Belfast Telegraph

Bono has never been one-sided in his contempt for terror... whatever flag it flies

U2 have always been even-handed when it comes to criticising atrocities, insists Ivan Little

The sometimes pompous and overbearing Bono can be accused of many things but the U2 singer has been anything but one-sided in his condemnation of the perpetrators of violence here - no matter which side they're on.

Yet Belfast's former Lord Mayor Jim Rodgers has still sounded a dire warning of what might happen at the SSE Arena next month if U2 sing their new song Raised by Wolves complete with emotive pictorial backdrops about the UVF's Dublin/Monaghan bombings which claimed 33 lives in 1974.

The veteran Ulster Unionist politician who says he's a fan of the band has called on them to review their decision to play the song whose inclusion at the Belfast gig he says would be insensitive to the feelings of victims of Republican violence.

But could U2's cry for justice for the victims of Ireland's bloodiest carnage - most of it in U2's hometown - really spark a riot in Belfast as Jim Rodgers suggest? I doubt it.

Cllr Rodgers says the Belfast set list should be more balanced but where is he advocating that Bono draws the line? It's not as if the man hasn't spoken out and sung out about IRA atrocities in the past.

Who knows? Maybe the contentious song, its visuals and its audio might be dropped for Belfast but U2 aren't known for running away from controversy.

When they played a gig at the King's Hall in Belfast in June 1987 there were predictions that all hell would break loose if they included their song Sunday Bloody Sunday about Derry's darkest day in their repertoire. Three years earlier in Maysfield Leisure Centre Bono had said he would never sing the song again if the audience didn't like it but the response was positive though the singer continued to introduce it with the words "This is not a rebel song"

However in 1987 the smart money was still on U2 not playing the song amid the tensions that prevailed in Belfast at the time.

I interviewed Bono at Belfast International Airport just hours before the concert and he wasn't giving anything away about the set list. The only surprise in store he said would be whether or not the band could stay in tune.

As it turned out Sunday Bloody Sunday was the seventh song they sang. And there wasn't a murmur of discontent from the 6,000 fans.

Ironically just five months after the Belfast gig the IRA earned Bono's venomous wrath after they killed 11 people in the Poppy Day bombing in Enniskillen.

U2 were performing in Denver, Colorado later that same day and during Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bono condemned the atrocity, shouting 'f*** the revolution' in a speech in the middle of the song. He also denounced armchair Republicans among Irish Americans and said most people in Ireland didn't support the IRA.

"Where's the glory of bombing in bombing a Remembrance Day parade of old age pensioners, their medals taken out and polished up for the day. Where's the glory in that? To leave them dying or crippled for life or dead under the rubble of the revolution that the majority of people in my country don't want." he added "No more"

Bono could scarcely have made his feelings clearer and he backed his words with actions when U2 played a gig for a specially invited audience of young voters at the Waterfront Hall on the eve of the referendum on the Good Friday agreement in May 1998

It was only a matter of months of course before the Omagh bomb killed 29 people and Bono said on a TV tribute to the victims: "The only grain of hope that you can possibly glean from this terror is that this has to be the end of it."

Bono later wrote a song called Peace on Earth which featured the names of some of the Omagh victims including that of Ann McCombe whose husband Stanley said he was honoured that she'd been mentioned and added that millions of people around the world would understand the message.

Belfast Telegraph


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