Freeman of Dublin Bob Geldof and Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan (top) as the Band Aid Trust hands over their archive to the National Library of Ireland’s Dr. Sandra Collins and Paul Shovlin (above).
Bob Geldof, centre, with Dublin City Cllr Mannix Flynn, left, Dublin City Council official Oonagh Casey, outside Dublin City Hall this morning
Outside Dublin City Hall.
Bob Geldof holds his Freedom of the City of Dublin award before giving it back.
Mr Geldof said he does not want to be associated with the award while it is also held by Aung San Suu Kyi.
He explained his reasons to RTE’s Sean O’Rourke this morning, saying:
“Because I don’t want, I know this sounds pious, I don’t know how to not make it sound pious but I don’t want to be on a very select row of wonderful people and be honoured thus, myself, of which I’m very proud. And I don’t want to be on it with a killer.
“Someone who is, at best, a handmaiden to genocide and an accomplice to murder.
“And I know that sounds grandstanding but forgive me if that’s the case. I don’t actually want to do this because, as I said, I’m very proud of that specific award.
“But I was over, last night, I introduced Samantha Power, at the Abbey and she was Obama’s ambassador to the UN and she wrote the bible on genocide in her book which is Genocide and US Policy.
“I’m also a founding patron of a thing called the Aegis Trust who deal with genocide prevention and genocide studies and they built the National Holocaust Museum in the UK and, on the first national Holocaust Memorial Day in Britain, I spoke at Westminster.
“But, even beyond that, when Aung San Suu Kyi was lauded by Dublin, when she arrived and this city extravagantly welcomed her, I sang welcome and spoke welcomely. They asked me to make a speech to her on the stage [inaudible] theatre when she was there and you feel duped.
“You know? I mean, that’s personally, you feel a chump, like you’ve been taken for a ride. Now that seems very petty in the face of 600,000 people being bombed out of their strewed homes, mass rape, killing of the males and being forced to cross impenetrable borders to another country.
“It seems very petty but, it’s all I can do…
“…She’s now a pariah, nobody’s touched her. I spoke at length with Amnesty, with the head of Amnesty about this and would it in any way help. He just returned, literally just returned a week ago from there and he said: you’ve got to do it, Bob, because it’s just appalling.
“I spoke to this in Bogota in Columbia three weeks ago or four weeks, or whatever it was, I had to do something there, and I spoke to it. So it’s not as if this came out of the blue.
“It’s all I can do, Sean. It’s all I can do, you know, that’s it. And it’s my little thing and it will not make one wit of difference, I understand that but you’re political niceties, Sean, in the face of brutal oppression, you know, spare me.
Bob Geldof receiving the freedom of the city of Dublin at a ceremony at the Mansion House in March , 2006; Aung San Suu Kyi pictured with a portrait gift presented to her at an Amnesty International event in her honour at Grand Canal Square in Dublin, 20012
“We are mega. And you are Brentwood. How do we know that you are Brentwood and we are mega? Because I am wearing a f*** off pretend snakeskin suit and [they] are wearing f*** off cowboy shirts even though they live in London.
On the other hand Brentwood, you are wearing wall to wall f*****g Primark.
This is a rock and roll festival. When you come to a rock and roll festival you dress for a rock and roll festival.”
From top: A banner placed outside College Green, Dublin; Bob Geldof in Dubin’s GPO; and Cuban President Raul Castro with American President Barack Obama
What ties Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba with the Easter Rising and Bob Geldof?
Grab a tay.
Ruairí Creaney writes:
Empires are far from benevolent creations. Their natural instinct is to pillage, steal, oppress, torment and kill. As institutions of great power, they have no inclination to heed reasoned arguments put forward by those who wish to end or at least ease their apparatus of repression.
This is the obvious lesson taught by the history of empires, be they British, French, German, Belgian or American. Empires only treat subjugated peoples like human beings when they are forced to do so. Sometimes this comes from peaceful mass movements. More often than not, it comes from violent resistance.
Two events taking place thousands of miles apart – the Easter Rising centenary celebrations and Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba – reveal much about liberal attitudes to empire and the refusal to recognise these lessons.
A recurring theme in both cases is that of “reconciliation” – the idea that the conqueror and the conquered are moral equivalents, both of whom are deemed to have committed wrongs that should be set right.
This can be seen in recent media coverage of the US president’s visit to Cuba, which has been lauded as a “cooling of relations” between the two countries, as if the reality was anything other than one side subjecting the other to invasion and economic sabotage.
In this narrative, Cuba and the United States had a mutual falling out in the past and now they are starting to get along.
In the Irish scenario, the official line is that there was a peaceful alternative at the time that could have avoided the unnecessary violence of the Easter Rising and the War of Independence.
We did horrible things to gain our partial independence, so we need to be “mature” by displaying remorse for these actions and honouring on an equal level as the people who set out to establish Irish democracy the British soldiers who fought to crush it at birth.
Both sides have made mistakes; it’s time to apologise, and it’s time to move on. Or so the story goes.
In the case of Cuba, the supposed crimes of the socialist state are amplified in order to justify the creation of a blatant false equivalent.
Socialist Cuba is apparently a nasty dictatorship that imprisons its citizens on a mass scale, where the police run roughshod over human rights and where elections are rigged in the interests of an unaccountable and powerful elite. Unlike the US, obviously.
The treatment of political “dissidents” – most of whom receive funding from the CIA, as well as other agencies that are openly aggressive towards the socialist system – are routinely invoked by western media outlets to underline this point.
The Guardian this week uncritically quoted leading “dissident” Guillermo Fariñas on a story about the visit. It wasn’t mentioned that his first imprisonment was for beating a female health care worker, while his second term came after he attacked an elderly man.
In the article, he described Obama, a man whose drones have killed thousands of defenceless civilians, many of them children, and arms Apartheid Israel to the teeth, as “the principal defender of democracy in the world”.
This is not to mention the litany of crimes perpetrated against Cuba. Since 1959, the US has invaded Cuba, attempted to murder its president on hundreds of occasions and sabotaged its economy. America’s terrorist campaign against Cuba, which included the bombing of a passenger jet in 1976, has killed more than 3,000 people.
Using the visit to show that Manifest Destiny is still alive, Obama asserted America’s divine right to decide the internal affairs of other countries when he demanded that Cuba reforms its political and economic system.
The implication behind this is obvious; Cuba is the wrongdoer, not America; Cuba’s socialist system is the one that has to change, not America’s capitalist system; When the US and liberals call for “free elections”, what is actually meant is voting contests that occur every five years between superficial corporate-funded candidates; When they call for a “free media”, what they actually mean is a media controlled by a small number of oligarchs, like Rupert Murdoch or Denis O’Brien.
It’s Cuba that’s expected to change, not America.
In Ireland, these double standards have emerged in the state’s official 1916 centenary celebrations, which have been widely derided for frantically attempting to airbrush the country’s anti-imperialist history from existence.
It recently attracted ridicule when a banner depicting Henry Grattan, Charles Stewart Parnell, Daniel O’Connell and John Redmond was erected in College Green.
None of these figures had anything to do with the Rising or the democratic republican tradition that led it.
In fact, Redmond actively opposed the Rising, denouncing it as a German plot and was at the time goading tens of thousands of Irish to their senseless deaths on Western Front.
O’Connell, a rabid reactionary who opposed trade unions and fought against the mildest of restrictions on child labour, was harshly criticised by James Connolly in his seminal book Labour in Irish History. These are uncomfortable truths for Blueshirts.
The latest assault on history and the ideals of the 1916 revolutionaries has come in the form of a two-part RTÉ documentary written by Bob Geldof in which he contends that the Easter Rising “represents the birth of a pious, bitter and narrow-minded version of Ireland I couldn’t wait to escape”, while lauding IPP leader John Redmond as a “genius”.
Geldof’s arguments are reflective of a broader viewpoint prevalent among Irish liberals and conservatives, in which the role of British colonialism is painted as benign while Ireland’s national liberation movement is seen as something parochial, fanatical and undemocratic.
This view, often presented as the pinnacle of critical thought, sits comfortably with those like Geldof who prefer to genuflect to great power rather than challenge it. For them, Redmond is a safe symbol.
He was a sensible moderate who nicely asked the British for a mild form of Home Rule. That he opposed voting rights for women and enthusiastically cheered on the slaughter of 11 million people is beside the point.
Contrary to the claims of Geldof and others, the southern state is not the product of the Easter Rising or the revolution which followed, and it’s precisely for this reason that so much effort has been put into rewriting the history of this period.
The state that exists today is the product of a counter-revolution that began in 1922, which saw the Free State army crushing strikes, the rights of women shredded and the establishment of an oppressive Catholic theocracy.
During the revolution of 1916 – 1922, women were active agents of change, playing a key role in both the national liberation and labour movements. Under Free State rule, their position was one limited to child bearing and housework, a product of Catholic fanaticism. The modern Irish state exists in its current form despite the revolution – not because of it.
Reconciliation should not involve fawning over the British monarchy or pretending that there is a moral equivalent between James Connolly and the men who tied him to a chair and shot him to death.
True reconciliation would not be with the remnants of the British Empire, as fighting for independence is nothing to apologise for.
The only people who are owed an apology are those who have never been cherished equally as promised in the 1916 Proclamation.
An apology is owed to those who have suffered as a result of the counter-revolution and the regime that has run the state ever since; the thousands of homeless made to sleep on the streets lest they interfere with the profits of landlords and developers; the women forced to travel abroad to safely terminate unwanted pregnancies; the unbaptised children denied access to education by intolerant religious institutions; the low-paid workers denied union representation; those who are denied proper health care because of the size of their wallets; the refugees forced to live in direct provision; and the travelling communitythat endures structural racism and is pushed to the margins if Irish society.
These are the results of a rigid class system that has benefited the Irish regime and its supporters.
When James Connolly wrote in 1898 that revolutionaries “are ever idolised when dead, but crucified when living”, he could have added that their ideas are often killed and buried with them.
For it was a similar type of system that exists today in Ireland that Connolly, Roger Casement and Helena Moloney railed against 100 years ago.
It’s little wonder that their ideals are being killed and buried yet again.
Bob Geldof spoke to Dave Fanning this morning on RTÉ Radio One, ahead of his performance with the Boomtown Rats at Electric Picnic this weekend.
After discussing music, the conversation turned towards refugees.
Dave Fanning: “Back in the Eighties, obviously everybody knows you saw [BBC’s] Michael Buerk on the television, you realised something had to be done, you jumped out of your seat and said, ‘we gotta do something’ and you did Band Aid, Live Aid, and the history is all there. And I’m reading from the headlines in just this morning’s paper, I got two here, the Irish Independent, a drowned toddler, ‘the harrowing symbol of a migrant crisis’ and The Guardian, ‘the shocking cruel reality of Europe’s refugee crisis’. Like I mean in terms of just, do you just look upon that as a dad or look upon that as maybe something you could do or something you’ve done before that you can do again or what way do you see it?”
Bob Geldof: “I look at it with profound shame and a monstrous betrayal of who we are and what we wish to be. That’s how I look at it. We are in the moment, currently now, a moment that will be discussed and impacted upon in 300 years time, a fundamental shift in the way the world has worked for the last say 600 years. Power has been sucked out of the West and moved East; technology, once it met money, was multiplied by human greed, collapsed the world economy. If there’s a new economy there needs to be a new politics, there isn’t and it’s a failure of that new politics that led to this fucking…sorry…this disgrace, this absolute sickening disgrace. And late last night, you know, I couldn’t get my head around this so, at about 12.30am I started banging out this piece and I said, ‘ok, let’s take on now, let’s put our money where our mouth is’, so I am prepared. I’m lucky, I’ve got a place in Kent, I’ve got a flat in London. Me and Jan would be prepared to take three families immediately in our place in Kent and a family in our flat in London immediately and put them up until such time that they can get going and they can get a perch on the future. I cannot stand what’s happening. I can’t stand what it does to us. I’ve known and you’ve known and everyone listening knows the bollix we talk about our values are complete nonsense. You know, once it comes home to roost you know, we deny those values, betray ourselves but those values are correct and it happens time and time and time again. So we are better than this, we genuinely are I don’t want to drag you back to the [Boomtown] Rats but, you know, that night on the Late Late where Bono and Gavin Friday were looking at the show and went, ‘what’s this’ and you know Joe O’Connor and various others were going, ‘yes, yes’. You know the point about Ireland at that point, I say to Gay Byrne, is that I always viewed Ireland as a sort of deep-diving whale that every Friday night it was allowed to come up and vent for two hours and then go back down again, get pushed back down again and in those two hours you saw an elegance, an intellectualism, a humanity, a maturity, that wasn’t allowed by the powers-that-be then and eventually of course it made itself known and felt. The same is true now. You know I do understand, of course I understand, the economics and the politics, ‘ah yeah but if we let some more in, we’ll…’ All right. All right. I do understand when [British Prime Minister David] Cameron says the root cause of this must be addressed. Yes it must but we are in a period of fundamental shift.”
“Twelve years ago, I was in Lampadusa, the island where first, you know the people were arriving from North Africa and I was with the Mayor and we went to a refugee camp because he told me every morning he woke up to the sight of men, women and children dead on the rocks around Lampadusa. So I started talking about this. Of course the Daily Mail, you know, were scathing and derogatory and saying, ‘Geldof, you know, doesn’t know what he’s talking about’.
They rang the mayor of Lampadusa and he denied he ever met me but it was happening then because when people are poor, they move. I am an economic migrant, Britain accepted me and let me got on with it. I couldn’t do it in Ireland which made me very bitter about Ireland but made me eternally grateful to the British people for saying, ‘Get on with it, dude’. And I did. The same thing is true of thousands of Irish, millions, in America, Australia, Britain, everywhere else, this is happening again except it’s people fleeing war not famine and economic hardship, that will increase as the environment decays. The environment makes people move from one area of a resource to another. It’s happening and has happened all over Africa. For 40 years, Dave, 30 years I’ve been dealing with refugees. Last year I was in the board of Somalia and Ethiopia like with the refugees from the Somalian war – all of this is happening now. We must have the politics and the humanity to deal with it. It makes me sick and a concert won’t do it.”