Wednesday 28 June 2017

Walk-out at council meeting after Lord Mayor of Dublin awards Freedom of the City to the Obamas

US President Barack Obama addresses troops with First Lady Michelle Obama at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kailua
US President Barack Obama addresses troops with First Lady Michelle Obama at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kailua
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama attend the Kennedy Center Honors show December 4, 2016 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. The honorees include the band The Eagles, singer Mavis Staples, actor Al Pacino, singer James Taylor and pianist Martha Argerich. Photo: Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images
Thirsty work: Michelle and Barack Obama enjoy a drink of Guinness at Ollie Hayes Bar in Moneygall, Co Offaly - the president's ancestral home - on their previous trip to Ireland in 2011 Photo: MAXWELLS DUBLIN
US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama react during the National Christmas Tree Lighting on the Ellipse of the National Mall in Washington on December 1, 2016.
President Barack Obama waves on stage with first lady Michelle Obama, daughter Malia, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden after his farewell address at McCormick Place in Chicago, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
First lady Michelle Obama hugs President Barack Obama after his farewell address at McCormick Place in Chicago, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Ian Begley

There was a walk-out at Dublin City Council's meeting yesterday after the Lord Mayor awarded the Freedom of the City to Barack Obama.

Lord Mayor Brendan Carr put forward a request to award the prestigious honour to Barrack and Michelle Obama, which was followed by a heated debate. 

The suggestion was put to a vote, which passed by a narrow margin. 

When the decision was passed, People-Before-Profit councillors John Lyons, Andrew Keegan, Tina MacVeigh and Hazel de Nortuin all stood up and left the council chamber. 

President Barack Obama waves on stage with first lady Michelle Obama, daughter Malia, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden after his farewell address at McCormick Place in Chicago, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama waves on stage with first lady Michelle Obama, daughter Malia, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden after his farewell address at McCormick Place in Chicago, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The Dublin city representatives said they believe that the awarding of such an honour to a president who "presided over growing inequality at home, mass incarceration and deportations and ongoing wars in the Middle East" is an insult to the people of Dublin City.

Cllr Lyons told Independent.ie that the walkout was a symbolic gesture. 

First lady Michelle Obama hugs President Barack Obama after his farewell address at McCormick Place in Chicago, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
First lady Michelle Obama hugs President Barack Obama after his farewell address at McCormick Place in Chicago, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

"We walked out for about 30 minutes as a symbolic gesture for those who are now being targeted by a US cabinet and President that are a direct result of Obama's record. 

"While he is a great user of rhetoric, the actual reality of his record is one of causing death, destruction, hardship and misery both in the US and across the world. 

"The Freedom of Dublin shouldn't be so frivolously awarded to a man which such a bad record," he said.

Members of the Workers' Party also reacted strongly to the announcement.

In a statement, AAA Councillor Michael O'Brien, said: "Lord Mayor of Dublin, FF, FG and Labour Councillors spit on the graves of thousands of drone victims by awarding Obama Freedom of the City of Dublin. "

Lord Mayor Brendan Carr voiced his reasons for his wish to honour the Obamas with the award.

"In light of the recent draconian decisions being taken by his successor President Donald Trump, I believe it is more important now than ever that I proceed with this proposal. 

"In addition, I am also proposing that the City Council recognise the inspirational role on human rights played by First Lady Michelle Obama by also awarding her the highest honour we can grant – the Freedom of Dublin City.

"While I’m aware some Councillors may have reservations over failings of US foreign policy during the Presidency of Barack Obama, I believe he and Michelle, through their promotion of the rights of refugees, humanitarian causes campaigning on behalf of women’s rights and focus on improving international relations with several States did point American society in a progressive direction.

"I believe awarding the Obamas, a couple who consistently spoke in support of these principles, the Freedom of the City would be the most powerful way we could make a statement on their importance at this time," he said.  

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