Tuesday, July 22, 2014

WHAT a great little country this is! Where else would you get a leader, prime minister, taoiseach even, of a country and one of his top government ministers offering to intervene to see if they could resolve a problem around a series of country and western concerts?

We must have come a long, long way over the past few years when we were facing financial ruin, with the dole queue lengthening by the hour and financial circles worldwide treating us like we were the living dead, to a point where even our top politician has enough time on his hands to get involved in a planning dispute.

Okay, the fact that it is a Garth Brooks concert, or rather a series of such events, makes it international news. Here is one of the biggest performers in the world kicking off his world tour in little old Ireland after a sabbatical of over ten years and what do we do? Make a mess of it.

Tourist industry bosses must be shaking their heads in disbelief. You couldn’t buy all the good news stories which swirled around when the country star announced his intention to come to Ireland. Then the story just grew and grew as upwards of 400,000 people from all over Ireland and elsewhere clamoured for a ticket.

Then Garth started eulogising about Ireland and even announced that he was going to make it a family affair with one of his daughters celebrating her 18th birthday while he was in town. It seemed it couldn’t get any better. Ireland was the centre of the universe as far as Garth fans were concerned – and that was before he’d even stepped on stage. Just imagine the worldwide publicity as the concerts got underway.

But strangely enough no-one seemed to remember that there was a little thing called a planning regulation which stipulated that Croke Park could only hold three concerts a year – and all of those had been used up for One Direction.

Slowly, we began to do what we appear to do best: set the scene and then slowly go about making eejits of ourselves. First, we had those against the concerts expressing concern, then we had those saying the event was too big to be cancelled, then we had mediation, then we had total disaster, and then we had the taoiseach and his transport minister getting involved.

But all the while all the good publicity was being rubbished and anyone with a brain in their head was asking how such a scenario could be allowed to develop in the first place. Surely a little conversation between the parties involved at the very initial stages could have avoided all of this. The residents of that area of Dublin appear to be a reasonable bunch of people; they just don’t like being taken for granted or their willingness to co-operate being assumed by those who think they are the decision-makers when it comes to such events.

Surely the promoters of the concerts are experienced enough to know that for any event like this to go ahead, the goodwill of the people is a must, not just an after-thought. Peter Aiken would do well to remember how his late father Jim, who pioneered the likes of Slane Castle as an international venue, handled the concerns of planners and residents alike of that picturesque village.

If anything is to be learned from this debacle, it is the necessity of conversation between all parties and a willingness for people to listen to the views of others. I found it ironic that here was a taoiseach intervening in a row because people had not listened to the concerns of others, yet it took a mauling at the local and European elections before he listened to the people and their concerns.

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By Michael Godfrey
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