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Saturday 18 November 2017

From Boomtown rat to a bombastic bore

Bob Geldof
Bob Geldof

Does anybody, apart from a handful of reporters sent out in the cold to cover it, honestly care that Bob Geldof has handed back his Freedom of the City of Dublin? Does anybody care that he was given it at all? Does anybody remember when, and what for?

Imagine if absolutely nobody had turned up when he grandly presented himself and his scroll at City Hall to hand it back in protest.

Of course, absolutely nobody would have, if Geldof hadn't made such a public song and dance about it.

The Freedom of the City, which carries no title, money or other status, was given to him in 2006 on foot of his admirable humanitarian work with Live Aid and other charities.

He sang in the Boomtown Rats, raised money for Africa, persuaded us to give some of ours away and has generally had what the media terms a "colourful" life tinged with tragedy after the deaths of both his first wife Paula and his daughter Peaches.

However, the ungrateful singer now claims he doesn't want to be on the same honorary list as Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi. She got the same gong (bit of paper, really) in 1999 (though she didn't pick it up until 2012 as she was under house arrest at the time.

It was given in good faith, to acknowledge her activism, and the red carpet was rolled out when she turned up.

Geldof  now terms her "at best an accomplice to murder, complicit in ethnic cleansing and a handmaiden to genocide", adding: "Her association with our city shames us all and we should have no truck with it, even by default. We honoured her, now she appals and shames us." Is he right?

A poll for Claire Byrne Live in September found that of 1,000 adults interviewed, 42pc said Suu Kyi's award should be rescinded (maybe Geldof was watching that night), but 58pc said it shouldn't, or that they didn't know.

Righteous though Geldof's argument may be, the entire exercise looks like a self-absorbed stunt. As a publicity enterprise, the singer - who never met a microphone he didn't like - has found himself on the front pages of his home town's newspapers and on our TV screens.

Suu Kyi has stayed silent on the issue of the genocide and forceful migration of 600,000 Rohingya Muslims in her region.

Awful

She went from "good" to "questionably awful" in a few short years. Indeed, the city council has already asked for a debate on pulling the award and written to the Myanmar government and finance minister to protest at her actions.

I very much doubt Suu Kyi is quaking in her boots at the thought of no longer being a freewoman of Dublin.

The Lord Mayor, Sinn Fein's Micheal MacDonncha, noted it was "ironic" that Geldof chose this award, and not his British knighthood, to return.

When it comes to handing out gongs, none is more coveted across the water than Knight Commander of the British Empire, and there's a smattering of Irish recipients, including Bob, or Sir Bob as he's erroneously called (non-Commonwealth citizens cannot use the title).

He appears to have no qualms over being on an exclusive if dodgy list of recipients that once included another Sir Bob - Robert Mugabe - plus Sir Nicolae Ceausescu and Sir Benito Mussolini.

One potential comrade in arms, Bono, has remained silent so far. He received the Freedom of Dublin in 1999, a few years before moving all U2 profits to the Netherlands for tax purposes.

Asked about Bono's decision, Geldof said: "He's a solid, cool, very clever guy. It doesn't answer your question, but I'm not going to comment on other people's things."

Never stopped you before, Bob.

Leonard Doyle, from the International Organisation for Migration, says Geldof's toys-out-of-the-pram move was political grandstanding, and added that his focus would be better directed to the people in Myanmar rather than "some showbiz gesture".

All the same, let's see what Bob is giving up by handing back his award. Well, he can no longer bring goods into Dublin without paying customs. With Brexit coming up, that'll hurt.

His right to pasture sheep on St Stephen's Green is only a dream now, but he'll be spared the responsibility of defending the city from attack, though what we'll do when we're attacked by has-been pop singers is anybody's guess.

It'll be every man for himself without Bob.

If Suu Kyi is stripped of her award, Bob wants his back. I presume that'll be another excuse for a cavalcade of media and song and dance of the non-musical kind.

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