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Wednesday 15 August 2018

Adoring dave sings Bono's praises

But this celeb 'profile' was as gutless as a Biography Channel show

Don't get me started on fruit. I'm not going to fall into old the trap of saying Ireland's Greatest is like comparing apples and oranges, because it's not. It's much more silly and pointless than that.

Michael Collins, Bono, James Connolly, John Hume, Mary Robinson -- that's not apples and oranges. It's not even bananas and apricots. Or grapes and pineapples.

You might as well throw the fruit in the bin and just compare completely random items: a hammer and a pencil; a keyboard and a sod of turf; a horse and a kitchen table (and, please, do feel free to amuse yourselves with some ridiculous pairings of your own).

Ireland's Greatest is a glorified popularity contest; a televised pub argument. Whoever "wins", the result is of no relevance to anything whatsoever, no more than was the result of Great Britons, the BBC series on which Ireland's Greatest is based.

That vote put Winston Churchill at number one, with Princess Diana coming in third -- ahead of Darwin and Shakespeare!

Still, at least the contenders in Great Britons were all safely dead, their reputations, for good or ill, sealed in the casket with them. History judges the dead, not the living, and last night's subject, Bono, still has an awful lot of living to do.

I've no idea when Dave Fanning's adoring documentary advocating the U2 singer was made, but it was obviously completed long before last week's revelation that Bono's ONE campaign, which he set up to help fight the Aids epidemic and combat global poverty, took in millions of euro in public donations in 2008, yet distributed only a couple of hundred thousand to three charities. The rest was spent on salaries and administration.

Not that any of this would have dented Fanning's enthusiasm. He's been U2's biggest fan and most vocal cheerleader since the band first broke, and the film reflected this above all else.

Fanning's arguments for Bono's greatness -- that he "made Ireland cool" and that his agitation on behalf of the world's poor, starving and oppressed have affected the lives of millions -- were thin, vague and unconvincing.

The kerfuffle about U2 moving their operation to the Netherlands to save on their tax bill, the criticism that Bono misguidedly cosies up to warmongers, tyrants and religious dictators, and the accusation that he tells ordinary people to dig deep without ever putting his hand in his own substantial pocket were blithely dismissed.

"Bono has always tried to mix oil and water," said Fanning, "preaching about charity while at the same time raking in the millions." Perhaps, but that doesn't make it any less unpalatable to watch images of Bono throwing an arm around Vladimir Putin, trading pleasantries with George W Bush, or giving Pope John Paul II a pair of his wraparound shades.

To be honest, Fanning's arguments didn't really matter, because they were frequently drowned by the tide of adoring fanboy drool gushing from the screen. At times, even he seemed to forget why he was there and what he was supposed to be doing, and increasingly fell back on shrink-wrapped soundbytes.

"His drive isn't just to be in a band or to be famous, his drive is to be heard . . . He's driven by a need to be relevant . . . If celebrity was the currency, Bono wanted to spend it wisely, " and blah, blah, blah.

Not that the film was without entertainment value. Like Michael McDowell's presentation on Michael Collins last week, it was pacey and impeccably produced, and the wealth of archive footage was stunning.

Ultimately, though, it was barely a notch above those toothless, gutless celebrity profiles you find on the Biography Channel.

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