This article appeared in Irish Examiner July 11th
Nobody but nobody can possibly argue against the thesis that the Irish economy badly needs as much stimulus, consumer spending and employment support and creation as possible. This is particularly true in the area that surrounds Croke Park, which is a pretty deprived inner-city area that badly needs as much economic activity as possible. Consequently, it does seem strange that some residents in the area, with the support of Dublin City Council, are prepared to give their two fingers to five concerts that would have accommodated 400,000 visitors over a five-day period. If one assumes that on average each concert attendee engaged in additional expenditure of €100 per head, then these concerts would have given rise to expenditure of €40 million in Dublin and in the environs of Croke Park that in the absence of the concerts would not have occurred.
The decision to prevent this from happening has deprived Dublin of a massive injection of expenditure, particularly as a significant part of the expenditure would have come from outside the state. At a recent Bob Dylan concert in Dublin I was struck by the number of overseas tourists, including Japanese, who attended it. This should not have surprised me as I have in the past travelled overseas to see acts such as the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. The reality is that events such as concerts and sporting events have become a key part of the global tourism offering. Another reality is that those who attend a concert or a sporting event from overseas will normally hang around for a few days and make a bit of a holiday out of it.
Who exactly is to blame for the fiasco is really hard to know. Presumably the blame has to be apportioned to the GAA, the Concert Promoter, the Gareth Brooks organisation, Dublin City Council and last but not least the residents of the area around Croke Park. There is little point in playing the blame game however. The fact is that a major economic opportunity would appear to have been missed and many people will be left worse off as a result, unless sanity prevails.
I can sympathise to some extent with the residents of the Croke Park area. I live and work just beside a primary school and three times a day, there is a half hour period when the whole neighbourhood becomes chocker block and getting in and out of my house becomes a logistical nightmare. Women have been known to park their 4x4s across my entrance and parking on double yellow lines is a right, which the forces of law and order choose to ignore. Does this give me the right to try to prevent those children from attending school? I don’t think so, and I don’t thing that I would succeed in taking out a court injunction preventing the school from opening. In any event, when I bought the house, I knew exactly what it was beside. Tough luck!
In these very deprived times, accepting short-term inconvenience for the greater good is a price worth paying. The economic impact of the concerts and the utility that 400,000 people would derive from attending, have got to be important considerations.
This debacle does not exactly enhance Ireland’s aspiration to becoming the best small country in the world in which to do business, putting it mildly. However, we now have quite a track record in this country of allowing small groups of people acting in a manner that is not in the interests of the greater good. We have the examples of the disruption caused in the Corrib Gas Field in Mayo; the marches against wind farms around the country; the opposition to oil exploration in Dun Laoghaire; the attempts to prevent workers from installing water meters in certain areas; and of course the attempts by some farmers in Waterford to prevent the development of the Deise greenway. The list goes on and on, but the net results are the same.
The spirit of nimbyism is alive and well in this country. In the case of wind farms and the like, the impact on the lives of opponents is semi-permanent but in the case of the Croke park concerts, it is just a fleeting inconvenience that will be soon forgotten. Sanity should be allowed prevail in such circumstances.