Aiken Promotions met Dublin City Council on 3 June to address some concerns raised about the originally submitted works schedule. An amended works schedule was presented and accepted, detailing a five event schedule. To stress how clear was the understanding that a licence for all five concerts would be granted, Dublin City Council officials, in informal discussions prior to a decision on the licence application being announced, expressed the hope the Mulvey report would be released before a decision on the licence was made public in order that it would be clear to residents that there was a longer term plan in place for the management of concerts in Croke Park.
I acknowledge that Croke Park values its positive working relationship with Dublin City Council. The joint approach to additional measures was clearly visible in the success of the One Direction concerts and the collaboration between Croke Park and Dublin City Council in general event planning leads to important attention to detail and a joint commitment to getting things right. However, I am obliged to emphasise that all of our contact with Dublin City Council on the Garth Brooks concerts led us to believe we would be granted a licence for all five concerts. At no stage was Croke Park alerted to the need to prepare contingency plans for a smaller number of concerts. It would have been crucial for Croke Park to have been alerted to prepare such contingency plans. Members can imagine, for example, the huge scale of the security operation necessary to deal with even a small percentage of the 160,000 fans who might attempt to gain access to shows for which they had no ticket. Such contingency plans would have required a multi-agency approach.
I would like to touch on a small number of other issues relating to the ultimate refusal to grant a licence for the five concerts. On Thursday, 3 July, I heard about the decision to grant a licence for only three concerts from a friend of mine shortly before I was contacted by Mr. Owen Keegan at 9.15 a.m. I told him of my shock at the decision and called him back about an hour later to ask him not to sign off on the decision to grant a licence for only three concerts to give us time to consider the ramifications of the decision. He said the decision had already been made and signed off on and could not be appealed. Despite our excellent record in running concerts at Croke Park, despite Dublin City Council's praise for our running of the One Direction concerts, despite the quality of the submission and the total commitment to formulating the licence application according to the letter of the law, and despite a long-standing relationship with Dublin City Council, apparently, we did not even deserve the courtesy of being allowed to consider and, possibly, address the grounds for the refusal to grant a licence for five concerts.
I would like to address some of the points made by Mr. Owen Keegan, chief executive of Dublin City Council, in his written submission yesterday to the committee. Dublin City Council refused the application for five concerts for three reasons. The first reason offered is that five concerts over five evenings would be "unprecedented for Croke Park". We agree that it would be unprecedented, but how does the notion of something being "unprecedented" automatically disqualify it? Should the licence application not have been considered on its own merits, regardless of whether something had happened in the past? The lack of a precedent seems to be an excessively conservative and unprogressive reason to invoke. One wonders how transformation and improvement in society would ever occur if we allowed our decisions to be dictated only by the way we did things in the past. In any case, establishing a precedent does not tie one's hands for the future. Saying "Yes" today does not mean that we cannot say "No" tomorrow. One simply decides on the merits of things as they occur, as we believe should have been the case in this instance.
The second reason offered for the refusal of the licence for five concerts was that the Garth Brooks and One Direction concerts together would, for Dublin City Council, have represented "an over-intensification of use" of Croke Park. This is an argument that is employed rather selectively. We did not hear anything about over-intensification of the use of Croke Park during the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road when Croke Park was needed to host international soccer and rugby internationals which were, of course, in addition to Croke Park's own schedule of match days and concerts. Should the IRFU's application to host either the 2023 or 2027 Rugby World Cup in Ireland be successful, Croke Park will be required for a total of seven matches, again in addition to Croke Park's own schedule of match days, plus its quota of three concerts. Is there anyone here who seriously imagines that an argument about over-intensification of use of Croke Park will be allowed to interfere with these seven rugby World Cup matches in Croke Park? I think there is not.
The final reason offered for the refusal of the licence for five concerts was that it would have led to "an unacceptable level of disruption" for local residents and some businesses. I have already addressed in detail Croke Park's excellent record in the staging of concerts, Dublin City Council's recognition of the textbook running of the One Direction concerts, the extra measures put in place - trialled at the One Direction concerts - to manage the Garth Brooks concerts and our complete willingness to comply with Dublin City Council's request for additionality in the management of the event.
It would appear, however, that Dublin City Council was swayed by the submissions it received that objected to the holding of five concerts. Here we arrive at the most disturbing aspect of the entire business because Mr. Keegan acknowledged that: "Dublin City Council was contacted by a number of individuals stating that they had not made submissions/observations on this licence application." Clearly, these fraudulent submissions objected to the five concert application. Mr. Keegan further stated that: "11 such instances came to the attention of the Council. The matter was referred to An Garda Síochána for their attention on 12 June 2014." Eleven fraudulent submissions is bad enough. How do we know that this was the full extent of the fraudulent submissions? Mr. Keegan implied that Dublin City Council only became aware of such fraud when people whose names had been falsely used contacted them. It is not unreasonable to assume there may have been many more fraudulent submissions, given what was quite clearly an orchestrated campaign to prevent a licence for five concerts, through fair means or foul.
Given that Dublin City Council was clearly influenced by the vociferous campaign waged by a small minority to block the concerts, a campaign waged heavily in national media and of which Dublin City Council was clearly aware, as its submission yesterday acknowledged, and given that there was incontrovertible evidence of fraudulent submissions objecting to the granting of five licences, surely Dublin City Council should have been alerted to the fact that its own licensing process was being seriously manipulated and distorted by people opposed to the five concerts. Alerted to this fraud a full three weeks before reaching the decision to grant a licence for three concerts only, Dublin City Council should have taken the time to cast a more rigorously sceptical eye on the nature and extent of the opposition to the five concerts and perhaps reached a different decision. It is in this light that, in a written submission of 4,000 words, Dublin City Council's offering of a mere 34 words on the impact of the manipulation of its licensing process, is surprising to say the least. Even more disconcerting is the verdict reached by Dublin City Council in the 34 words: "Accordingly, while it is disturbing that so many submissions may now be called into question, it does not, in the opinion of the City Council, interfere with the integrity of the decision arrived at." If Dublin City Council itself admits that "so many submissions may now be called in to question", how can it conclude that this does not interfere with the integrity of its decision? Surely that is exactly what the fraudulent submissions did to the integrity of its decision. What more conclusive and damning proof could there be that the integrity of Dublin City Council's decision had been undermined by the submissions process being manipulated and distorted in the unique goal of persuading Dublin City Council not to grant a licence for five concerts?
My final comment in response to Dublin City Council's written submission relates to the matter of the major economic loss to the country due to the decision not to grant a licence for five concerts. Again, Dublin City Council offered only a few very brief sentences in its submission on this question and seemed to imply that potential economic benefits are simply not a consideration in its decision-making where concert licence applications are concerned. However, Dublin City Council said that potential benefits are "not central" in its decision-making. That does not seem to say that economic benefits are not considered at all, only that Dublin City Council does not seem to consider them very important when considering licence applications. If only it had done so on this occasion.
I will conclude with these comments. I reiterate that the GAA fully accepts the recommendations made by the mediator, Kieran Mulvey, on the future staging of concerts in Croke Park. We cannot say fairer than that. The GAA wants a strong, mutually respectful and mutually beneficial relationship with Croke Park residents, a relationship that has been made difficult in the past as there has not been one coherent group representing residents with which we could engage.
Finally, the bigger issues raised by this affair need to be seriously addressed. Listeners to these remarks will gather that Croke Park feels let down by the process. More than that, the country has been let down. I do not think it unreasonable to claim that the people of Ireland, and those abroad who have followed this affair, find the decision to refuse a licence for five concerts incomprehensible. They are right. It is incomprehensible.
Let us consider the reality of what we all knew when the licence application for five concerts was submitted. It meant 400,000 people - 330,000 of our citizens and 70,000 tourists from abroad - had paid a substantial sum of money to buy tickets for the concerts, flights and book hotels. These people were set to present the country with the undreamed-of gift of a massive economic uplift. We all knew this but what did we do? We said "No" and in so doing we turned our backs on an enormous financial windfall, and denied a vast number of people the pleasure of enjoying a great social and cultural occasion. Moreover, we made a decision that can be considered undemocratic because the wishes of a truly enormous number of people were ignored.
Dublin City Council tells us that the decision reached was "appropriate, balanced and reasonable". Was that the case for the 400,000 people who had bought tickets and looked forward to the concerts? We had the opportunity to grant ourselves a joyful celebration and to enjoy a unique national, social and cultural experience that we would have fondly remembered for years. We have now lost all of this and, as is the way of these things, we only realise the enormity of what we lost when it is too late to do anything about it. How could we have so lost sight of the bigger picture? How could we have lost sight of the people's decision to have a national celebration and their willingness to pour money into the economy? How could we have become so side-tracked as to commit such a self-inflicted wound on the country?
Mr. Peter Aiken:
I will outline the events, from my point of view. Aiken Promotions has promoted shows all over Ireland for 53 years. Throughout this time, we have operated to the highest standards in terms of business practice and the planning and staging of events.
In late December 2013 I concluded a deal with Bob Doyle, Garth Brooks' manager, and also with Peter McKenna of Croke Park for two shows on 25 and 26 July 2014. On 20 January 2014, Garth visited Croke Park to announce that he was returning after 17 years, and would come out of retirement and film his comeback special - a live concert broadcast from Croke Park in Dublin. There was widespread coverage of the press conference nationally and worldwide. It became apparent there was going to be huge demand for tickets because people started queuing as soon as the press conference took place. I spoke again with Bob Doyle and Peter McKenna and told them that there definitely could be a third show, we should have it ready to cope with demand if the first two shows sold out. Tickets went on sale at 9 a.m. on 30 January. The three shows sold out in two hours with thousands of people still queuing at outlets and thousands of people online trying to purchase tickets.
After tickets went on sale, the media coverage was extensive and focused on the desperation of fans queuing for tickets all over Ireland. It also highlighted some technical difficulties which meant some people could not get tickets in some areas. Plus, there were reports that tickets were starting to exchange hands for hugely inflated prices. I had further conversations with Bob Doyle and also with Peter McKenna. In direct response to the demand, we agreed to do one more show and possibly a fifth one.
On 1 February, our event controller called the Dublin city manager to inform him of the plans for additional shows and he expressed appreciation for the courtesy of letting him know. On 3 February the fourth show was announced. On Wednesday, 5 February, a meeting was held at Croke Park which was attended by Aiken Promotions, Croke Park and the Garda to discuss the Garth Brooks event, including the potential impact on the community and how it might be addressed.
On 6 February, tickets were released for the fourth show and again it was an instant sell-out. I spoke again to Bob Doyle and again to Peter McKenna and it was agreed to release the fifth show for sale which sold out immediately.
On Wednesday, 12 February, a meeting was held with Dublin City Council. I was accompanied by the event controller and the licensing and safety officer for Aiken Promotions. Attending the meeting from the council was the city manager, the executive manager and the licensing officer. The meeting was constructive.
Dublin City Council did inform us that it would be a big ask to do five consecutive days at Croke Park and that it would be looking for additionality to the standard arrangements to address the impact on the local community. We also discussed the timeframe for submitting the licence application and the potential benefits to the city.
On 12 February, a meeting chaired by a community representative was held with local residents where a number of objections were raised, not all of which related to the Garth Brooks concerts. The meeting was attended by Aiken Promotions who were on hand to respond to specific inquiries regarding the Garth Brooks event.
On 18 February, Aiken Promotions and Croke Park met with local politicians where a number of concerns were discussed along with some constructive proposals. On 11 March, a second meeting took place between Aiken Promotions, Croke Park and the political representatives for the local area. On 21 March, Aiken Promotions and Croke Park met with gardaí to discuss the event.
On 29 March, an open day was held at Croke Park for local residents. At this, the plans were available for inspection as well as a rolling PowerPoint presentation summarising the main points of the event. Croke Park and Aiken Promotions representatives were available to answer questions and record comments.
On 3 April, I met with Bob Doyle and the rest of the Garth Brooks team in Nashville. They made a general inquiry about the status of the licence. I relayed to them that Peter McKenna had spoken to the city manager and he had been told that we would get the licence for the five shows.
On 17 April, the licence application was submitted to Dublin City Council, 14 weeks before the event. It has been wrongly reported that we left this to the last minute to submit to Dublin City Council. This was in fact submitted four weeks in advance of the current requirement which is ten weeks before an event.
On 13 May, Aiken Promotions met with Dublin Fire Brigade to review proposals in the licence application.
On 3 June, there was a meeting attended by Dublin City Council, Croke Park and Aiken Promotions to explain in great detail the schedule for removing all the production after the fifth show on Tuesday, 29 July, and returning Croke Park fit for purpose for the matches due to take place on Sunday, 3 August. A schedule was agreed within the permitted working hours of 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Given that we were actively discussing the fifth show in such detail with Dublin City Council, surely this would have been an ideal opportunity for the council to raise objections or flag that this show was problematic.
On 5 June, Aiken Promotions attended a meeting with Dublin City Council regarding sound management. No major concerns were expressed about the capability of Aiken Promotions to achieve compliance. On 10 June, Aiken Promotions attended a meeting with the HSE to discuss the draft medical plan for the event. That same day, we also attended a meeting at Store Street Garda Station regarding traffic management, at which a number of proposals were tabled by Aiken Promotions and appeared to be well received by all present.
On 16 June, the first statutory agencies meeting took place at Croke Park with contributions from all attending parties, including Dublin City Council, the Garda, the fire authority, the HSE and the venue. On 23 June, the second statutory agencies' meeting took place at Croke Park with all relevant parties attending, including Dublin City Council.
On 2 July, at approximately 10.30 p.m., I received a call from my event controller to say that the city manager had phoned him to say they were only granting a licence for three concerts at Croke Park, the first three dates. I immediately informed Bob Doyle of this development and his response was that it would not be acceptable as they had committed to doing five nights. I relayed this position to the event controller who passed the message back to the city manager. Shortly after, the city manager made contact again with a firm offer to grant the licence for four shows. I again immediately relayed this to Bob Doyle who then brought Garth himself on to the phone to be updated on the situation. Garth Brooks responded in the early hours of Thursday morning, 3 July, that he had agreed to do five shows and was committed to playing all five nights. Garth treats his fans equally and fairly and, therefore, could not treat 160,000 people who had bought tickets for the fourth and fifth shows differently from the fans who had bought tickets for the first three nights, so his position would have to be that it was five shows or nothing. I relayed this response back to the event controller who asked that Garth's position be considered by the council and a view on this conveyed back to us before 1 p.m. that day.
At 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 3 July - ahead of the 1 p.m. time discussed - the licence was issued by Dublin City Council for three shows only. I immediately contacted Bob Doyle to advise him of the situation as, first, the licence had been issued publicly at an earlier time than expected; and, second, it was immediately being picked up on the newswires that permission had only been granted for three shows. Since then, we have explored every option open to us with no success. This is not a touring show. The stage and production have been custom built for Croke Park and on such a scale that it simply could not be relocated to another venue.
On Wednesday, 9 July, I met with a senior civil servant to discuss the issues. He suggested that I speak to the city manager. During that meeting, in desperation to resolve the issue and without due consideration or any consultation with Garth Brooks, I put forward a number of different suggestions to see what options, if any, the council would be willing to review, or if the matter was closed from all angles. This included doing five concerts as originally planned, possibly doing earlier shows on the Monday and Tuesday, and also the issue of possibly doing matinées on Saturday and Sunday. The matinées on Saturday and Sunday was the only option that the city manager responded positively to.
On review, it was quickly evident that the option of doing matinées on the Saturday and Sunday was neither desirable because of the safety and logistical implications, nor possible within the terms of the licence. Despite this, as this option had been made public by the city manager and because of his encouraging response to consider a revision to the licence application, I did inform Garth Brooks who immediately rejected this on practical grounds - that is, he could not do five high-intensity performances over three days. Also, a matinée show would not provide the same experience one would get at night in terms of the production, in particular the benefits of the custom-built video and lighting rigs that had been specially designed for this event.
Over the following days, I engaged with the same senior civil servant and a range of other intermediaries to find a solution. One of the suggestions was an uncontested judicial review based on the council agreeing to consider additional information. I met with the city manager and the executive manager on Monday, 14 July to discuss the option of a judicial review but we failed to get their support.
There was an additional offer put forward by Dublin City Council to look at granting a licence for new dates in October to replace the fourth and fifth shows. To follow the current licensing process, the application would be presented as a joint venture with Dublin City Council, as this only requires submission five weeks before event, rather than the ten weeks standard. I ask the committee to note that it was impossible for Garth to accept this proposal as he was committed to a world tour which is due to start in Chicago on 4 September. He was also already scheduled to perform elsewhere on the dates suggested. Therefore, I had to confirm to Garth Brooks that evening that we could not secure any more than three shows in July. As a result, Garth Brooks issued his own personal statement. Aiken Promotions then issued a notice cancelling the shows. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but I feel that an event which any city in the world would have been proud to host should have been viewed with an informed strategic eye and encouraged, not dismissed.
There are a few things I would like to emphasise. The licensing system is what it is. I followed the same process that I have followed for years in Dublin, as well as other counties around Ireland. It is a well established custom and practice to sell tickets subject to licence. I must state clearly that, by custom and practice, any residual impacts of a concert on an environment are dealt with through the conditions attached to the licence. Our focus throughout all formal and informal contacts with Dublin City Council and all statutory agencies was to deliver above and beyond the standard requirements and practices to ease the impact of five concerts in recognition of the unique circumstances of this event. There was never a discussion on the number of shows being reduced, only on the impact that the five nights would have.
I accept the procedure and that the elements of the process were correctly followed, but I feel that the decision-making process was not reasonable, balanced or fair, and that the decision was wrong. I am fully aware that in the licence application process for concerts there is no recourse for review or appeal against the licence issued by Dublin City Council. However, this has been an extremely frustrating position to be left in during the last few weeks considering the events that have come to light, specifically that some of the objections lodged to the council are being investigated as fraud.
I thank both speakers for the comprehensive nature of their presentations. I will be going to members of the committee shortly. I ask them to keep their contributions to four minutes and I will try to do the same myself. I have a question for Mr. McKenna on the phone call to Mr. Keegan. Mr. McKenna's statement this morning clearly states that verbal assurances were given by the city manager that five concerts would be supported by Dublin City Council. That is at odds with and in total contradiction of what was said to us here yesterday. Does Mr. McKenna have any other evidence to confirm his assertion in this regard? The public will ask who they are supposed to believe. Perhaps Mr. McKenna could take that point first, which is the big question.
Mr. Peter McKenna:
It certainly is the big question. This telephone conversation happened very early on in the process. I think Owen Keegan would have been aware of the concerts from Jim Clark who rang him on Saturday, 1 February. After that I wanted to get a reassurance and heads-up myself as to where we stood on the concert application for all five licences. I rang Owen Keegan, but he was not there; he was away from the office. A couple of days later he phoned back. I remember it well because I was conducting a meeting in my office with one of my senior staff. We talked about it and he said the city would be very supportive of the five concerts. He wanted us to make the process easy for him. He said: "Make One Direction happen well and put all the additionality you can into the applications."
We said we could guarantee we would put our best foot forward. We finished the call and I was ecstatic to share that with the individual in the office. From then on I was certain we would get five licences. We did much work on the One Direction concerts and brought additionality to the process. There were 20 or 30 meetings from February because we were engaging on One Direction at the same time and there was no suggestion that the applications might fail. I was so confident I went on holidays when the decision was made and would not have done this had I doubts.
It may sound dramatic but I would swear an affidavit based on what I have told this committee. That is how certain I am of the contents of the telephone conversation.
What would the witnesses do differently if they were setting up these concerts next year? How should the process change? The licensing system must be examined but what would the witnesses do as a promoter and as representatives of the GAA?
I was not aware of what is run for the local residents. Are cúl camps free for the children? The Christmas party was mentioned and I know it is funded. Are tickets for matches free? What sort of matches are involved? Are tickets for finals free?
Garth Brooks was originally to perform in two concerts. Can Mr. Aiken explain why he was later unwilling to perform fewer than five? He may wish to answer this question later in the meeting if the witnesses wish to deal with the questions in order.
Mr. Peter McKenna:
I will respond to the question on tickets. Tickets for GAA matches are made available for residents to purchase and this applies to all GAA members. Tickets for concerts are free and are distributed by way of a raffle. There are 200 pairs of such tickets per concert and those interested in attending can enter their names.
Mr. Páraic Duffy:
The repeated mantra we have heard is that residents were opposed to the concerts but there is no single, coherent residents group. We regard 27,000 houses as being in the environs of Croke Park as that constitutes a radius of 1.5 km. There is no single group with which we can deal and a small group, consisting of some people from the area and some from outside, was very opposed to these concerts. That group was the only voice that was heard. We were concerned by the fact that in recent weeks other residents emerged who wanted the concerts to proceed.
The thing we would do differently in future and the biggest challenge is to engage with a coherent residents' group on an ongoing basis.
The witnesses want to listen to one voice but am I to understand from last week's announcements by various residents' groups that, at that late stage, all residents were willing to give their blessing to five concerts?
Mr. Páraic Duffy:
To be fair, it is very difficult to use the word "all". I believe it emerged in recent weeks that the vast majority of people in the area had no problem with the concerts proceeding. The difficulty is those who shout loudest and those who take to the airwaves are heard. This makes it difficult for us. As Kieran Mulvey said in his report that a coherent group is needed to express the voice of the residents. We would be very happy to engage with such a group in future and had such a group partaken in this matter the outcome would have been different. The big concern we had related to the number of fraudulent submissions and the full story on this has not been told.
Mr. Peter Aiken:
We first considered one concert but I met Garth Brooks and his team on 2 January and persuaded him to perform two concerts as that would make a statement. I did not foresee that it would grow to five shows as that is unprecedented. I have never seen such a thing in my time as a promoter and it would have been the biggest ever live event in Ireland. It would have been the equivalent of Michael Jackson's eight nights in London, Bruce Springsteen's ten nights at Giants Stadium, New York, and Roger Waters's five nights in Argentina. This was our big moment. When we sold tickets for five concerts we built a five-show event. The idea was to film the show on three of the nights and make a documentary. It was going to be massive and that is how it grew.
I welcome the witnesses and thank them for their informative presentations. They were clear, coherent and laid out in detail, as I would have expected because this is how the witnesses do business. If we take anything from this as legislators, we must ask how a situation was allowed to develop where 400,000 tickets were sold in advance of the granting of a licence. It is not the fault of the witnesses as this is the system in which they must operate and I suspect we may have to consult them on another occasion on developing a legislative approach to this issue. At minimum, we must develop an appeals process because An Bord Pleanála usually acts as final arbiter in general planning issues relating to buildings and so on. No such system exists in cases such as this.
The Chairman has addressed Mr. Duffy's point on Mr. McKenna. Mr. Aiken spoke of the expectation that the five concerts would be granted permission. I am flabbergasted, frankly, that Mr. McKenna can make his statement as strongly as he does. When compared to the evidence yesterday from Mr. Keegan, there is a direct conflict and I do not know how it can be resolved. This committee is not undertaking an investigation but the conflict must be aired. Mr. McKenna is prepared to swear an affidavit, which is welcome, and Mr. Keegan has further questions to answer on this.
Yesterday, explaining how he reached the decision, Mr. Keegan covered the points raised by Mr. Duffy on unprecedented over-intensification and unacceptable levels of disruption. We probed him on this matter and he said he was prepared to allow four concerts. I still do not understand how four concerts, in addition to the earlier three concerts by One Direction, could have been acceptable, though unprecedented, and was not deemed over-intensification of use and an unacceptable level of disruption. Somehow the fifth concert was the straw that broke the camel's back. I do not accept this and when pressed on this issue yesterday Mr. Keegan made a slip by saying something had to be given to the residents. In other words, Dublin City Council had to be seen as doing something in response to the concerns raised by residents. I put it to him that had the promoters sought six or seven concerts the council might have granted permission for five on the basis he outlined and deemed it acceptable. He countered this.
On the issue of residents and objections, I have some sympathy for Dublin City Council as the process for lodging objections is not as detailed as it is for construction projects because there is no fee. The issue of how to deal with the situation now has been raised. Mr. Aiken said he spoke to a senior civil servant and Mr. Keegan yesterday mentioned having met a senior civil servant but I do not know whether the same person is in question.
Have the witnesses come up with any potential solution that could get us past this? The Government has refused to take a legislative approach. The witnesses considered a judicial review and Mr. Keegan made it very clear to us yesterday that he was prepared to gamble ratepayers' money to challenge it aggressively. What is the legal advice on whether it might have been successful? As a ratepayer, Mr. Duffy must feel aggrieved at the decision. Many ratepayers have contacted us, such as hotels, restaurants and the business community, who are flabbergasted by it.
Mr. Páraic Duffy:
Our rates doubled this year to €1.1 million. While it was a major issue and a blow to us, we had not budgeted for the concerts. The GAA feels bad for the 400,000 people. Everybody in this room knows people who had planned to come home or hold family celebrations, and the sheer disappointment of these people is the worst part of it. It would have been fantastic to have been part of these concerts. It would have been a national celebration and the loss of that is the worst of it. The GAA is not the loser. The money is irrelevant. We feel a sense of loss for the 400,000 people, particularly the 70,000 who were coming from abroad, the many Irish people who were coming home for their holidays around the concerts. They are the real losers.
With a little flexibility, this could easily have been avoided, notwithstanding the fact that the legislative frameworks applied. All along, we thought there would be five concerts, and at some point it was reduced to three. Had the council approached us and said it was thinking of reducing the number from five to three, Aiken Promotions and we would have asked what we needed to do to reassure the council, and would have done whatever it would have taken, for the 400,000 people. However, we were not given the opportunity. The news came out of the blue, the decision was taken, it was signed off and there was no appeal. The end was very abrupt.
From what we heard yesterday, it was due to the concerns of a number of residents. Could Mr. Duffy talk about the legacy issue of the handball situation, which seems to be the centre of most of the aggravation, particularly regarding those who reside outside the area and have succeeded in promoting a campaign of objections to the GAA's activities? The Mulvey report and intervention was an effort to get to the bottom of that.
Mr. Páraic Duffy:
It is a fair point. When Mr. Mulvey tried to examine the long-term staging of concerts in Croke Park, we asked him to mediate on the handball centre issue. One Friday night, Mr. McKenna and I sat down, under Mr. Mulvey's chairmanship, with representatives of the handball centre. We were there until midnight-----
Mr. Páraic Duffy:
-----and at the end of the meeting we felt we had all agreed a settlement. We were all delighted that we had solved the problem on the basis that we would go ahead and build a new centre on the Croke Villas site and include a bar there for the use of local residents. Mr. Mulvey thought we had an agreement. Unfortunately, one of the key handball people had not been at the meeting, as he had been in Belfast on the same day dealing with issues around the redevelopment of Casement Park. The handball group subsequently told us we did not have an agreement. We had given in to most of their requests because we wanted to resolve the problem, which had existed for a long time and was annoying a small number of local residents. While we did not physically shake hands, we felt we had an agreement, and two weeks later the handball group told us it would not accept it. While this is part of the problem, we went more than half way to resolving it and Mr. Mulvey would be very happy to verify the process and tell the committee the GAA did everything possible to resolve it as part of the process around the concerts.
Many of my questions have been answered. Regarding the conversation with Mr. Keegan, it has turned into a case of "he said, she said". I could not believe the amount of interest in the concert and the unprecedented amount of attention it has received. I cannot believe the number of e-mails I have received and people who have come to me, as a legislator, asking me to intervene. As Deputy Dooley said, it is down to a few people. Yesterday I raised the issue of how Marlay Park has been able to have so many concerts, some of which I recently attended, which cause major disruption. The response was that the residents get along with the council and there is no issue with the promoters. This is the main issue that needs to be dealt with. The report has been published and it is to be hoped we can do something to establish some sort of appeals process. The fact that concert tickets can be sold without a licence having been issued is a serious issue we, as legislators, must address. I thank the witnesses for their presentation.
I thank the gentlemen for travelling here. What a mess and what a lost opportunity. The evidence is disturbing because they are saying that matters between Croke Park and Dublin City Council were fine until this bad man came along and upset the apple cart, insisting on enforcing legislation, as he sees it. It is a bad place to be. Although I was not here for the meeting with Mr. Keegan, I read the presentation he made and it does not reflect what has been told to the committee today. We need to get to the bottom of it. Croke Park has not had a series of events or concerts stopped by such a problem before. Have there been any near misses where it almost happened?
Mr. Peter McKenna:
No, it has never been the case. There were issues about the U2 concerts in 2009. It was not about the planning permission but about the overnight works to bring a colossal stage in and out, which could only be done overnight. This issue caused much concern in the area. We have never been refused an event licence, nor, to my knowledge, has anybody in Dublin. That is the real shock.
Mr. Peter McKenna:
No. When I spoke to Mr. Keegan, I said we would have all our conversations with Mr. Downey thereafter, as he has responsibility for this area in Dublin City Council. Mr. Downey, in his submission, would probably say the One Direction concert was probably run in the best and most exemplary way of running a concert in the city. We employed a number of camogie ladies, because young people were coming. We had a paediatric accident and emergency station on site. We sold no alcohol. We provided meeting points for parents to collect their children and had bus collection points. We did everything to make it one of the great events in the city and we pride ourselves, in writing the handbook for this, that what we do in Croke Park is exemplary.
Mr. McKenna said he was shocked. He was so confident that it would go well that he went on holidays. Something unexpected happened, which he felt was not in keeping with the discussions and meetings.
To what extent was the chief executive involved in those discussions and meetings with Mr. McKenna?
Mr. Peter McKenna:
I only had one conversation with the chief executive, Mr. Keegan, and that was early in the process. Everything else was conducted with John Downey. That would not be unusual. That was what we did for One Direction and all other special events. John Downey is the officer with responsibility for that area.
There are two elements with regard to Croke Park. There is a legal element and there is also the understanding with the residents around Croke Park. The legal issue is that Croke Park can run three special events in a year without a licence. It must apply for a licence for any more than three. This has happened previously. I accept that because of the timescales involved the promoters must sell tickets before the due process is completed.
Mr. Peter McKenna:
To pick up on what Deputy McEntee said, there must be some degree of mandatory discussion beforehand, so people will have certitude that they will get licences if they comply with the normal standards. The real point here, as Páraic Duffy said, is that 400,000 people have been discommoded and disappointed. A total of 70,000 of them were coming from abroad, which is half the number that came here for The Gathering. There are other aspects. Caterers have had to cancel €1.5 million worth of purchasing of Irish food and beverages, which would have been there for the five days. A total of 10,000 people were due to be engaged casually within Croke Park over that period. That was a casual wage bill of €1 million. The Government was going to net €3 million on VAT on tickets, merchandising and food and beverages. All of that has just been wiped.
Mr. Peter Aiken:
I am out seven figures on this. Garth Brooks will be out millions of euro. He had a film company coming too. That company will get paid. One can work it out. There were to be 520 backstage passes over the four events for access all areas. Normally, it would be 50 or 60. That shows the number of people he was bringing with him. Páraic Duffy and Peter McKenna referred to the 400,000 people but the person I feel most sorry for is Garth Brooks, given the effort he put into this and what he was going to do. People will never see a show like this again, regardless of what happens in the future in technology and so forth. They will never see the show that he intended to put on. He was putting everything into this. It was his comeback special. The press referred to how it was all five or nothing and so forth but if he was motivated by money, he would have done the three shows and recouped something. What he did was right. I told him it was five shows and he could not leave 160,000 people not seeing the show.
Mr. Peter Aiken:
He starts his tour on 4 September. The problem is that Croke Park is busy every weekend up to the end of September. Dublin City Council said it could give me another two shows or perhaps three. It talks about over-intensification but there is something on every weekend, starting this weekend, up to the All-Ireland Football Final, and there could be a replay after that. The dates it offered were in the middle of October. Then there is the talk about intensification. Garth Brooks starts the world tour on 4 September - this was the comeback special - and it will continue for two or three years.
I thank the witnesses for attending the meeting. We have received two very interesting presentations. We heard Mr. Keegan's presentation yesterday. To say that there are differences is to put it mildly. The critical one is Mr. McKenna's regarding the telephone call during which he was assured that the five concerts would be looked on favourably. It was a telephone conversation, so it was an oral commitment, possibly. This is an issue I raised yesterday with Mr. Keegan. If I intended to build an extension to my house on the Beara Peninsula in west Cork I would have the option of going through a pre-planning consultation, and there would be minutes of that. All the issues would be written down and, like them or lump them, one would have a fair idea of what to do to inform the next decision. For something as fundamentally important to Dublin and Ireland as this concert, as Mr. Aiken has passionately outlined, there is nothing to go on except what Mr. McKenna said that Mr. Keegan said and what Mr. Keegan said.
Mr. Keegan in his statement yesterday said, "It is difficult for me to understand how, in the face of real evidence of disquiet among local residents, the promoters would have anticipated no difficulty in securing an event licence for the five concerts." Then he gave a verbal commitment that the five concerts would be allowed. Sometimes people will change their minds, but there is a fundamental lack of a proper system of licensing or an overarching document or strategy that can inform both the promoter for that or any other event and the residents as to what would be reasonable or possible. It could provide a template for conversations as issues such as this arise. That is something everybody will have to grapple with, although it is debatable whether we will get another opportunity to have something as big as Garth Brooks's five concerts.
Mr. Aiken's presentation is very interesting. It is a timeline or chronology of what happened. He mentioned that on Wednesday, 5 February, he held a meeting at Croke Park with the Croke Park personnel and the Garda. Was Dublin City Council represented at that meeting?
On 12 February, Dublin City Council informed him that the five consecutive days at Croke Park would be a big ask, as was referred to earlier, and it was seeking additionality. The context of this would be that it was still looking at the five concerts, but that there would be additionality or extra conditions attached to the licence to deal with this big ask.
Is this how Mr. Aiken understands it?
Mr. Peter Aiken:
It was a very good meeting at which we got on very well. I did not come away from the meeting thinking we had a problem. I have been around a long time and I have been in a few situations, but I did not come away from the meeting thinking we had a problem. If I had thought at any stage that we had a problem I would have flagged it to Garth Brooks. I never saw this coming. I thought the problem I would have would be the injunction from the guy running around doing all the interviews. When I met my lawyers we prepared a legal document to fight that. I never saw this coming from Dublin City Council. I have never been refused a licence. I think the licensing system does work. I never saw this coming. It was unprecedented to sell this number of tickets. I never saw it coming and I do not think it will ever happen again in my lifetime.
Mr. Peter Aiken:
Alan Gallagher and I met John Downey in the Croke Park Hotel. We went through the issue of Tuesday, 29 July in great detail because matches will be played in Croke Park on 3 August. We had to prove in great detail that we could get this massive production out and put all the fencing and barriers back in, relay the pitch and have the place ready for the two quarter-finals on 3 August. Mr. Downey did not want us to have to work until midnight or 2 a.m. We spent two hours speaking about it. On 3 June I still had no inclination there would be a problem with the licence. Dublin City Council took it right up to the wire. If I had been told on 3 June there would be a problem I could have done something legally about it.
Mr. Eamon O'Boyle:
In the normal course when a licence is being processed bilateral meetings take place with various parts of the local authority which deal with fire safety, noise pollution and sanitation. A meeting also took place with the HSE. Such bilateral meetings normally take place as part of the process.
Mr. Eamon O'Boyle:
It was a plenary meeting with all of the stakeholders including the venue, statutory agencies, the Garda, the HSE and various component parts of the local authority.
Most of the issues I was going to raise have been dealt with, but for the sake of making a contribution I will ask a question. Having listened to the various submissions yesterday and today things are still do not add up. I began to think of this event as a movie, "Licensed to Sing", and unfortunately we have an Irish solution to an Irish problem. Everybody is screwed in this, including Garth Brooks, the ticketholders, Mr. Aiken, the GAA, the community, tourism, Dublin City Council and our reputation. Everybody seems to be screwed and there are absolutely no winners.
In his submission Mr. Duffy stated when the concerts were first announced it defied logic and conventional wisdom. Thus it went from one to two to three to four and eventually to five concerts and 400,000 people. Hindsight is 20:20 vision, but perhaps if an element of money or greed did not come into this everybody would have been happy with three concerts, with 200,000 people benefiting from attending them and businesses benefiting from their attendance. Perhaps it was pushed out a bit and the boat was rocked because of the risky situation which may have been involved in going from three to five concerts.
Was Mr. Bob Doyle, Garth Brooks's manager, aware of the potential risk of going from three to five concerts? Was he prepared to accept that risk?
Mr. Peter Aiken:
No he was not aware. They have held events in the US where concerts were held over five or six nights in stadiums. It was not about greed; it was about making history. This was going to be a fantastic event. One does get caught up in the moment no matter how good one is in business. I got caught up in the moment and I thought it would be amazing. It will never be done again. When I was selling the tickets Bob Doyle was with me on Grafton Street and he saw the queues the length of Grafton Street. When we sold out the three shows an interview was immediately broadcast on Newstalk and the queue was the length of the street. He was on the telephone to Garth Brooks telling him this. The business was there. We were not pushing a cart up the hill when selling the fifth show. We still had demand after selling the fifth show.
That is fair enough. I certainly know the five concerts caught the imagination of the music industry throughout the world unlike any other concerts in the entire history of the music industry. Dublin City Council stated its decision was appropriate, balanced and reasonable. Based on the various submissions I am beginning to think the outcome is inappropriate, unbalanced and certainly unreasonable because of all the people affected.
Perhaps my next question is stupid and ridiculous.
If it is not too late would Garth Brooks change his mind? Based on the evidence which has come through from the people in the community whom we know did not make objections surely at this stage, at the 11th hour, we can have a great ending to this saga. It would be amazing.
There were a few guys against him. To take up Senator Coghlan's point, Clones will host its last match of the season on Sunday. It is a magnificent stadium which gets two or three matches a year. It is not too far from Mr. Aiken's home. Perhaps it could all be shifted up there where people would not object.
I understand Mr. Duffy is cross on this occasion. We saw Wexford last Saturday in Thurles. The GAA will bounce back. We will return to do all the things we always do and this will be forgotten.
That may not be of much consolation to Mr. Aiken.
The One Direction concerts were held on 23, 24 and 25 May and the follow-up meeting was held nine days afterwards. When we had the Trinity Ball, it annoyed students who were trying to study for examinations. If one wants to pick up vibes, one has to do it quicker than nine days afterwards. Residents say it is over and that they can now get back to what they were doing. It was a long interval. I appreciate problems were not encountered during the One Direction concerts, but if one wants to get real feedback, it should be done the day after when both sides will say where they encountered problems.
On the bogus objections, it seems they numbered 3% of the total. There were 384 observations received, of which 11 were fraudulent.
The decision to hold five shows seems to have been made around 30 January; the application was made on 17 April and the reply issued on 2 July. This meant that there were fans going around for six months with tickets for an event which was subject to licence. The term "subject to licence" must be qualified. When the Chairman gets committee members together after the delegates leave, that will be the kernel of the matter. Let us have proper procedures, as Deputy Noel Harrington stated, as one has in dealing with any other planning application, including notes taken at meetings on progress made. In my other line of business, one could meet a student during the year and say he or she was doing fairly well, but the student must then do it in a three hour examination, make a submission or a dissertation that meets requirements. Informal conversations probably should not continue. The system must be much more formalised in order that concert goers do not go around for six months with tickets in their pockets for an event which is subject to licence.
The concerts sector has caused problems. There were problems in Slane, Fairyhouse, Ratoath and the Phoenix Park, with all-in mud wrestling. The reality is that residents are nervous about concerts. I wonder whether there decibel limits limits for concerts. I was five miles from Marley Park, yet one could hear the noise from it, which infringed on the wider populous.
This is the transport committee. I was asked why there was not greater access by train to Drumcondra Station, one could not get to it from Bray or anywhere else in the south. The service from Maynooth is hugely popular on match days when significant numbers use the train service, which is good.
I have another question for Mr. Duffy. Was there supposed to be a station at the other end of the stadium? The Canal End is also near a railway line which was considered in the original planning process. If one was able to use such services for big events, including football matches and concerts, some of the agitation among residents might be diluted.
We will try to see what can be done in the way of measures to prevent a recurrence. As Mr. O'Boyle stated, it is a pity for everybody concerned and, as Mr. Aiken stated, it should never happen again.
Mr. Peter McKenna:
The Senator raised two questions. The noise limit is 75 decibels for Croke Park.
The other question was related to the station underneath the stand. It would not be a safe way to take people into or out of the stadium. One would need to walk at least 200 or 300 yards in order to access a train station. Therefore, Drumcondra would be by far the best station to use. A longer platform is needed for it to be effective.
Mr. Peter Aiken:
It would be some legislation the Government could introduce to say this was of national significance, that it had listened to all of what had been said on how the decision had been made and that perhaps 40% of claims were fraudulent. There was even the ridiculous matter of the High Court injunction, when some fellow received €15,000 and did not know from where he had received it. Perhaps somebody from the North gave it to him and he got a brand new suit. This was all reported in the newspapers. It is like an episode from "Father Ted" but with serious consequences for me. Every newspaper picked up on it. They reported that 40% of claims were fraudulent. How am I judged as an Irish citizen, as a Dublin citizen who has been living here for 20 years, on these terms? What are my rights? This illegal activity has been ongoing and I have been completely blindsided.
Mr. Eamon O'Boyle:
On the points raised by Senator Sean D. Barrett about noise, an issue which has been covered by Mr. McKenna, we met the environmental health officer about establishing the maximum noise levels.
On the other point raised by the Senator on transport, some innovative solutions had been contemplated for this event. In particular, we surveyed all of the ticket purchases to which we had access via the Ticketmaster system. We received 12,000 responses and knew the direction from which they would coming and the mode of transport they would use. This was going to enable us to provide a sophisticated park-and-ride facility to keep them away from the main Croke Park area. It was also going to allow us to identify car parking spaces along the Luas and DART routes and from where concert goers would be coming along the M1, M2 and M3 into Dublin. We had all of the data prepared and ready to trigger a plan in that regard.
Mr. Peter McKenna:
To answer Senator Eamonn Coghlan's question, the concerts could go ahead, subject to the artist and Mr. Aiken saying the artist was okay with it. If we were to have an uncontested judicial review this afternoon, it would mean getting the President of the High Court to sit and having no objection to the five concerts going ahead.
My question has been partly covered. What I wanted to establish by the end of this meeting, having heard all viewpoints, was whether there was still a window of opportunity. The delegates are saying there is. Mr. Aiken has identified one particular solution - creating a legislative route that would allow for a review of the decision that has been made. Somebody would have to sit independently to decide this and it would be subject to legislation. While I thought that was the best option from the outset, tomorrow is the final day of the session and it is highly unlikely legislation could be put through both Houses. I suspect, therefore, that it is a non-runner.
There may be an option, subject to legal advice, whereby the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government could use the statutory instrument process because some licensing is provided for in secondary legislation. Perhaps there is something that might be done in that regard.
Mr. McKenna has just answered the question I was going to ask. For the past couple of days a judicial review has seemed to be the best option, but Mr. Keegan made it clear that the local authority would vigorously contest it. Perhaps, when the delegates have left, we might have a discussion among ourselves to see how we might be able to advance this option.
Considering that Mr. Keegan was prepared to offer Mr. Aiken one extra concert and recognising the massive impact of the decision, that is difficult to understand. It is not the ideal way in which to do business, but, unfortunately, although I hate the phrase, we are where we are.
This joint committee meeting could be the end of the saga or it could be the beginning of the future of licensing laws in Ireland. After all the submissions we have heard, including on various bogus objections, even the residents within the greater area of 1,500 m of Croke Park have now changed their beliefs in this regard. If we as a committee are to achieve something, I suggest we call on the Minister and Dublin City Council to act today to save the concerts.
It is always on offer and it may offer a solution. I am a Deputy representing Limerick city and many bus operators would have been taking people to the venue in Dublin. These circumstances will put them under enormous financial pressure, and this is an example of how the issue has permeated throughout Ireland. What window of opportunity remains to find a solution? Ultimately, we could talk all day about abstract solutions but what is left at this stage?
I agree with Deputy Dooley. I accept that what Mr. Aiken has said is true and at this stage the only other course open is if Dublin City Council agrees not to contest a judicial review applied for today. We will consider in private whether we can make an appeal.
We have teased this out as much as we can at this stage. I sincerely thank Mr. Duffy, Mr. Aiken, Mr. O'Boyle and Mr. McKenna for articulating their views on this issue, which has major consequences for the country and fans who bought tickets. We will go into private session to see if we can take this any further.