We have important news to discuss today. Before we start, however, there is the minor matter that last week we got a new leader of the Labor Party and the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny reshuffled his Cabinet with a refocused program for the remaining two years of this government's life, all designed to get over their midterm election disaster and give them a chance of winning the next general election.
Important stuff, of course. But let's not kid ourselves here.
The (slightly) new Cabinet may have got the media excited briefly last week. But there has really only been one story on the minds of most people here over the past two weeks.
It's the story that directly affects 400,000 people who are holding tickets for Garth Brooks, all of whom are surely crushed that the five concerts he planned at Croke Park have been canceled.
A statement from Brooks on Monday night made the announcement, although many fans are clinging to the hope that this will concentrate minds and force the authorities finally to do something about this absurd situation.
“I want to thank the Irish authorities for going the distance for all of us who wanted to share songs and dance together. I really want to thank all the people around the world that continued to think good thoughts that this would actually happen,” Brooks said.
Ticketmaster, the agency which handled the sale of the tickets for the five night series in Croke Park, was due to start refunding money on Tuesday. Prior to the Brooks announcement the reversal of credit card payments was put back to Thursday.
The situation is beyond embarrassing. It is a national humiliation, given that this was the launch pad before a world tour by Brooks, with 70,000 tickets sold outside Ireland, flights and hotels booked etc.
Making it even worse has been the fumbling, inept response from those in authority here, both in politics and administration, who have talked endlessly in the past two weeks but have actually done nothing.
Those involved have included Kenny, a minister or two, the lord mayor of Dublin, the city manager, the promoter and the senior problem solver from the Labor Relations Commission, not counting the muppets on the City Council.
Despite all these heavyweights, no resolution was found. It is just possible that a rabbit may be pulled out of the hat at the last minute and we could ask Garth to change his mind.
But at present inertia rules and an elaborate game of pass the parcel is going on. No one wants to take responsibility in case they get caught up in the disaster.
As the old saying goes, we could not organize a drinks party in a brewery. In fact the old saying puts it more graphically than that, but you get the drift.
This level of incompetence seems to be peculiar to officialdom in Ireland. Where else would you get a situation which allows a promoter to sell 400,000 tickets to a series of concerts for which he has no license?
Yet that is not only tolerated here, it is accepted as "the way things have always been done." Tickets are sold "subject to license" and the promoter applies for permission later.
As you may be aware if you have been following this story, Croke Park is limited to holding three non-sporting "special events" such as concerts at the stadium each year. It was on that basis that permission for the redevelopment of the stadium was granted in 1993.
You may also know that three such events, the One Direction concerts, have already taken place at the stadium this year. So when it agreed with the promoter to allow the five Garth Brooks concerts at the stadium, the GAA knew it was doing something that was outside the planning permission they had for the stadium. The GAA is bound by the planning laws.
The promoter, on the other hand, has to get an events license, which is not the same thing, although both are handled by officials in Dublin City Council, some of whom apparently don't talk to each other. You could not make this stuff up.
Despite his pleas that this is the way nearly all big concerts are sold here, the promoter, Peter Aitken, obviously knew that he was pushing the envelope way beyond what was reasonable. This was particularly true when the number of Brooks concerts grew from two to three and then five.
This ignored the concerns of the people who live around the stadium (Croke Park is in an area of the inner city with narrow streets of small houses which come right up to the walls of the venue).
With five concerts on the trot, residents around the stadium were going to be in lockdown for almost a week. They already put up with around 30 big match days a year.
They already had the three One Direction concerts in May this year. Another five concerts this year was too much.
The fact that the events planners in the City Council decided to limit the number of concerts to three, in retrospect, should not have been a surprise. Both the GAA and the promoter seemed to be gambling that the planners would not have the backbone to say no, given the problems it would create. They gambled and 400,000 people are the losers.
The planning and licensing system we have here is now independent, with decisions taken by council professionals rather than local politicians who have been so open to corruption in the past.
Under the existing legislation, once a decision is taken on an events license there is no way to reverse that. That is what underlies the statements from various politicians and the lord mayor here last week that the planning system has to be respected and must not be undermined.
All of which sounds logical. But it's not as simple as that.
First of all there is the question of proportionality. When the planners were taking into account the nearly 400 objections they got from local residents, did they balance that with the problems a refusal would cause to the 400,000 ticket holders for the concerts?
The answer is no, because that is not the way the system works.
The events planners take into account local views, security, health and safety, noise, traffic and so on. The legal framework does not include the concerns of so many concertgoers. Nor does it take into account potential losses to the economy.
The claim that there is no legal framework to overturn the decision ignores another significant development. It has now emerged that up to 40 percent of the objections to the Brooks concerts received by the council were, in fact, bogus, with forged names, etc. On that basis alone, the decision by the events planners was undermined and should have been set aside.
A solution to the mess is still possible. The Gardai (police) have already said that they were happy with the event management plan for the five nights put forward by the promoter and that there are no security issues.
Most of the residents, swayed by the public outcry, have now withdrawn their opposition to the gigs. They should be given a written guarantee by the GAA that, in return for not opposing the five concerts, there will be no more concerts at the stadium for the next two years.
On that basis and since the present decision for three concerts is flawed, the city manager should be able to find a way to give provisional permission for five concerts. If emergency legislation referring to this one event is required then that should be introduced.
Anything else at this stage does not make sense. And to make up for the mess, the city manager should apologize to Brooks and appeal to him to reconsider, for the sake of the city as well as the fans.
For the future, the new minister for the environment (planning falls within his remit) Alan Kelly has said that he will begin a complete overhaul of events planning rules and regulations. That is good, but it does not mean we can duck this present fiasco.
What is not acceptable is that concerts for which 400,0000 tickets have been sold should be cancelled because of our existing ham-fisted planning process.
The city manager's role in what has happened is less than impressive. He stood over the decision by his planners to allow three concerts even though this contravenes the planning permission for the stadium.
He then undermined his position even further by firstly saying that the decision could not be reversed and then offering to join in a discussion about four concerts as a compromise.
At this point it should be taken out of his hands and a solution directed by the new minister for the environment. One final point is obvious. In the future no promoter should be allowed to sell a single ticket here "subject to license,” never mind 400,000 tickets. Only in Ireland ...