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'Bono Pay Up': art group plans tax protest at Glastonbury gig

Irish Times, June 06, 2011
By: Brian Boyd


U2 will be making a long-awaited first appearance at the Glastonbury festival on Friday, June 24th, but lobby group Art Uncut will not be cheering them on.

Members of the organisation say they will be staging a "highly visible" protest from the audience to draw attention to what they claim is the band's tax avoidance.

Stressing their actions won't be violent or disruptive, Art Uncut say they will be holding up a large, illuminated "Bono Pay Up" sign during the band's set and that they also plan to float an oversized bundle of fake cash across the crowd; from an Irish Tricolour on one side to a Dutch flag on the other. This is in reference to the band's controversial 2006 decision to move part of their business to the Netherlands to lessen their tax burden following the Irish Government's decision to put a cap on the amount of tax-free earnings available to artists here.

Art Uncut, who bill themselves as "Artists and Musicians Against The Cuts", are an internet-based U.K. organisation who are opposed to the current round of public expenditure cuts and campaign against those who they claim are "tax dodging - whether legal or not."

As "Direct Action Tax Protesters" they are believed to have been involved in the recent protests in the U.K. against Vodafone, TopShop, Boots and Fortnum and Mason.

Art Uncut feel U2 singer Bono in particular is a deserving target of their protest due to his high-profile campaigning on Third World debt and what they would see as his inconsistency in being party to U2 moving some of their tax liability outside Ireland to minimise their overall tax bill.

By announcing plans of their U2 protest in advance though, they run the risk of security being tightened up at the festival.

U2 have always said they are totally "tax compliant" and a spokeswoman last night said the band's position remained that outlined previously by manager Paul McGuinnes when he said: "U2 is a global business and pays taxes globally. At least 95 per cent of U2's business takes place outside of Ireland and as a result the band pays many different kinds of taxes all over the world."

In an interview with The Irish Times two years ago, Bono spoke about how he was "stung" and "hurt" by criticism of the band's tax arrangements by some politicians and development groups.

"The thing that stung was the accusation of hypocrisy for my work as an activist," he said.

Bono added at the time that there appeared to be a double standard in welcoming international investment in financial services in Ireland (who all availed of this country's then lower tax rates), while criticising Irish entities who operate abroad.

© Irish Times, 2011.

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