Should the Obamas be awarded the Freedom of Dublin?

A number of councillors walked out of a DCC meeting yesterday in protest over the decision

Should the Obamas be awarded the Freedom of Dublin?

Image: RollingNews.ie

There has been a mixed response to the news that Dublin City Council has chosen to award Barack & Michelle Obama the Freedom of the City.

The award acknowledges the contributions of people "to the life of our city" and important visitors to the capital.

The decision to award the Obamas was made at a DCC meeting last night following a vote - but several councillors attached to People Before Profit and the Workers' Party left the meeting in protest.

In a statement, People Before Profit said: "While we believe it is correct to express opposition and mobilise resistance to Donald Trump and his overt racism and misogyny, we nevertheless must remember that Obama's eight years in the White House simply established the conditions which gave rise to such a horror as Trump.

"The change and hope upon which Obama was elected and re-elected was never delivered upon," the councillors added.

Michael O'Brien, Anti Austerity Alliance Councillor for Dublin North Central, told Newstalk Breakfast he was opposed to George W Bush's policies and will actively protest against the presidency Donald Trump.

However, he argued "it doesn't follow from that that therefore Obama - because he isn't seen as being as bad as George W Bush or the current disaster - is deserving of this honour, because that's a very, very low yardstick."

He argued: "Under the Obama regime, some 4,700 men, women and children - particularly in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia - were killed from drone strikes. Many of them [were] just ordinary civilians.

"We're all against the crude, open Islamophobia of President Trump - but because these people who were killed not on our doorstep... these atrocities haven't happened in the West... we go and bestow this honour."

The exact number of people killed in US drone strikes is uncertain - however, organisations such as Reprieve and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism put the figures in the thousands.

However, the decision to award the Obamas was defended by Dublin North West TD Noel Rock.

"I think it's not a canonisation of Barack Obama," he explained. "What it is to say is that he's getting the Freedom of Dublin [...] He stands in stark contrast to the current President.

"He's obviously shown a great interest in Irish affairs first of all, and in Dublin second of all [...] He's said he's willing to accept the award, and they're both willing to come back.

Deputy Rock discussed some of the reasons why he believes Barack Obama deserves the award.

"In stark contrast to Donald Trump, he's been very successful at consistent nuclear non-proliferation," he said.

"Secondly, in terms of LGBT rights, he's done an awful lot there - including bringing about gay marriage in the US. [That] parallels with what we managed to do in Ireland as well."

He also cited Barack Obama's commitment to green energy and initiatives to combat climate change. 

"And Michelle Obama - [through] her role in empowering females across the world and in terms of education of females in the third world - has done an awful lot of work," he added.