Geldof in plea over Suu Kyi’s freedom of Dublin city

Musician, who handed back honour, says Myanmar leader should be stripped of award

Bob Geldof at Dublin City Hall where he returned his freedom of the city award. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

Bob Geldof at Dublin City Hall where he returned his freedom of the city award. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES


Musician Bob Geldof has written to Dublin City Councillors asking them to remove the freedom of the city from the Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The singer last month sparked debate when he returned his own freedom of the city award in protest at Ms Suu Kyi also having the honour as he was angered by her perceived inaction on violence against her country’s Rohingya minority.

Councillors are due to vote on the fate of both recipients’ honours at a meeting on Monday.

“I know that I irritate many of you,” Geldof said in his letter, a copy of which has been seen by The Irish Times. “For fear of raising your ire once more allow me please to make one last plea directly to you before your important vote this morning.”

Describing reports of atrocities from Myanmar, Geldof told councillors that by voting upon the issue, regardless of the result, they had not turned away “in the face of true horror”.

“Councillor, all of us find it difficult to foreswear our heroes,” his letter goes on. “But when the failings of the admired one are so egregious, so foul, so unforgivably inhuman and dangerous such that any past merit is extinguished on the instant, then other more disturbing realities must be confronted.”

‘Collapse of civilisation’

He said Ms Suu Kyi’s freedom of the city was in marked contrast to events in her country which amount to a “collapse of civilisation or indeed what it is to be human”.

“Aung San Suu Kyi cannot continue to be a part of us, even at distance. That association taints all of us who are lucky enough to be of this city.”

Ms Suu Kyi received the award in 1999, accepting it in person in 2012 following years of house arrest in her country. However, her reputation has been damaged following an outbreak of what the UN labelled a “textbook” example of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.

A predominantly Buddhist country, Myanmar has been accused of atrocities against the minority Muslim Rohingya population. Ms Suu Kyi has denied this accusation from the UN. More than 600,000 Rohingya have sought sanctuary in neighbouring Bangladesh.

Cllr Mannix Flynn, who has supported Gelfdof’s bid to raise awareness of the issue, said Monday’s proceedings were about nobody but the Rohingya people.

“He is being struck off the list [OF HONOURS]on Monday in what I believe is an honourable, principled stance,” he said. “This day is about the Rohingya people; it’s not about Bob Geldof, it’s about no one else.”