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BBC: Trimble and Hume Centre Stage for Referendum

BBC News, May 20, 1998


Two leaders from both sides of the political divide in Northern Ireland have appeared on stage together at a concert headlined by the band, U2, to show unity ahead of the referendum.

Ulster Unionist (UUP) leader, David Trimble, and his counterpart in the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party, John Hume appeared together for the first time during the campaign.

U2 and the band Ash provided the entertainment and appeared on stage alongside the politicians.

All of them backed a "Yes" vote in the referendum on the Good Friday agreement.

The frontmen from U2 and Ash voiced their support for a political settlement at a concert at Belfast's Waterfront Hall for an invited audience of 2,000 sixth formers from across the province.

Bono said the concert was intended to try to convince people "who have genuine concerns about the political agreement" to vote yes.

He said one way to persuade them would be "to deafen them."

He added that it was good to be standing next to men "who had put a lot aside to make this happen."

Bono and U2 guitarist the Edge performed a number of songs accompanied, after Ash had played their own set.

Before the concert Wheeler said the members of Ash, who come from Downpatrick in Northern Ireland, were happy to support a "Yes" vote in Friday's referendum.

He said his age group had been badly affected by the troubles and he wanted it to be the last generation to suffer.

Mr. Trimble and Mr. Hume were invited on stage by Bono.

He said the two men had made a leap of faith out of the past and into the future.

The two politicians did not speak. They shook hands with each other and with Bono and joined him in observing a moments silence for all the victims of the troubles.

Speaking before the concert Mr. Hume and Mr. Trimble both thanked the two bands for their efforts.

Mr. Trimble said he hoped the event would demonstrate the optimistic forward looking view.

An SDLP spokesman said the concert would send out a powerful political message.

Concert criticised

Leading figures in the "No" campaign criticised the concert, accusing organisers of staging nothing more than a publicity stunt.

U.K. Unionist MP Bob McCartney said: "It is patronising, condescending and, to a degree, insulting to think that by offering a free gig with U2 the votes of young thinking intelligent people can be purchased."

The Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley said the concert would not convince young people to vote "Yes."

He said Mr. Trimble's decision to appear with Mr. Hume had given the "No" camp another stick to beat him with.

But Mr. Trimble said he believed the image of himself and Mr. Hume together was an important symbol of the future of Northern Ireland.

© 1998 BBC News. All rights reserved.

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