Sunday 8 December 2019

Bob's claims of 'poor Irish' background ring hollow

In fact, Geldof's privileged upbringing is what gives him the confidence to help the poor

Bob Geldof
Bob Geldof

Eamon Delaney

Last week, Bob Geldof rightly invited ridicule for telling a London court that he came "from a poor Irish, not particularly well-educated background!"

He provided a written statement to the Plebgate trial where he compared himself to Andrew Mitchell, the posh former minister. Plebgate is one of those scandals that didn't really grab our attention in Ireland, but it involved the said minister leaving Downing Street one night on his bike and telling a policeman to open a security gate. When the policeman refused, citing rules on bicycles, the Minister allegedly called him a 'pleb.' He denied it, the controversy grew, and now we are having a libel trial.

Only the British would allow a row over etiquette and social standing to escalate into a libel trial. Which is why they love Sir Bob Geldof, the 'Irish rebel.'

And spoofer. Geldof comes from a poor Irish background in the same way that I'm an Islamic fundamentalist. In fact, he grew up next to where I did in Dun Laoghaire, except in leafy Crosthwaite Park, where big Victorian houses are now on sale for over a million. Locals well remember young Bob hanging out in Murray's hip record shop on George's Street, already planning world domination. Bob also went to the middle-class private school, Blackrock College, and never stopped saying bad things about it afterwards. But hey Bob, you got the opportunity. And this is the crux of it: Geldof might have 'rebelled' against his suburban Catholic upbringing but all of his confidence and arrogance is irredeemably a part of his privileged background.

How do people who are genuinely poor and under-educated feel, listening to the millionaire Bob, trying to climb into their world? In fairness, Geldof is a man who has walked among the poorest of the poor, so you'd think he would show a bit more sensitivity.

But, on a serious level, the claims are another example of how Bob thinks he can just get away with it: like, persisting with his Band Aid circus when most people feel it has lost all credibility or purpose, or bullying the singer Adele for not participating in his latest efforts, as if he has the right to publicly command people he doesn't know to get involved in his grand gestures. When he is asked about this, he just relapses into expletive-ridden outbursts against journalists, as he does when he is questioned on how he squares his demands for more public money for Live Aid, and for donations from ordinary people, with his own vast wealth.

And yet all of this we could forgive, given Geldof's net effect of actually helping the hungry and those now suffering from Ebola. But the exaggerations about his 'poor' past are just too much to stomach, especially when it is precisely Sir Bob's upbringing, confidence and money which has enabled him to help so many others who are less well off. It's called noblesse oblige.

On this one, Bob, the Dun Laoghaire boy, should take his cue from Finglas boy, Bono, another Irish 'rebel' who also calls for African aid but who never dares to claim that he himself had some kind of Dickensian childhood.

Sunday Independent

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