Geldof hands back freedom of Dublin in protest over Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar's de facto leader has criticised for the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslim community

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Bob Geldof. Image: Jonathan Brady / PA Archive/Press Association Images

Updated 11:10

The Lord Mayor of Dublin has insisted that Bob Geldof’s decision to hand back his Freedom of Dublin City is hypocritical.

Geldof said he was returning the honour in protest at the fact that Myanmar's controversial leader continues to hold the same accolade.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticised for her lack of response to the persecution of the Rohingya Muslim community, which has caused more than 600,000 people to flee to Bangladesh since August.

Amnesty International has warned that the Rohingya have faced crimes against humanity in Myanmar - while the UN has called the situation a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing."

At City Hall this morning, Geldof said he was returning the honour as a "small personal gesture" in protest at the suffering of the Rohingya people.

Speaking to reporters he said: "I'm here to talk about genocide and mass murder and rape and the abuse of children."

“I don’t want to give this up – I don’t want to, I am really proud of it," he said.

“You know, I get handed things by states and cities around the world but I am Dub and this meant very much to me.

“So, as I say, it didn’t mean much to anybody else but to me, I don’t want to do it but it is the most I can do and the least.”

British imperialism

On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, Dublin’s Lord Mayor Micheál MacDonncha agreed that Ms Suu Kyi should be stripped of the honour – but said it is hypocritical of Geldof to return his Irish honour while retaining titles bestowed on him by the UK government, “given the shameful record of British imperialism across the globe.”

“I find it ironic considering that Bob Geldof is a Night Commander of the British Empire and he felt quite happy to accept that honour and to retain it for all these years without protest or without handing it back,” he said.

He also noted that Geldof last year “grossly insulted the men and women of the 1916 Rising" by comparing them to ISIS, “causing offence to Dubliners and Irish people generally.”


Earlier Geldof described Ms Suu Kyi as a "handmaiden to genocide," adding that her "association with the Irish capital shames us all." 

"We honoured her - now she appals and shames us.

"In short, I do not wish to be associated in any way with an individual currently engaged in the mass ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people of north-west Burma.

"I am a founding patron of The Aegis Trust, who are concerned with genocide prevention and studies. Its founders built and maintain the National Holocaust Museum of the UK.

"I spoke at the inaugural National Holocaust Memorial Day at Westminster and in my time, I have walked amongst peoples who were sectionally targeted with ethnic cleansing.

"I would be a hypocrite now were I to share honours with one who has become at best an accomplice to murder, complicit in ethnic cleansing and a handmaiden to genocide."

Nobel Peace Prize

Ms Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her "non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights" but she had been criticised for not doing enough to stop the persecution of the Rohingya.

The minority Muslim group is seen by the majority Buddhists as being foreigners, rather than belonging to Myanmar.

Geldof said: "The moment she is stripped of her Dublin Freedom perhaps the council would see fit to restore to me that which I take such pride in.

"If not, so be it."


Mr MacDonncha said Geldof is “entitled to return his award if he wishes to do so.”

He said Dublin City Council has already condemned the persecution of the Rohingya and the “failure of Aung San Suu Kyi to even acknowledge, let alone condemn, what the UN has described as ethnic cleansing.”

He said moves to strip Ms Suu Kyi of the freedom of Dublin City are “not closed” although consensus was not reached among council members.


The Live Aid founder and musician is not the first to criticise Ms Suu Kyi.

On Saturday, U2 said her failure to stop the violence was "starting to look a lot like assent."

They wrote on their website: "The violence and terror being visited on the Rohingya people are appalling atrocities and must stop.

"The time has long passed for her to stand up and speak out."