Friday 23 February 2018

Melanie back to promote gig for freedom icon

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is greeted by migrant workers from her home country on a visit to Thailand
Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is greeted by migrant workers from her home country on a visit to Thailand yesterday
Actor Jack Gleeson and Melanie Verwoerd launch the Electric Burma concert.

Mark Hilliard and Ed Carty

THE former partner of the late Gerry Ryan is helping promote an event honouring Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

It will be one of the first roles taken on by Melanie Verwoerd since her departure as chief of UNICEF Ireland last year.

Aid campaigner Bob Geldof will join Bono at Amnesty's Electric Burma concert, which will take place on June 18 in Dublin's Bord Gais Energy Theatre during Ms Suu Kyi's flying visit here.

The U2 frontman will present Ms Suu Kyi with Amnesty International's prestigious Ambassador of Conscience award at the event, which will be open to the public.

Ms Suu Kyi is also to be awarded the Freedom of Dublin City on the night, with plans under way for the tribute to be made on a stage outside the theatre in front of supporters.

Ms Verwoerd, a former South African ambassador to Ireland, has been appointed to the temporary, unpaid position of communications director for the show.

She said she was asked to help out by the concert's organiser, Bill Shipsey, a barrister who founded Art for Amnesty, a global art programme attached to the organisation.

Ms Verwoerd said she was asked to co-ordinate protocol matters because of her "ambassadorial background".

Actress Vanessa Redgrave, musician Damien Rice, the Riverdance ensemble and 'Game of Thrones' actor Jack Gleeson will also attend.

"From my humanitarian and human rights background, this issue has always been very important on a personal level. Aung San Suu Kyi is a hero to people like myself," Ms Verwoerd told the Irish Independent.

"Today there are few heroes in the world and she is certainly one of them. I think it (her visit) is an extraordinary honour and it shows the commitment by Irish people over the years to her situation and the situation in Burma."


Ms Suu Kyi has agreed to attend the Electric Burma event the day after delivering her acceptance speech in Oslo for the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded in 1991.

The lifelong democracy campaigner is expected to address a crowd of supporters outside the Dublin venue on the night.

Ms Suu Kyi has been unable to collect the honour having been under house arrest or in prison for 15 of the last 24 years.

It will be her first trip to Europe since 1988.

"It's so rare to see grace trump military might and when it happens we should make the most joyful noise we can," Bono said yesterday.

"Aung San Suu Kyi's grace and courage has tilted a wobbly world further in the direction of democracy."

Mr Geldof said it was an honour to be asked to be involved in the concert.

"To be allowed to honour this woman is an honour in itself. The heroine of dignity, integrity, courage and steely moral vigour lost her freedom and her family in order to gain a nation. Ireland is ennobled by her visit," he said.

Yesterday, Ms Suu Kyi was in Bangkok as part of a busy schedule of international travel that would have been unimaginable two years ago.

The Electric Burma concert will take place at 4.45pm on Monday, June 18, in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Grand Canal Dock, Dublin. Tickets go on sale this Friday at 9am through and priced from €25.

Irish Independent

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