Barack Obama freedom of Dublin hangs in balance

Councillors at odds over US president’s nomination for city honour

President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, is greeted by well-wishers at College Green, Dublin in 2011. Photograph: Eric Luke

President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, is greeted by well-wishers at College Green, Dublin in 2011. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

A proposal to award US President Barack Obama with the Freedom of the City of Dublin has had to be postponed after councillors were unable to agree on his nomination.

The new Lord Mayor of Dublin, Labour’s Brendan Carr, proposed Mr Obama for the city’s highest honour citing his Irish roots, his support of the peace process in Northern Ireland, and his importance as a symbol of minorities in the US and worldwide.

Mr Obama had “succeeded in being a voice of stability and reason” in a world where such attributes were increasingly rare, Mr Carr said, and had shown a “commitment to making the world a better place to live”.

Nominating individuals to receive the freedom of the city is the prerogative of the Lord Mayor, but he must have the support of councillors to award the honour.

Several councillors said Mr Obama’s nomination was “sprung” on them, and they weren’t in a position to support it at this time, but other councillors said they would refuse to support his nomination.

“This is the freedom of Dublin city. I can’t point to a single thing Barack Obama has done for Dublin city,” Green Party councillor Patrick Costello said. It was also many years since a woman had been awarded the freedom of the city he said. “Can we not find at least one if not two females?”

Workers Party councillor Eilis Ryan called Mr Obama a “war monger” and said she would not support his nomination.

United Left councillor Pat Dunne said he had “nothing personally against” Mr Obama, but that there should have been consultation on his nomination.

Independent councillor Christy Burke and Fine Gael councillor Declan Flanagan asked if anyone knew whether Mr Obama would be able to attend a ceremony to accept the honour if awarded.

Mr Carr said he had sent emails to councillors alerting them to his intention to nominate Mr Obama, but he agreed to postpone consideration of the nomination until September.