Jon Bon Jovi is just the latest in a long line of international famous faces to attract derision and criticism for their takes on our political affairs
Jon Bon Jovi’s bizarre claim that he was glad to avoid getting beaten up by Orangemen as a child like U2 frontman Bono was the latest example of stars getting in a tangle on Irish affairs.
The rock superstar — famous for hits such as Livin’ On A Prayer and Lay Your Hands On Me — made the astonishing comments in a podcast broadcast this week.
On Bono, Bon Jovi said: “His upbringing was obviously very different than mine. I mean, I never had the Orangemen walking through my neighbourhood saying, you know, get the Catholic kid and beat him up.”
He adds to a lengthy list of unusual rock star and celebrity interventions on Irish matters.
From John Lennon and Jane Fonda to Rose McGowan and Motorhead — it always seems to stir controversy.
In 1988, American thrash metal band Megadeth had to leave Antrim in a bullet-proof bus after frontman Dave Mustaine unwittingly supported the IRA on stage in a drug-fuelled haze.
The incident started when security at the Antrim Forum venue confronted a bootlegger selling counterfeit T-shirts for ‘The Cause’. Writing in his latest memoir, Mustaine recalled: “I had no idea what that meant, but it sounded cool.”
Taking a shot of schnapps “and some of everything else” offstage before the last song, he said: “Full of everything and looking out at the crowd, a song I had heard by Paul McCartney popped into my mind (Wings’ debut single Give Ireland Back to the Irish in 1972 was a response to the events of Bloody Sunday and was banned by the BBC) and I thought, ‘If it’s good enough for Sir Paul, it’s good enough for me’.
“I walked up to the microphone and said, ‘Give Ireland back to the Irish, this one is for The Cause’.
“We slammed into the Sex Pistols’ song ‘Anarchy in the UK,’ which we altered to ‘Anarchy in Antrim’ for the occasion.
“It was like I had set off a bomb in the audience. It divided the crowd right down the middle, Protestants and Catholics.
“We were escorted out of town that night in a bullet-proof bus, although I still didn’t realise the enormity of my gaffe.”
His bandmates were left furious but the chaotic scenes inspired Mustaine to write the band’s famous song, ‘Holy Wars’.
Last month, Oscar-winning actress and political activist Jane Fonda (82) was accused of putting a Hollywood spin on a visit to Martin McGuinness’ Bogside home in 1976. Speaking on RTE’s Late Late show, she claimed a body was carried into the house and her husband dipped his fingers in the blood to show their young son Troy.
McGuinness was an IRA commander at the time, but this version of events was rubbished by his son Fiachra, who accused her of “bringing a fiction movie to the Bogside in Derry.”
Fonda said that during her visit to Ireland with her late husband Tom Hayden, they had initially wanted to meet Gerry Adams but were directed to McGuinness’ home.
“We were sitting in the living room when a body was carried in, bleeding a lot. It was the Troubles and it was sort of shocking,” she said. “Tom put some of the blood on his fingers and said to Troy, ‘Your forefathers, your forebearers, your people’.” In the 80s, English megastar David Bowie caused a stir on a visit to Ireland.
Before headlining Slane Castle in 1987, Bowie was said to be so terrified of snipers that he refused to meet support acts and wore the same costume on stage as his bandmates. Aslan star Christy Dignam was supporting the late rock icon that day and said he was forbidden from going near him as he was “paranoid” about being an Englishman playing in Ireland during the Troubles.
Speaking in 2018, Christy said: “At the time he didn’t want to meet us because he was over here as an Englishman in Ireland during the Troubles and John Lennon had also been shot just a few years prior to the visit. He was real paranoid. When he was preparing to go on stage we were backstage and he went on in a military formation.
“There was about 12 or 16 of them in the band and they were all in grey boiler suits, so if there was a sniper there they could not have picked out which one was Bowie.”
Terri Hooley also found himself in a tangle with Beatle John Lennon when the conversation turned to Ireland.
Known as the Godfather of Ulster punk, Hooley was famous for discovering The Undertones as well as opening the Good Vibrations record store in Belfast during the Troubles.
An active peace campaigner, he later recounted a punch-up with Lennon for allegedly supporting the IRA.
Speaking in 2008, he said the incident happened during a trip to London in the 1960s.
“Me and a few friends had just set up a pirate radio station in the Craigantlet Hills and were in London to get equipment for it when I met Lennon,” he said at the time.
“I can clearly remember that one of Lennon’s friends brought us to a garage and showed us guns and asked us if we wanted to bring them back home.
“They obviously thought we were ‘the lads’. We were ‘the lads’, just not the ones they thought we were.
“Later that night I met Lennon himself and got in an argument with him, about not being a pacifist. There was some talk of money being sent to the IRA and I chinned him. He hit me back.”
Hooley claimed the fight only ended after his glass eye landed on the floor, but he still considered Lennon a hero.
“It was never about the politics, it was about the music.”
In 2008, American actress Rose McGowan also went off script while promoting the crime thriller Fifty Dead Men Walking.
The film was based on the memoirs of Martin McGartland, an RUC Special Branch agent who infiltrated the IRA in the 80s. Much to the filmmakers’ horror, McGowan said at a press conference in Toronto: “I imagine, had I grown up in Belfast, I would 100% have been in the IRA,” adding “violence is not to be played out daily and provide an answer to problems, but I understand it”.
The producers quickly distanced themselves from her comments saying they regretted any “distress that this may have caused to people of Northern Ireland”, especially victims.
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Northern Ireland Premium
A former IRA man has dismissed as "utter nonsense" claims by Hollywood actress Jane Fonda that a bleeding body was carried into Martin McGuinness's house while she was visiting in 1976.