The problem with being a Blogger is that we get filled with our own self-importance. I tend to blog about EVERYTHING because I feel that I have some kinda duty to do so. In two thousand years time, historians will probably be scouring ICloud or whatever and find “Keeping An Eye On The Czar Of Russia” and FitzjamesHorse will be hailed as the great authentic voice of early 21st Century Ireland.
I am…not much different from…Pliny the Elder. Which brings me to Garth Brooks and the headline news for the past week or so. A pathetic story in itself but curiously it says a lot about Ireland. And as Norn Iron prepares yet again for another tussle between Catholic residents and Orange marchers over conflicting rights…then its I suppose good to think that in a normal homogenous society (inner northside Dublin) there is a tussle over conflicting rights between residents around Croke Park and …country music fans.
To recap………at 9am on Friday 11th July …Garth Brooks is scheduled to perform at three sell-out concerts (each in front of 80,000 fans) at the very modern and striking Croke Park Stadium…the foremost GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) stadium. So popular is Brooks that the promoter has sold out on two extra concerts…as he assumed that he would get permission from the Dublin City Council (the licensing body) to stage them. With on ongoing dispute between the GAA and local residents (whose lives are disrupted too often) the Council has refused permission. Brooks citing that he does not want to disappoint his legions of fans has stated that he will cancel the three agreed shows unless permission is granted for the extra concerts. There are calls for the Council to re-consider and even for the Government to “sort it out” but with politicians having a dubious historic record of undermining or overturning planning decisions by the professionals, then Government would be foolish or just plain wrong to intervene.
It is a story that is worth recording, if only to note that in a small democracy such things matter and can have huge impact for a lot of people. Just over six million people live on the island of Ireland and there are 400,000 (nearly all of voting age) ticket holders…and even allowing for the fact that many thousands are flying into Ireland as part of a package deal…then the economic impact will be huge.
I declare an interest. My #1 Daughter-in-Law is a ticket holder for one of the three agreed concerts. And while some of the press and internet coverage has made Ireland a laughing stock…there are a lot of cheap jokes to be made, I don’t want to understate the very real distress that is out there.
The great commentators in our national press …and probably also Fintan O’Toole are agonised about it all. It does actually say something about Ireland. So there will be a rush of sophisticated, self-loathing Wes Britons from Dublin 4 to tell us that we are a pathetic nation ……a gombeen (hick) people who cant even organise a few concerts without screwing it all up.
And the Irish Overclass likes to highlight the “Gombeen Nation” and the Garth Brooks Story has three sets of gombeens that the Irish Overclass finds offensive…the GAA, country music fans and local politicians.
It is really impossible to understand Ireland without understanding the GAELIC ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION. In many ways the GAA (the governing body of Gaelic Football, Hurling and Camogie), founded in 1884 is no different from the governing bodies of Baseball or American Football in USA or the governing bodies of Football, Rugby and Cricket in England. Founded at a time of increased working class and expanding middle class leisure (thank you England) and expanding travel thru railways (God Bless you England), it has a very obvious attachment to Irish culture, language, ethos and culture. It was like the Gaelic League a place where young men in early 20th century Ireland congregated to become more nationalist. There was certainly an overlap between GAA and militant republicanism. It has a grass roots organisation with village commitment to clubs, often named for Padraig Pearse, Wolfe Tone, Charles Parnell, Patrick Sarsfield and a host of other national and local heroes. It had a ban until the 1970s on “foreign games” (members being banned for even attending a “Soccer” game) and its clubrooms could only feature Irish Music and Dance.
So this commitment to the national ethos of Ireland makes the GAA extremely unpopular with sophisticated Anglophiles in Dublin. Croke Park is a national icon. The iconic Hill 16 (a bleacher) was built from rubble from the O’Connell (then Sackville) Street in 1916 Dublin. And the magnificent stadium at Croke Park is testimony to GAA power and influence and of course such stadia requires a lot of funding for maintenance …and the GAA hires out Croke Park for concerts.
But what about the RESIDENTS OF THE AREA. Or more precisely several disparate groups that represent Residents. It is hard to have too much sympathy for people who buy a house in the shadow of a major inner city stadium with no car or coach parking facilities. On several Sundays in a Dublin Summer, lives of Residents will be disrupted. They literally bought into that. But certainly they did not buy into Concerts. Already steps have been taken to agree to limit the number of annual concerts…a compromise but its the interpretation of the compromise that has caused the problem. And certainly five successive nights of Concerts is really a lot of disruption.
The division among Residents is a problem. There is speculation that SOME Residents would like ” a wee handshake” …some Cash Compensation to go along with promised community projects, financed by the GAA. How exactly is a Resident defined?…is it within a small radius of Croke Park or a larger radius. And there is also the obvious fact that local businesses like restaurants and bars (and their employees) have a financial stake in a successful Croke Park. The fact that so many have lawyered up is perhaps a sign of what this is really about.
But what about the ECONOMY?. Not just the very localised economy of a Pizza Takeaway or Taxi Firm in Drumcondra. What about this benefit to the Irish Economy……….as tourists fly into Dublin anxious to take in a Garth Brooks Concert as well as Newgrange and kissing the Blarney Stone? Are they really bringing 50 million Euros with them? In so far as hotels in Dublin and coach firms in County Cork will take a hit if the concerts do not proceed…then that’s obviously a disaster for them. But in so far as they hiked up prices and threw themselves into the trough…..then seeing scalpers scalped leaves me unmoved.
But what about all those IRELANDS REPUTATION IN THE WORLD? Well…a sense of proportion would be a good starting point. If Ireland ever sends a drone into Pakistan and kills villagers …men, women and children…….then I will really worry.
To some extent, the LAWYERS an the COURTS will outflank the POLITICIANS. As I have said (not too far from Croke Park) cash in brown envelopes traditionally influenced planning decisions. This is NOT to say that local councillors are venal and crooked. All political parties will want to clean up their acts and this is a new generation untainted by sleaze. But they do deserve some credit. The Citizenry and the loudmouths in the Media, cannot have it both ways.
Councillors should have no influence to overturn legitimate planning decisions. It seems high-handed of the Promoter to actually sell tickets for an unlicensed concert, on the basis that the Council will respond to Political or Public pressure.
But what about GARTH BROOKS? Again I declare an interest. We briefly had access to Country Music TV in 1994-1996 and Brooks was one of those “New Country” Acts but I prefer the under-stated charm of Ms Patty Loveless, Ms Mary Chapin Carpenter, Ms Emmylou Harris. I have little time for the Showmanship of Garth Brooks.
As I type this…a ship containing the Staging etc for his Dublin Tour is heading towards Europe. That seems a lot of effort and expense for a Guitar, a Hat and a pair of Boots. Yet the gravity of the situation is overstated. Whatever happened to “Country Music is three chords and the Truth” (Harlan Howard).
This is not the Cuban Missile Crisis and we must not send the Irish Naval Service to intercept and quarantine the ship.
Garth Brooks has said …….it is all or nothing. If he does not get his five concerts, he will not be party to disappointing 160,000 fans…….he will cancel the shows for the other 240,000. Which seems a tad unfair. He calls on “the powers that be” to intervene…….the Council did THEIR job and now somebody in authority (“Friends in High Paces” Garth?) should do THEIR job.
Oddly Garth Brooks adds that “in America….we care about people”. Well another cheap shot coming up Garth…….clearly not about all those people on minimum wage or working for tips or even the people without Health Insurance. Don’t lecture us Garth……you will lose. You will need more than a ten gallon Texan Stetson to accommodate your inflated Oklahoma head.
As Garth Brooks issues ultimatums….well he is no Lloyd George and Enda Kenny is no Michael Collins.
Garth Brooks doesn’t do compromise. The option of five concerts over three days…..the two currently unlicensed concerts being fitted into the licensed days……..is worth consideration by Brooks but to be frank, it stretches Health and Safety considerations as 80,000 people exit the Stadium and the area as another 80,000 enter the Stadium and the area…twice.
And what about the PEOPLE WHO BOUGHT TICKETS? Well they will be refunded. Except of course if they bought them thru a Third Party (a Scalper). If you bought a £60 ticket from a legitimate source, you are fine. If you bought a £60 ticket for £200 from a Scalper, then you have lost that money….and little consolation to know that your friendly Scalper will be refunded.
As to the over-priced Hotel? Or your hired Coach? Don’t ask me.
A mess. But there does seem to be a common thread….Greed.
Hmmm….its 10.30am. It took me nearly ninety minutes to SLOWLY type this. I hope historians reading this in two thousand years time note the Passion.
What can I say?
At heart I am a good ole boy. And Garth Brooks has irritated me by not accepting Irish Rights here.
“When youre running down my country………youre walking on the Fighting Side of Me”. (Merle Haggard).