Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 19 Mar 1997

Vol. 476 No. 5

Adjournment Debate. - Proposed Rock Concert in the Phoenix Park.

A number of queries have arisen since I tabled this Adjournment matter which I hope the Minister will address in his reply. My constituents in the greater Castleknock area have contacted me on this matter. There is great concern within that large residential community that a concert which could attract more than 100,000 people is to be foisted on these in the perimeter of Castleknock, courtesy of the Minister. On a more important political note, will the Minister inform the House if some selective procedure has been employed to deal with this? Has a promoter been given some exclusivity without a proper tendering process and, if so, why?

There are probably three venues at which such a concert could be staged without infringing on the Phoenix Park. They are Croke Park, Lansdowne Road and the RDS — three rate paying establishments that have staged such concerts in the past. Why is it necessary for this form of commercialisation to be brought into the Phoenix Park? It never happened before. Why has it been done on an exclusive basis? There are a number of people capable of promoting and developing such projects and it should not be selectively handled.

Responsibility for insurance is a matter of serious concern to my constituents. We are reliably informed that the proposed promoters are suggesting they cannot be responsible for the safety of children, people's homes or their possessions at the time of the concert. Most complications and problems arise outside the concert area. Tragically that was the case in Slane and other locations. The venues I mentioned have stadium facilities with proper management, fire control and other facilities. The Phoenix Park is not such a location. Does this matter go back to the Minister's former colleagues in Hot Press and their involvement, if at all, in this project? Is there some kind of insider dealing involved?

A public venue is being used. Dublin Corporation has been subsumed into this process and to circumvent the process of a proper planning application it is effectively a part promoter of the concert, which ensures that the planning requirement is avoided. In the normal course of events this project would necessitate a planning application and probably an environmental impact study based on the projected numbers that would attend such a concert. Will those procedures be followed? Will the people I represent have a say in these matters or will their area be infringed upon as a result of the railroad approach adopted by the Minister's Department, Dublin Corporation and those brought in to promote the concert on some sort of exclusive basis? The staging of the concert in this venue is unacceptable, undesirable and unnecessary as the stadium facilities in the city are properly equipped, pay commercial rates and have the capacity to stage such an event. Using the Phoenix Park is an abuse of a public amenity for profiteering purposes and the Minister should not be party to what is proposed in this instance.

I wish to reply to some of the points made by the Deputy. I am not part of any exclusive profiteering project that is taking place in the Phoenix Park. Having listened to the Deputy one would get the impression that the Government, my Department or I were promoting a concert in the Phoenix Park. We are not. The management of the rock group U2 has been in contact with my Department and me concerning the possible use of the Phoenix Park for a large public paying rock concert in August. It was in contact before U2 announced its world tour in New York. This inquiry was not solicited by me or by anybody known to me, be it those who worked in Hot Press or anywhere else. This would be the only Irish concert in U2's world tour and, as proposed, would cater for a crowd in excess of 100,000.

The approach concerning this proposal in very general terms was made to me as Minister with responsibility for the Phoenix Park under the Phoenix Park Act, 1925. That Act and by-laws provide for the issue of licences by the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht for specific use of the park. The Phoenix Park is the largest enclosed recreational space, comprising 1,752 acres, within any capital city in Europe. Its survival is one of landscape planning's greatest triumphs. It is still larger than the total area of all London's parks. The Phoenix Park is a prime example of a 17th century deer park. Its landscape is dominated by broad expanses of grassland, separated by clumps of trees. Park users are offered a variety of vistas both internally and beyond the park boundaries to the Dublin Mountains, the River Liffey and so forth. The park provides outstanding opportunities for both active and passive recreational pursuits.

In 1986, the Phoenix Park was designated a national historic park in recognition of its historic landscape. In the same year the Phoenix Park management plan was published. This plan sets out the management policy in relation to the Phoenix Park and the future management objectives for the park. Four management objectives identified in the plan are to conserve the historic landscape character of the park, to encourage appropriate recreational use and public appreciation, to conserve natural and other values within the park and to develop a harmonious relationship between the park and the community.

No approval has been given by me to the proposal from U2 management. Officials of my Department have met the promoters and U2 management to discuss the proposal and have raised a number of issues which would have to be addressed by the proposers of this concert, including the environmental impact on the park, security and public safety issues, traffic management, lighting, provision of services, impact on the public and on park residents, the concerns of local residents and the need for planning permission. My officials have also met Garda representatives who are addressing the security issues raised by the proposal.

While I am positively disposed to the idea of exploring the potential of the Phoenix Park for the holding of musical and other cultural events for the enjoyment of the citizens of Dublin, in particular, and of the country in general, there are clearly very many serious and difficult issues which need to be addressed and fully considered.

I am awaiting a detailed proposal from the concert promoters addressing all the relevant issues and I will be considering this together with the advice of the heritage service of my Department and of the Garda before making any decision on the proposal. I understand that Dublin Corporation is examining the question of planning permission and conditions and this, together with Garda concerns relating to security matters, are critical issues to be decided.

To suggest there is any commissioning of a promoter by myself or my Department is outrageous, not to speak of suggesting that a promoter would have been chosen exclusively. I appreciate the Deputy's concern for his constituents which is shared by my Department, but there is no question of a concert being organised, not to speak of one being foisted on them. Since the Slane decision there is obviously a planning issue involved and that is affected by the special position of Dublin Corporation, but that is a matter for the corporation.