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21 March 2016

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Bob Geldof KBE – 'eyes dazed by the unsetting sun of England's Empire'

Bob Geldof was speaking about the life of poet WB Yeats

KICKING OFF its 1916 Centenary Commemorations programme, the Fine Gael/Labour Government screened a video entitled Ireland 2016 in the GPO. Widely ridiculed by some and outraging many more, the Easter Rising commemorative film somehow managed not to include any of the 1916 leaders or even the Proclamation – but it did include musician Bob Geldof.

Bob Geldof returned the favour at the weekend when he appeared on the Marian Finucane Show on RTÉ Radio to speak about W. B. Yeats. He told the masses that the 1916 revolutionaries were wrong and the parliamentarians were right.

Apparently without irony, the Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire punctuated his lecture with personal stories about Africa, a continent still suffering the effects of horrific imperialist plunder and colonial carve-ups – including by the British Empire.

Geldof is no fan of pro-independence movements.

During the Scottish independence referendum he railed against those patriotic Scots who wanted their own state freed from domination by Westminster, so it is perhaps unsurprising that on Irish affairs he has taken the side of former Fine Gael Taoiseach John Bruton in his criticism of the rebels and fawning over Irish Parliamentary Party leader John Redmond.

“[Home Rule] had been achieved through peaceful, parliamentary democracy by John Redmond – who has been sort of cast aside this year,” claims Geldof (he obviously hasn't seen the much-criticised giant banner of Redmond on College Green in Dublin).

“He's a genius; he followed Parnell. These are great men – they don't kill anyone. You don't have to kill – Martin Luther King told us, Mahatma Ghandi taught us, Mandela taught us, you don't have to do that to get your freedom.”

Allowed to skip swiftly over his apparent ignorance of the life of Nelson Mandela, Geldof glosses over the fact that in September 1914 his hero Redmond had called for Irishmen to enlist in their droves in the imperialist army of the British Empire and go “wherever the fighting line extends”.

This speech and subsequent recruiting rallies by Redmond resulted in 30,000 Irishmen being slaughtered with bullets, bombs and chemical weapons in the trenches of Europe. Hardly the actions of a devoted pacifist!

The response of the Irish Volunteers was cutting. Writing in The Irish Volunteer, the movement said some nationalists have “had their eyes dazed by the unsetting sun of England's Empire”.

“Traitors is too harsh a term for them,” the Volunteers noted, instead describing them as “dotards” with a “fawning submission” to Britain.

Sound familiar?

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