‘Don’t read it’: Ireland reacts to Bono’s St Patrick’s Day Ukraine poem

US house speaker Nancy Pelosi read his verse about the Ukraine war on St Patrick’s Day

Bono said the poem ‘wasn’t written to be published’. Photograph: Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty

Bono has yet again caught much public ire after a St Patrick’s Day poem was met with deep dissatisfaction online.

US congresswoman and House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi marked St Patrick's Day on Thursday by reading a poem by U2 frontman Bono. The poem covered Irish mythology and the war in Ukraine, implying that much like St Patrick, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy is banishing snakes from the country.

Bono's verse has been met with a wave of sighs, criticism and general bafflement online. Suffice to say, although Pelosi and her colleagues seemed to enjoy the poem, it hasn't gone down well back in Ireland.

Pelosi read the poem at the annual Friends of Ireland lunch in Washington DC.


"I got this message this morning from Bono," Pelosi said before she announced the Riverdance 25th anniversary show. "Bono has been a very Irish part of our lives." She then read the following poem from Bono, whose real name is Paul David Hewson, which reads like three limericks:

Oh, St Patrick he drove out the snakes
With his prayers but that's not all it takes
For the snake symbolises
An evil that rises
And hides in your heart, as it breaks
And the evil has risen my friends
From the darkness that lives in some men
But in sorrow and fear
That's when saints can appear
To drive out those old snakes once again
And they struggle for us to be free
From the psycho in this human family
Ireland's sorrow and pain
Is now the Ukraine
And St Patrick's name now Zelenskiy

“I’ve a tradition of sending a limerick to [Pelosi’s] St Patrick’s Day lunch over the years,” Bono said on Twitter. “This year the limerick is irregular & not funny at all. We stand with the people of Ukraine & their leader.” Bono also said the poem “wasn’t written to be published”, but after much attention he released it on U2’s Twitter page.

Online reaction to the poem has ranged from Pink Floyd's Roger Waters calling Bono and Pelosi "eejits", to comedian Michael Fry suggesting it was written within five minutes.

In the poem, Bono says, “Ireland’s sorrow and pain, Is now the Ukraine”. It should be pointed out that the use of “the Ukraine” is officially deprecated by the Ukrainian government and many English language media publications as it is deemed offensive. “The Ukraine” is how Russians referred to that part of the country during the Soviet era, while “Ukraine” is its name as a sovereign state.

US president Joe Biden was also scheduled to meet with Taoiseach Micheál Martin for the annual St Patrick's Day visit on Thursday, but the face-to-face meeting was cancelled after the Taoiseach tested positive for Covid-19.