I WAS away for a few days last week and came home on Saturday night to what looked like a crisis of unprecedented proportions. “Our Reputation in Shreds . . .” screamed one headline in alarm. I can’t turn my back for one minute, I said to myself, and all hell breaks loose!
Tired and weary after getting off a plane, and in no mood to hear that the country’s credit rating had plummeted to rubbish status in my absence or that we had to flog the Book of Kells in a desperate attempt to fix the deficit once and for all, I decided to ignore all the hoo-ha - at least until I had allowed myself the benefit of 40 winks.
I can’t face any kind of a crisis when I’m exhausted. But then curiosity got the better of me and I bought the newspaper with the screaming headline and learnt that our image was supposedly tarnished internationally because Dublin City Council had pulled the plug on two Garth Brooks concerts and now the other three were in jeopardy as well. It was worse than the Flight of the Earls.
We really are a hysterical race. We get into a frenzy over everything and we’re always confusing our international image with what we see in the mirror.
I would have thought that our international image was in shreds anyway when the world realised that we had booked out a whole five nights of Garth Brooks concerts before any of us even knew how much the new water tax was going to cost us. We couldn’t be that reckless, surely. I also thought that, broke or not, we would have moved on from the line dancing by now.
Look, I don’t want to disparage anyone’s culture, but a concert is a concert and a national crisis is a national crisis and, in my book anyway, never the twain shall meet, even if there’s a €50 million bonanza at stake. My sympathies would be entirely with residents who live around a concert venue and can’t stand too much noise, congestion and rowdiness. But then I’m not a great concert fan: the only pop idol I ever had in my life was John McCormack. And even at that, I think I’d go stark raving mad if he was doing five nights in a row right beside where I live. After the first night - if water was still free - I’d probably be training a hose on the audience.
But then it’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow some good, and this is a great opportunity for Limerick, the National City of Culture, to step in and seize the moment by offering Thomond Park and the Gaelic Grounds as alternative venues for any future concerts. No point in just suggesting it. We need to take the bull by the horns. By all accounts it could boost the local economy by up to €20 million and that’s not to be sneezed at. At the moment, Mr Brooks himself seems to be in a bit of a huff, after cancelling all his concerts as Dublin City Council did’nt bend the rules for him and allow all five events in Croke Park to go ahead.
I’m sure the City of Culture committee will be able to charm him out of the fit of pique. Has anybody even told him about the City of Culture?
The committee would also, of course, have to persuade the concert promoters who are currently digging their heels in and refusing to countenance any alternative locations saying that re-locating any of the concerts would be a logistical nightmare. This is nonsense. The country is too small to be a logistical nightmare for anyone. We’re just over two hours down the motorway from Croke Park, and I’m sure that any Garth Brooks fan worth his salt wouldn’t even find it an inconvenience to follow him here.
First, however, the residents of any area within hearing distance of either the Gaelic Grounds or Thomond Park should be consulted about the impact on their lives of ear splitting music, disruptive traffic and giddy concert goers. The GAA, Thomond Park and the Local Authority would need to respect the rights of residents to protect the quality of their lives in the face of popular demand and financial bonanzas.
Dublin City Council, in refusing permission for two of the Garth Brooks concerts has been accused by local business interests of failing to take any account of the income that would be lost by their decision. But, at the end of the day, why should anyone have to pay too high a price for someone else’s pleasure?
But it’s worth a try anyway, isn’t it?
We will see over the weekend if there will be any more developments.