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Dublin: 10 °C Saturday 19 October, 2019
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Aaron McKenna: The good times must be back if we’ll turn away 400,000 concert goers

We’re clearly feeling more bullish about the economy if we’re cancelling sold-out shows. But should we be so confident?

Aaron McKenna

MUCH HAS BEEN made of the wall to wall Garth Brooks coverage rolling over the past few days, but The Guardian put it succinctly when it pointed out that the equivalent of 10% of the Irish population had bought a ticket to one of his concerts in Dublin.

Five concerts over as many nights would pack Croke Park. Some 70,000 of the tickets had been sold to people abroad, who were due to fly in to Ireland and bring their wallets with them. Of the other 330,000 an innumerable amount would be opening their wallets to hotels, pubs, restaurants and other businesses.

When One Direction played Croke Park, the Dublin Town Group reckoned that each concert goer was worth an additional €44 to the local economy. This is atop what is being generated by the concert itself – the cost to stage it – and those who are flying in to Ireland to see it.

€17.6 million is how much these cancelled concerts will cost Dubliners in wages, taxes and business. Even if Brooks agreed to stage three rather than five concerts, Dublin City Council will have thrown away €7 million for the local economy.

Turning away good money

For all the moaning in the country, the good times must really be back in swing if we’d turn away 400,000 people from attending a cultural event, the likes of which we were breaking our backs to get into the country only recently. The whole driver of events like The Gathering and the City of Culture or various fairs and shows that go on through the summer, in particular, is the economy.

Simply put, people who attend an event – be it the Dublin Flower Show, the Galway Races or a concert in Croke Park – open their wallets more freely than if they’re sat at home. People get to enjoy themselves, and in the process they create jobs and help businesses grow. It’s a virtuous cycle.

Residents need to be listened to

There are concerns among residents who live near Croke Park, and these need to be listened to. Events at Croke Park, or anywhere else, need to be managed as best as possible to take account of the people living on the routes in and out of the venue.

It is unreasonable, however, for a few hundred people to block an event that will stimulate the economy by bringing hundreds of thousands to an event. Now, let me caveat that quite clearly: the ends don’t always justify the means, and I wouldn’t suggest that if a few hundred people standing in the way of the concert we should bulldoze their houses with them in it. But here we’re talking about needing people to make accommodations, for which they can and should be compensated.

‘Subject to license’

There are all kinds of arguments flying around about the minutiae of the thing, as we so often get swept into during any national debate in Ireland.

The canard of the event being sold subject to license is being thrown around, with the Green Party’s North Inner City councillor Ciarán Cuffe questioning, “how many people were silly enough to book plane tickets from New Zealand before planning was approved”.

Well, most events are sold subject to license. Indeed, the licensing system in this country is impractical in that to be commercially viable, that’s the only way to do it for big events. But that’s another debate for another day. In short, these concerts were not unusual to be sold this way and this is the rare exception of an event looking like it may have to be cancelled.

Take yourself away from silly arguments like Cuffe’s, which expects that concert goers in this case exercise probity that virtually no other concert goer has had to in recent memory, and we come back to the main point: an event that will see the equivalent of 10% of the population come and open their wallets in Croke Park is being cancelled because of NIMBYism, weak local government and downright economic stupidity.

Parochial eejits

Even many residents of the area affected by concerts are now questioning the minority of those local activists who have brought us here. There is a more sensible approach than demanding concerts be cancelled, just as there is a fair comment to be made about the organisers of the concert being overzealous in selling it before getting full buy in.

The tickets have been sold for these concerts. Apart from the economic losses, we look like a pack of parochial eejits to cancel five sold-out shows at this stage. These shows should go ahead, and the organizers should take ample care to look after the residents; clean their streets and gardens if needs be; and compensate them for their troubles.

Going forward, an arrangement should be made with Croke Park residents and those around any other venue that sets out what can and can’t be accommodated. This will at least take out uncertainty and prevent this sort of embarrassment happening again. I don’t think residents should have it all their own way, mind you – if there is a commercial push for big stadium events, we shouldn’t be turning our noses up at the business. But perhaps it should be paced through the year and capped at something less than one or two per month if that’s what we can get in.

Still, at least this has proven one thing: we’re clearly feeling more bullish about the economy if this is even a debate.

Aaron McKenna is a businessman and a columnist for TheJournal.ie. He is also involved in activism in his local area. You can find out more about him at aaronmckenna.com or follow him on Twitter @aaronmckenna. To read more columns by Aaron click here.

Read: Garth Brooks debacle: The international coverage

Read: Some Croke Park residents are signing a petition to reinstate all five concerts

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