independent

Thursday 24 April 2014

Music to ears but modest Tutu tunes out

THE last time Bob Geldof was at NUI Galway he was a rebel rocker who sparked something of a security alert.

Thirty years later, he returned to the university and was once again flanked by security staff.

Mind you, it helped that this time he was a VIP who had interrupted his schedule to "jump on a plane" and introduce Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the latest stage of the South African's Irish tour.

The Band Aid founder yesterday described his "friend Tutu" as a historic giant whose name would resonate down the ages.

"When only silence was heard from Robben Island, it was Desmond Tutu who articulated what Nelson Mandela was not allowed to say.

"He is an important person, an immense moral character. Tutu dignifies us all and his very existence has dignified the planet," he said.

Clearly embarrassed by the tribute, Archbishop Tutu covered his ears with his hands as he waited to address the 1,000-strong crowd in Galway.

Praise

When it came to his turn, he too had praise for the man who had introduced him.

He described him as a rock and roll star who might well have said 'I've made a packet, I'll look after number one'. Instead he had shown amazing concern for his fellow human beings and demonstrated passion for justice "in a good and fair way".

Archbishop Tutu paid tribute to the Galway university for honouring Nelson Mandela and Dr Kader Asmal, who had lived in this country for many years before taking up positions in the post-apartheid South African government.

He also noted the contribution of the students of NUIG through the Alive Programme by which they travel as volunteers to all parts of the world to help the under-privileged.

The event was hosted by the university's Literary and Debating Society and Geldof presented the Archbishop with the society's President's Medal.

Today, Archbishop Tutu returns to Dublin where he will be presented with the James Joyce Award by UCD's Literary and Historical Society. Tomorrow, he will attend a dinner in his honour hosted by the Trinity College Historical Society.

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