First steps taken to remove Freedom of Dublin from Suu Kyi

Council to vote next week on stripping controversial Myanmar leader of honour

Dublin City Council has taken the first steps to remove the Freedom of the City of Dublin from Myanmar de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi over the repression of the country's Rohingya Muslims.

The council decided at a protocol meeting on Thursday to vote on resolutions to rescind the freedom of the city from an individual and to consider a request from an individual to have the honour removed.

The votes will take place on Monday on whether to remove the freedom from Ms Suu Kyi and to agree to a request from Bob Geldof to have his name removed from city's roll of honorary freedom.

The Dublin-born singer, activist and businessman handed the scroll recording his freedom of the city back to city council officials earlier this month in protest at the honour being held by Ms Suu Kyi.

Mr Geldof called the Myanmar leader “a handmaiden to genocide” as he returned the scroll that he received from the council at a ceremony in 2006.

The Boomtown Rats frontman said he would be a hypocrite to share honours with “one who has become at best an accomplice to murder”.

Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country, has been accused of ethnic cleansing of its minority Rohingya Muslim population. Ms Suu Kyi has denied this accusation from the UN, saying that the crackdown in the Rakhine state in western Maymar is aimed at rooting out violent militants.

More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have sought sanctuary in neighbouring Bangladesh after the military in the predominantly Buddhist Myanamar launched a counter-insurgency in northern parts of Rakhine following attacks by Rohingya militants on an army base and police posts in August.

Ms Suu Kyi received the freedom of the city of Dublin in 1999. She was under house arrest in Myanmar at the time and accepted the award in person in 2012.

Sinn Féin councillor Chris Andrews said he would be supporting the freedom of the city being removed from Ms Suu Kyi in next week's vote.

“The issues that Aung San Suu Kyi has are very serious, and we can’t be seen to being complicit,” he said. “It is a symbolic gesture, but sometimes symbolism is very important, and we have to be very clear about our position. She is not going to lose any sleep over it, but we are doing what we see as the right thing.”

Deirdre Heney, a Fianna Fáil councillor, said she would prefer not to remove the freedom of the city from an individual and that she would probably abstain from the vote "because of the way we make decisions".

"I would prefer if we didn't give the freedom out so freely. I would prefer it to be a valued award and that we should give it to people in Ireland, " she said.

“The currency of it has been reduced by the amount of people it has been awarded to. We should be less free with the award. There should be very few people who should get it.”

Ms Suu Kyi was stripped of the Freedom of the City of Oxford by the city councillors on Monday over her response to the repression of the Rohingya Muslims.

The freedom of the city has only been removed from an individual once before. German academic and Celtic scholar Kuno Meyer was stripped of the honour in 1915 due to anti-German feeling during the first World War, but it was restored after the war in 1920.

A total of 82 people have received the freedom of the city. The most recent recipients were former US president Barack Obama and first lady Michelle who were granted the freedom in February 2017.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent