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U2 write letter supporting the Freedom of Dublin being stripped from Aung San Suu Kyi

Councillors are looking at how to remove the award from her.

Aung San Suu Kyi receiving an award from Amnesty International in Dublin in 2012.
Aung San Suu Kyi receiving an award from Amnesty International in Dublin in 2012.
Image: Julien Behal/PA Images

THE FOUR MEMBERS of U2 have written to Dublin City Councillors to urge them to remove the Freedom of the City from Aung San Suu Kyi.

The band were longtime campaigners for Suu Kyi when she was being persecuted in Burma (now Myanmar) but have said in a letter that she has now “betrayed the principles for which she was so revered”.

Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton all received the Freedom of Dublin on the same day as Suu Kyi on 1 November 1999.

Suu Kyi was under house arrest at the time and the award was received by her son on that occasion before she received it in person in 2012.

In recent months however Suu Kyi, who is now Myanmar’s leader, has come in for strong international criticism for her failure to condemn atrocities being undertaken by the country’s military against the Rohingya people.

The campaign waged against Rohingya muslims has been described by the UN as ethnic cleansing and hundreds of thousands have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh.

Suu Kyi does not have direct control over the military, which effectively runs Myanmar, but she has also failed to condemn the violence.

It led to singer and campaigner Bob Geldof asking for his Freedom of Dublin to be removed as long as it is also held by Suu Kyi.

Councilors have been looking at ways of removing the honour from Suu Kyi and U2 have now come out in support of that process.

In a letter signed by the four band members, U2 say there is evidence of “deliberate and brutal violence, rape, and murder” in Myanmar, adding that Suu Kyi has “the responsibility to condemn their actions”.

Unlike Geldof, U2 have not asked for their Freedom of Dublin awards to be removed, calling it “by far the one that means the most to us”.

Instead, they say that removing the honour from Suu Kyi would send a “strong message in defence of human rights”.

The letter in full reads:

Dear Councillor,We write as long-time supporters of Amnesty International, and as extremely proud recipients of the Freedom of the City. We remember very clearly the day when we received that honour alongside Aung San Suu Kyi whose son Kim accepted on her behalf.

The day was a very special one for us first and foremost because Dublin is our hometown. Of the various “awards” – deserved or not – we’ve been lucky enough to receive over the years, this is by far the one that means the most to us. It was also special because we’d been so moved by the strength and fortitude shown by Aung San Suu Kyi in then-Burma. We were campaigning for her release and were proud of Dublin’s recognition of her courage, and that of her colleagues, to bring about fledgling democracy against all odds… against one of the most brutal regimes of modern times.

So it saddens us to be writing to you today as you discuss recent events in Myanmar and decide whether that merits the rescinding of the honour you bestowed on her.

We believe it does.

You have the same facts as we have, which indicate that deliberate and brutal violence, rape, and murder are being used to drive the Rohingya from Rakhine State. This persecution has been authorised and led by Min Aung Hlaing, the Head of Myanmar’s military. While Aung San Suu Kyi does not have the capacity to control the military, she does have the responsibility to condemn their actions.

The civilian government that she leads is responsible for everyone in her country, and no matter how difficult her position is, to stand by while half a million lives and livelihoods are deliberately decimated by the Myanmar Military is beyond comprehension. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

The decision of who should and shouldn’t have this honour lies with you. But we felt compelled to write given our history with you, and with Aung San Suu Kyi. We believe her failure to stand up for the rights of the Rohingya constitutes a betrayal of the principles for which she was so revered… and for which she received the Freedom of the City. The City of Dublin sent a very strong message in defence of human rights in 1999, we believe an equally strong message in defence of human rights is just as important now.

Thanks for your time.

Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr and Adam Clayton

Read: He admits giving it up is ‘a PR stunt’, but what happens now to Bob Geldof’s Freedom of Dublin? >

Read: Bob Geldof defends decision to return the Freedom of the City of Dublin >

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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