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COMMENT: Geldof’s gesture is above politics

Monday, 20th November, 2017 7:59am

Story by Jack Gleeson
COMMENT: Geldof’s gesture is above politics

Bob Geldof has returned his Freedom of Dublin award. PHOTO: BIGSTOCK

COMMENT: Geldof’s gesture is above politics

Bob Geldof has returned his Freedom of Dublin award. PHOTO: BIGSTOCK

BOB Geldof caused a bit of controversy last week by handing back the Freedom of Dublin in what he admits was a PR stunt.

No stranger to causing a stir, Geldof’s aim was to draw attention to the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. And rightly so as it’s a humanitarian crisis we hear relatively little about.

According to Amnesty International, security forces have been responsible for unlawful killings, random firing on civilians, rape and arbitrary arrests.

The Rohingya people who haven’t fled have been confined to their villages or displacement camps and segregated from other communities.

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has the Freedom of Dublin, has failed to condemn the violence and is being slated by world leaders and UN officials who accuse her of turning a blind eye to the bloodshed.

Oxford City Council in the UK voted to strip her of the Freedom of the City, so Geldof’s action is reflective of growing international protest against what many believe amounts to ethnic cleansing.

Dublin granted Suu Kyi Freedom of the City back in 1999 and according to the Lord Mayor’s section on Dublin City Council’s website, the award acknowledges the contribution of certain people to the life of our city.

In Suu Kyi’s case it’s a symbolic, mostly meaningless, gesture.

Geldof, a bona-fide Dubliner, is certainly a more deserving recipient. His work with Band Aid and Live Aid galvanised the world like never before to come together in solidarity in an effort to save millions from starvation.

Over the years, he has tirelessly worked to raise awareness of issues such as debt in the developing world and AIDS, shamelessly using his fame to highlight injustices.

He has questioned the historical political narrative in Ireland and battled against the rise of right-wing populism in the UK.

So while you mightn’t agree with his views, it’s refreshing - and vitally important - to hear alternative voices.

Geldof - a brave, passionate man who could be excused for shunning the limelight having faced the most horrific personal tragedies - is still prepared to stand up for what he believes is right. And he genuinely feels that the under-reported plight of Rohingya Muslims is a cause worth making a stand over.

It’s an issue above politics, but Dublin Lord Mayor, Mícheál Mac Donncha, seemingly couldn’t help himself in his response to Geldof’s stance.

While also condemning the persecution of the Rohingya, Dublin’s First Citizen took the opportunity to have a pop at Geldof for daring to accept an award from the Brits for his charity work and for having the audacity to ask hard questions about 1916.

The Lord Mayor, who is a Sinn Féin councillor, might enjoy a few back-slaps from fellow Republicans following his anti-British comments. But trying to score political points from Geldof’s heartfelt gesture is nothing to feel smug about.

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