herald

Sunday 22 October 2017

Garth's team get a crash course in planning laws and 'brown envelopes' but no dice in Nashville

IT is approaching 7pm Irish time and Garth Brooks's manager Bob Doyle is using my phone, desperately trying to save the five Croke Park concerts.

Standing in the green room of the Martathon Music Works venue in Nashville, he is talking to Lord Mayor Christy Burke as they try to agree a plan.

The press conference has just ended but the focus is clearly on one thing only - five nights in Croke Park.

"He's a very nice man," Bob Doyle says about Dublin's first citizen as he hands back my iPhone.

Webcast

However, it is sad faces all around Nashville as the Brooks brigade explain to me that they have no idea why the "city manager can't change his mind".

Garth Brooks knows what Dublin's City Hall looks like as he and his management team watched the live webcast of last Monday's Dublin City Council meeting. This was meant to be about five massive nights at Croke Park.

Next on the phone is Trade Minister Joe Costello. This call is longer as I explain to Brooks's manager that he is about to talk with a government minister. They speak, but still no rubicon is passed.

Bob Doyle returns the iPhone for a second time and seems even more disappointed.

"I just don't know what we can do. Joe was very helpful and he wants a solution but I mean 
 - who makes that call?" he asks.

Meanwhile, as the phone calls fly back and forth, country music legend and the the only man being discussed across Ireland at the moment - Garth Brooks - stands in the middle of a media furore.

His jeans have the straightest crease you have ever seen ironed down the middle and he gives every single fan and journalist complete custody of his time.

As he makes his way from camera to camera, dictaphone to microphone, Brooks's people continue to ask me what exactly is going on at home in Ireland and who is Owen Keegan. A bit harsh on a civil servant.

I explain that there is no mechanism in our planning law to appeal a licensing decision.

"Can they not just make an exception on this occasion and then change it after the five gigs?" ask his management.

I explain that in the past there was a matter of 'brown envelopes' and that now, as a result of previous planning manipulations, laws around it are sacrosanct.

The Irish media were given plenty of warning that this was not a press conference about Ireland, but that is exactly what it has become.

All anyone here in Nashville wants to talk about, as they stand around in the leather and cowboy boots, is Ireland.

hopeful

I talk to Garth and he tells me he is still hopeful of a deal which lets him play the five nights. "I hope so," he says with an intonation that makes it more of a question than a statement.

As things wrap up, an email arrives on my iPad from Dublin City Council proclaiming that all five gigs can go ahead but two will have to be matinees before the Saturday and Sunday night shows.

Brooks's manager and publicist stand around, holding my computer and reading the email as I count six hours ahead thinking I have a deadline to make.

But the new solution is met by confused faces from the entire management before the latest deal is rejected again.

"To treat 160,000 people differently than all the rest who will be seeing how the show is meant to be created is wrong," his publicist tells me.

No deal.

The hall empties out, Brooks is gone as are his crew.

Even with no solution, the shipping containers carrying this spectacular set are still en route to Ireland.

jfegan@herald.ie

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