Belfast Telegraph

'Gordon Wilson's interview, when he describes being under the rubble with his daughter Marie and her last words, so full of forgiveness, so humbling... his faith gives you faith'

In this exclusive interview from Trouble Songs, U2 frontman Bono tells Stuart Bailie why the Poppy Day massacre survivor inspired him

Stuart Bailie: Did the Miami Showband killings of 1975 register when you were growing up?

Bono: It shocked and appalled us... it's a story that needs to be told more than it is. As was rightly pointed out to me when I talked about the attack on the Bataclan club in Paris. The Miami Showband massacre was actually the first terror attack on music in our time.

SB: How important was it to hear Stiff Little Fingers singing about the conflict in 1978?

B: Even more than The Clash, SLF showed us how we could dramatise local issues and make them global. Suspect Device was just genius and, of course, Alternative Ulster more than contributed to Edge's drone-like guitar sound... it was a clarion call for another land... one yet to be discovered... the land of the imagination.

SB: Sunday Bloody Sunday still polarises some listeners. The likes of Feargal Sharkey have been critical of the song. How do you regard the song now?

B: What a beautiful voice that man has. And he put his whole person behind his politics in every which way except with his music and it's totally understandable that The Undertones would have been annoyed to see U2 traipse across the globe, singing about their town, while we lived in the safety of the south... I get it... our teenage kicks were a little more earnest... in truth, it's a lyric about how the original Bloody Sunday, Easter Sunday, was at the heart of both communities and how Christianity had been hijacked for people's political ends... one community dominates the other, etc. I'm not sure it's a very well-written lyric if I'm still having to explain it. A better idea than a lyric, indeed a better tune.

SB: The Enniskillen Bombing of 1987 provoked a very emotional response during a U2 gig in Denver on the night the news broke. It stayed in the edit of Rattle And Hum. How important was it to document this reaction?

B: I found it excruciating and to this day try to avoid ever having to witness myself in such a self-conscious rage. Some things have to be said, though. You can't become a monster to defeat a monster. I only recently heard a replay... it must have been an anniversary... of (Enniskillen bombing survivor) Gordon Wilson's interview, when he describes being under the rubble with his daughter and her last words... so full of forgiveness, so inspiring, so humbling. His faith gives you faith.

SB: At the 1998 Waterfront Hall gig in Belfast you encouraged John Hume and David Trimble to shake hands. How do you measure that moment, on reflection?

B: Shaking hands was an obvious symbol... the best idea I had on that day was asking both men not to speak. An unusual restriction for a politician. But we knew the photo was everything and we were scared of booing from one side or the other... what's less well-known is that, after a meeting backstage, I left the two men on their own and told everyone outside that they didn't want to be disturbed. I think they lasted about seven minutes.

(c) Stuart Bailie 2018. Trouble Songs - Music and Conflict in Northern Ireland by Stuart Bailie is published on May 11. Available to pre-order now from

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