Bono recently took part in an interview on Irish television with veteran broadcaster Gay Byrne that was broadcast in June. The program The Meaning Of Life involves Byrne interviewing a well-known public figure, exploring the person's views on faith, religion and opening up about personal aspects of his/her life.
In the interview Bono talked about his religious faith, his humanitarian work, his relationship with his father and the passing of his mother when he was young. He also gave a brief insight into his relationship with Ali, and how he was persuaded to persevere when it seemed she wasn't interested. When questioned by Byrne about U2's tax affairs -- most notably their decision in 2006 to move some of their business interests to The Netherlands -- Bono handled it well, I felt, if perhaps showing a hint of frustration at having to defend U2's business decisions. U2 were like any organization as far as he was concerned and it made good business sense to make the decision they made.
I live and work in Dublin, and the following day at the morning coffee break the subject of the program came up. Most of my colleagues are aware of my U2 fandom and I'm pretty sure the majority of them cannot understand the need to attend multiple shows, and cannot understand how anyone could have any time for Bono or what he stands for. I have on regular occasions listened to the Bono/U2 backlash, and where once I would try to defend them, or take offense, I now have learned to ignore it! The discussion on this occasion focused on the interview with comments like: "He should pay tax in this country"; "Why does he wear those glasses all the time?"; and "He's always preaching to us about giving money to charity, bet he doesn't give any himself!" There were other comments that, perhaps to put it mildly, are not suitable for an OTR article!
The program and the subsequent debate got me thinking about the love/hate relationship Irish people have with U2 and in particular Bono. Even though I am a fan, I don't always appreciate the times when Bono is on his soapbox, and his preaching about various issues does tend to irritate me. His association with politicians has made me uneasy over the years, although I do appreciate that there is a reason behind it. That aside, I have huge admiration for the passion he so clearly has for what he believes in and for his accomplishments with U2.
A lot of Irish people, however, would not share my views of Bono and from the discussion that took place in the staff canteen that particular day it was clear my work colleagues didn't either.
Why is this the case?
I believe one reason is that we tend to knock our own, particularly when they become successful and are seen to be doing better than we are. Suddenly there is a shift in attitude, and the view is that somehow they have become too big for their boots, or in Bono's case, the view that he thinks he is some kind of Messiah here to save the world! Then, of course (particularly in Ireland), there is always someone who knows someone who knows Bono or some member of U2, or someone who has a negative Bono/U2 story and is only quite happy to tell it! There was even a book written about it: Everyone's Got a Bono Story by Anne Marie O'Connor.
Whether you love him or hate him, it can't be denied that both he and U2 have done so much to put Ireland on the map. I often wonder if the people who claim to really hate U2 and Bono would refuse a ticket to a U2 show? Or if they were told there was a way they could take advantage of lenient tax laws and did not have to pay as much tax as they currently do -- would they refuse?? I would be willing to bet money that they wouldn't! Or if U2 (as has happened) were referred to as a British band, would they step in to correct that mistake?? I'm pretty sure they would -- they may not like him, but he's still one of our own! Maybe's that a topic for the next coffee break.
(c) @U2, 2013.