U2’s Bono lobbied government on housing, database shows

Singer had phone call with Minister for Finance earlier this year

It is not the first time Bono has sought to influence public policy in the state. File photograph: AFP/Getty Images

It is not the first time Bono has sought to influence public policy in the state. File photograph: AFP/Getty Images

 

U2 frontman Bono lobbied the government in recent weeks to establish a “broad-based, special housing policy task force,” according to public records filed on Friday.

Under his given name, Paul Hewson, an entry was created in the State’s lobbying database for the period covering January 1st to April 30th this year. It shows he had a phone call with Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe at some point in that period.

A description of the lobbying activity states it was “facilitating discussion of the housing crisis in Ireland and the potential establishment of a broad-based, special housing policy task force”.

Mr Hewson, who has in the past faced criticism for how U2 organise their tax affairs in the Netherlands, has been active in Ireland’s efforts to secure personal protective equipment and other material needed in the fight against Covid-19. He made calls to Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, Apple chief executive Tim Cook, Mark Benioff of US software company Salesforce, and Walmart chief executive Doug McMillon.

It is thought that the lobbying on housing policy may have occurred around the same time as Mr Donohoe was seeking Bono’s help, along with other prominent Irish people, on this effort.

It is not the first time Mr Hewson has sought to influence public policy in the state; in 2016, he lobbied the then minister for the environment Alan Kelly, indicating his support for “the idea of a world class film studio in Dublin”.

That effort was followed up with another phone call to Simon Coveney in 2017, who was then minister for housing, with the same goal. The lobbying was done in support of a project to build such a studio on the Poolbeg Peninsula in Dublin’s docklands.

James Morris, of Windmill Lane Studios, and Alan Maloney, who produced the Oscar-nominated feature film Brooklyn, said in 2016 that they could provide 3,000 jobs at a docklands film studio. Speaking to The Irish Times in 2016, the pair said they were “delighted to have the support of Bono who has been a tireless campaigner for the creative arts, for investment in Ireland - and has a global reputation in the creative industries”.

His only other foray into lobbying the government, according to records filed on the lobbying register, came in 2017, when he held a meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Mr Coveney - by then in the Department of Foreign Affairs - and Mr Donohoe, alongside Martin Fraser, the Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach, to discuss overseas development aid.