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U2’s Bono on growing up with mixed marriage parents – ‘I was spared from doctrinal stuff’


U2 front man Bono.

U2 front man Bono.

Bono rocking it out with U2.

Bono rocking it out with U2.


U2 front man Bono.

Bono has told how growing up in Ireland with parents from a mixed marriage spared him from religious indoctrination.

The U2 front man said that his father Bob, a Catholic, felt it was up to his wife Iris to decide which religion he and his older brother Norman would be raised in.

He recalled his father taking him to a Church of Ireland church in Finglas, Dublin, where the family lived, and then to the Catholic chapel nearby.

But he said his father was ‘very, very elegant’ about the issue of religious upbringing and that as a result, he avoided ‘doctrinal stuff.”

Bono was speaking to Lauren Lavern on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs music and chat show. During the interview, the singer and activist also revealed he has a half-brother on his father’s side, who was kept a secret from him growing up.

Asking Bono about his upbringing as the son of a Protestant mother and Catholic father, Laverne said: “Obviously sectarianism was a huge issue in Ireland at the time. Did your parents’ different background cause problems for them?”

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Bono replied: “I think my father’s family didn’t turn up at the wedding and there were some issues.

“My father was very, very elegant about all of this. He used to drive us to St Canice’s Church of Ireland church because he felt my mother should have the choice in what religion we grew up in, so we went to this little Church of Ireland church and then he would drive to St Canice’s Catholic church.

“It was about a hundred yards away. I mean it’s just so mad. They say you get just enough religion to inoculate you against it.

“I didn’t. They spared me, the both of them, from any doctrinal stuff.”

The 62-year-old, who lost his mother to an aneurysm when he was just 14, told Laverne how he discovered he had a half-brother in 2000 and how he was ‘at peace’ with the situation after talking to his father about it before his death in 2001.

“I do have another brother whom I love and adore that I didn’t know I had, or maybe I did,” said Bono.

“My father was obviously going through a lot but partly his head was elsewhere because his heart was elsewhere, so I think that was part of the problem I was picking up as a kid.

“It’s a very close family and I could tell that my father had a deep friendship with this gorgeous woman who is part of the family and then they had a child and this was all kept a secret.”

Bono told Laverne that he had asked his father if he had loved his mother to which Bob replied ‘yes’.

“I asked him how could this happen and he said ‘it can’ and that he was trying to put it right, trying to do the right thing,” he continued.

“He wasn’t apologising, he was just stating these are the facts.”

The star told how he had gone into a chapel in France, some time after his father’s death, and asked for his forgiveness.

“There was nobody there, I lit a candle and I got on my knees and I just said: ‘Look I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you, you went through a lot and please forgive me’ and I felt free,” he said.

The programme was recorded before Laverne’s mother Celia died on Friday.

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