Nicky Larkin: Bono-hating is a bit hypocritical
We may begrudge success but we should be glad U2 became bigger than the IRA
HE'S rubbed us up the wrong way for a long time now, with his sunglasses and success and his speaking at summits. But is the Spud-Head scald of this man really fair? Or is it just a symptom of our scalp-hungry Celtic culture?
We are famously begrudging of success, unless it's Riverdance or Boyzone. I'm not sure who makes the rules – probably Michael O'Leary – but these two acts get a free pass from our inherent cynicism. Not our Bono.
But like it or not, over the past 30 years, the little man and his band have become the first thing people around the world associate with Ireland. And it's generally positive. We could forever have been associated with men in flares getting accused of terrorism. But then U2 became bigger than the IRA, particularly in America.
But that doesn't seem to matter any more, because he'll never do anything right by us.
The U2 frontman's recent revelation that he was chased down a German street by a mob shouting "make Bono history" has provoked harsh reactions here at home. Why is Bono-hating a particularly Paddy pastime?
Instead of speaking at those summits in Germany and then getting chased down the street afterwards, he could just sit on the couch in Killiney counting all his cash. Interestingly, that wouldn't annoy anybody at all here really, as long as we didn't have to watch.
That tax thing really rubbed us up the wrong way. In 2006, the band moved the bulk of its publishing empire to the Netherlands to reduce its tax bill in Ireland. We didn't like that at all. But in the same interview where he told us about being chased down the street, Bono defended the band's decision.
He claimed the Irish Government appreciated its decision to offshore some of its income. He said: "U2 is in total harmony with our Government's philosophy" and that "tax competitiveness has taken our country out of poverty".
Before it moved the bulk of its publishing empire abroad, U2 had benefited from the artist tax-exemption scheme in Ireland, originally introduced by Charlie Haughey. But in 2006, finance minister Brian Cowen put a cap of €250,000 on this.
As a result, U2 moved its interests to the Netherlands.
In the past, Bono has defended this move by saying the band is a global enterprise and pays millions of dollars in tax. But still that doesn't really wash with us at all.
Because it's clear the man's got notions, and this we just can't stand. We were quick to call Bono a hypocrite for moving his taxes while lecturing about global aid, but are we too hypocrites for our apparent begrudgery of success?
If we truly despised success, then we would have lacked the spirit of blind optimism that fuelled the Celtic Tiger. We wouldn't have built those ghost estates.
Yet still we smile through gritted teeth at anyone who gets on Winning Streak. We constantly watch the waterline in case someone sticks their head up, as it will need to be chopped off swiftly.
Perhaps we should take it easy on Bono for a while. It's all a bit two-faced, considering we'll pack Croke Park three nights in a row, and then we'll all gladly get shivers down the spine at the opening cracks of Sunday Bloody Sunday.
So the next time you're abroad and you tell someone where you're from, be glad that Bono's the first thing that pops into their heads. It could always be worse. . .
It could have been Daniel Day Lewis falsely accused in flares. And he's not even Irish!
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