22 Ways U2 Have Contributed to Ireland ☘
It’s a funny thing being an Irish U2 fan. You get used to people knocking the band for being too ambitious and successful, or claiming that they should pay their global corporate taxes in Ireland. It’s easy to forget all the positive contributions U2 have made to this country, and how proud they are to be Irish. This week marks the band’s 40th birthday, and while Bono is busy advocating on behalf of Syrian refugees and announcing hundreds of millions of dollars to fight AIDS, the usual naysayers complain that U2 should take more action in their own backyard before preaching to the rest of the world. So, to celebrate U2’s 40th birthday, I just thought I’d document 40 ways that U2 have contributed to Ireland… and then I ran out of time, so it’s only 22 for now… :) but happy birthday U2! 😎🎈🌵⭐️ #u240
1. Funding Music Education in Ireland
U2 is the primary source of funding for Music Generation, Ireland’s National Music Education Programme, which transforms the lives of children and young people through access to high quality, subsidised performance music education. U2 has so far donated €7 million: €5 million from the proceeds of its Croke Park shows in 2009, and a further €2 million from the proceeds of its 3 Arena shows in 2015. This represents 64% of all funding received. According to The Irish Times:
U2 stepped in after the Government stated in 2009 it could not afford to roll out a pilot musical education project nationwide because of the recession.
“We in U2 benefitted from access to musical education — it transformed our lives,” said Adam Clayton. “We want the same opportunities for young people across Ireland. Music Generation is achieving this beyond anyone’s imagination.
2. Supporting Irish Charities
For U2, “philanthropy is a personal and private matter”. Sometimes their philanthropy takes the form of advocacy, shining a light on things they care about. Other times, it’s less public. However, some of their charitable contributions in Ireland have been reported on, including:
- Donating proceeds of their Sweetest Thing single to the Chernobyl Children’s Project, based in Cork.
- Donating €40,000 to One in Four, an Irish charity aiding victims of childhood sexual abuse, at a time when it was unable to secure government funding.
- Contributing a song to Across the Bridge of Hope, a compilation charity album benefiting victims of the Omagh bombing.
- Contributing artwork for a Peter and the Wolf publication, to raise funds for the Irish Hospice Foundation.
- Inspiring and contributing to Sons and Fathers, a book in aid of the Irish Hospice Foundation.
- Donating proceeds from a U2 covers album to Concern, an Irish NGO.
- Donating proceeds from a Meteor award to Irish NGOs Concern and Goal.
- Donating proceeds from a European Voice award to Concern, an Irish NGO.
- Adam Clayton is an ambassador for Walk In My Shoes, an Irish charity raising awareness and understanding of mental health issues.
- The Edge is an ambassador for the Mencap Center, a Northern Irish charity helping people with learning disabilities.
3. Helping to Attract Google to Dublin
Google now employs 5,000 people in Dublin at its European HQ, having established a base there in 2003. According to the Irish Independent, Bono played a key role in Google setting up in Dublin, near the U2 recording studios — instead of Switzerland.
“Bono is close to Sheryl Sandberg, who he met when she worked with Larry Summers at the Department of Treasury when he was in to talk about third world debt,” according to one source. “She became director of online sales and operations at Google and was responsible for international operations. She made the call about Ireland.”
“He encouraged her about the location of the office too. It’s near to the U2 studios and he got her to look at the area.” Google subsequently purchased three office blocks on Barrow Street in Dublin, including the $142m Montevetro building.
4. Supporting the Irish Film Industry
Bono is a leading advocate on behalf of bringing a Hollywood-Style film studio to Dublin’s south docklands area, lobbying Ireland’s government for support earlier this year. It is expected that the film studio could directly employ 3,000 people. Windmill Lane Studios founder James Morris spoke of Bono’s support:
“We are delighted to have the support of Bono, who has been a tireless campaigner for the creative arts, for investment in Ireland — and has a global reputation in the creative industries,” they said, “We should also point out that Bono has no financial interest whatsoever in this proposal.”
5. Promoting Peace in Northern Ireland
U2’s music is obviously heavily influenced by the Troubles in Northern Ireland (see Sunday Bloody Sunday, Please, Peace on Earth, In the Name of the Father, etc) but they’ve also played a significant part in the peace process. Most famously, a few days before the 1998 referendum on the Good Friday agreement, U2 introduced David Trimble and John Hume on stage at a special concert in Belfast in front of 2,000 Northern Irish schoolchildren, leading to a famous handshake.
“I would like to introduce you to two men who have taken a leap of faith out of the past and into the future,” said Bono.
6. Performing at the Special Olympics Opening Ceremony in Dublin, 2003
In June 2003, Ireland became the first country to host the Special Olympics outside of the United States. All of Ireland came together to get involved, with towns adopting and hosting different countries. The driving force behind the Special Olympics was Eunice Shriver, Bono’s “friend and mentor”. U2 played their part by performing during the opening ceremony at Croke Park in Dublin. The performance ends with Bono bringing another friend onto the stage… Nelson Mandela.
7. Helping to Attract Facebook to Dublin
As with Google, Bono played a behind-the-scenes role in attracting Facebook to Dublin’s docklands in 2008. According to this article, a Facebook executive confirmed this by stating that:
Facebook would probably have been in Switzerland instead of Dublin if it hadn’t have been for the intervention of the pop star.
And Bono confirmed to Hot Press:
“I worked personally quite hard to get Google to choose Ireland as their headquarters outside of America and I’m proud of it being here — and Facebook now,” the U2 front man told Hot Press last week.
8. Attracting Tourists to Ireland
Anyone who has attended a U2 concert in Dublin understands that the city is a Mecca for U2 fans, with a large portion of the audience consisting of fans from all over the world. This has a giant positive impact on the local economy, with the Dublin Chamber of Commerce estimating that their 3 2009 concerts contributed over €50 million to the local economy. Dublin Tourism boss Frank McGee explained:
“A U2 home concert is the equivalent of Ireland winning the Grand Slam five times in the one season at home…Over 250,000 will attend the concerts, all spending money on food, drink and accommodation. If only we could have one every year.”
However, U2 fans don’t just visit for concerts — they visit all year round, to visit the U2 studio, to take photos of hearing aid shop where Bono’s name comes from and to experience the city that U2 describe in their songs, and brought to life on their 2015 Innocence and Experience tour. This weekend people are traveling from all over the world to celebrate U2’s 40th birthday.
9. Supporting the Justice for the Forgotten Group
Each night of last year’s Innocence and Experience tour included a tribute to the victims of the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings. U2’s song Raised by Wolves is about the 34 people who were killed on that day, and was performed in support of the Justice for the Forgotten group — families of the victims who continue to seek truth and justice, arguing for the British government to open up its records of the day. Bernadette Joly was injured in the Dublin bombings:
“We greatly welcome U2’s decision to highlight our loss and our need for justice and truth,” she said. “At last, we feel the world will listen to our plight and demand that London open up the files and set the truth free.”
10. Performing at Self Aid
In 1986 U2 performed at Self Aid a concert to highlight the chronic unemployment problem in Ireland at the time, with nearly 250,000 people unemployed. From the stage, Bono said:
I don’t know what it’s like to be out of work, what it’s like to be unemployed. Since I was 16, I got to join this group and I’m 26 now. I can’t imagine what it must be like. To stand in line week on week. Or to lose your job after 10 or 20 years. Or worse, never to even have a job. I don’t know what that’s like. But there’s others — there’s you out there, and a lot of you know just what it’s like. Well, let me say — this country belongs to you, just as much as it belongs to RTE, just as much as it belongs to CIE, or ESB, or AIB, or Bank of Ireland… and if you work, if you work for AnCO, or if you work for Manpower, if you are paid by the people, you better look after those people. So treat them nice on Monday morning. God bless, we love you.
11. Acting as Ambassadors for Bórd Fáilte
From time to time, the Irish government’s tourism board, Bórd Fáilte, has turned to U2 to help with marketing campaigns.
For example, U2 supported Bórd Fáilte’s 2001 campaign to re-assure North American tourists that Ireland was safe to visit during the foot and mouth outbreak.
We’re a little surprised that the government has asked us to get involved,” says Bono, “but we’re happy to dispel any rumours that foot and mouth has made Ireland unsafe for tourists. Ireland is perfectly safe for a vacation. All of us in the band live and work there. It’s a great place for a holiday and we hope everyone will continue to visit.”
The Tourism Minister at the time explained the importance of U2’s contribution:
“I am very appreciative of this helpful support from U2. Without doubt the endorsement that Ireland is an open and welcome tourism destination from the world’s leading rock band will be of immense value in getting the message across in the US. “The good word from Bono will reach not only U2’s millions of fans but their families and friends as well.”
Bono also attended Ireland’s section at Expo 15 in Milan.
12. Helping to Attract Airbnb to Dublin
Bono met with Airbnb at an IDA Ireland event at Davos in January 2014 to sell Dublin as a great place to locate an international headquarters.
In April 2014, Airbnb announced it would greatly increase its presence in Dublin, leading to the opening of its international HQ near to U2’s recording studios on Hannover Quay in 2016.
This IDA Ireland press release confirms the role that Bono played in helping to secure Airbnb’s investment in Dublin and the Irish Independent reported that Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky confirmed that Bono played a key role.
13. Encouraging Irish Citizens to Vote for Britain to Remain in Europe
Britain’s exit from the EU has major consequences for Ireland, not least because it shares a border with Northern Ireland. U2 were asked, presumably by the Irish government, to lend their voice to the call for Irish citizens in the UK to support the Remain campaign. The band obliged, by posting a message on Facebook.
We were asked to repost this video, we like it and we’re humbled to be in it. For Irish voters in Britain, don’t go we’d miss you… Europe without Britain seems unimaginable to us. Bono, Edge, Adam, Larry
14. Supporting Other Irish Musicians
As a proud Irish band, U2 continue to support other Irish music acts. Having the opportunity to open for U2 on a world tour has been a big opportunity for acts such as Snow Patrol, Ash, The Script, The Corrs, The Thrills, The Pogues, Dara, Relish, JJ72, The Walls, The Sultans of Ping, and An Emotional Fish. Bono has also performed several times recently with acts such as Glen Hansard, Damien Rice and Imelda May.
U2 also recorded an Aslan song for Aslan’s lead singer Christy Dignam, as he battled with cancer.
15. Welcoming Visitors to Ireland
At this stage, if you’re an international superstar performing in Ireland and you don’t get a welcome card and crate of Guinness from U2, you have a right to feel aggrieved. Some recent recipients include Amy Schumer, Nile Rodgers, Kodaline and Slash (though Guinness might not have been the best gift for him!).
The band also welcomed fans to Dublin last November by sending over free hot chocolates from a nearby Starbucks to those who had been queuing all night in the cold.
16. Supporting Irish Sporting Heroes
“When I think of Brian O’Driscoll, I think of the number 13, and how lucky it’s been for us Irish. I also think of the 13 times Brian has had his nose broken, not so lucky for him. But, above all of that, I think of leadership. I think of Brian O’Driscoll as a great leader… one of the rarest resources in this world.”
Bono also gave a glowing tribute to Ireland’s soccer captain and all-time leading goalscorer, Robbie Keane:
Robbie, The U2 group has played almost as many stadiums as you and, if we’re lucky, there’s usually more than 23 people on the pitch. But in truth, between the 4 of us, we haven’t scored a single goal for Ireland. A few own goals perhaps… but you are just an extraordinary man, and not only a star striker… just a star — a proper person. You’re an inspiration. Not just to me personally, but to anyone who’s met you out. The way you treat people, an inspiration to your team, an inspiration to your country. You keep us moving forward together. You keep us taking chances, whenever you find one to take — that’s kind of your message: keep taking chances when you find one to take, and even when you don’t. So, here’s to the dreams you’ve made a reality, on the field and off the field. You’ve done it 67 times. It is never going to be forgotten. But Robbie, man, seriously man… lay off the ballads. Leave something for us. See you later, man.
And U2 are big supporter’s of UCF champion, Conor McGregor, replying in Irish to Conor’s tweet asking if they’d watch his upcoming title unification fight:
17. Elevating the Irish Music Industry
U2 have always been unapologetically ambitious. Even before they could play any instruments, they wanted to be the best and the biggest band in the world. Not only have U2 won more Grammy awards than any other Irish band — they’ve won more than any other band. That’s 22 Grammys, to go along with 7 Brit Awards, 6 MTV Video Music Awards, 13 Pollstar Awards, 1 iHeartRadio Music Award, 11 Q awards, 3 Juno Awards, 9 Billboard Music Awards, 1 American Music Award, 15 Meteor Ireland Music Awards, 3 NME Awards, 2 Golden Globes, 2 People’s Choice Awards, and 2 World Music Awards. Oh, they’ve also been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, sold more than 170 million records and had the most successful concert tour in history.
That ambition irks a lot of people for sure, but U2’s success has clearly led to a growth in the wider Irish music industry. As Ireland’s most famous and successful group, U2 have helped grow an Irish music industry and attract international acts to Ireland. Van Morrison describes U2’s impact on building the Irish music industry:
“I think Paul McGuinness and U2 created the Irish music industry. It certainly wasn’t there before that.”
18. Acting as Ambassadors for IDA Ireland
A Freedom of Information request by RTE has revealed that Bono asked IDA Ireland to consider him as a staff member, so that he can further help the organisation attract foreign direct investment for Ireland.
The singer said U2 wanted to give something back to the country that “has been so good to us and that we love”.
The IDA is delighted to have Bono involved in the “team effort” to rebuild the Irish economy.
“Selling Ireland is a team effort — having international stars like Bono around to promote Ireland as a location for investment helps us greatly,” said O’Leary.
19. Joining in the Christmas Busk
Every Christmas Eve some of Ireland’s best known musicians embrace Dublin’s long tradition with busking by teaming up to busk on Grafton Street in benefit of Irish homelessness charity, Dublin Simon Community. With one exception 2 years ago when Bono was recovering from a nasty accident, he has joined his fellow Irish troubadours each year to sing a few songs.
20. Intervening to Ensure Glen Hansard‘s Oscar Nomination Was Secure
Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s performance and victory at the Academy Awards was one of the Oscars highlights in 2008, marking an amazing year for a small Irish film that cost just $180,000 to make. However, soon after the film was nominated, it was almost disqualified on a technicality. Glen recounts how Bono intervened by writing to the Academy:
But the most significant meeting me and Bono had was just before the Oscars. There was a moment where our nomination had come into dispute. We got nominated and it was big news. Two days later, the nomination was being pulled because some Czech journalist had found a recording of me and Markéta [Irglová] a year previous, playing the song in a club. And apparently you could never have played the song publicly before the production of the film. We were being disqualified and Bono called me up and said, “I heard about this thing.” We only had about 12 hours before they were going to officially knock us out. And he said, “Do you mind if I at least petition on your behalf? Because this is just a little technical thing, and it’s not a big deal.” He said, “Poetic arc is what we’re all about. We believe in poetry. Poetry is what drives the world. We need to complete the poetry. A guy from Grafton Street making this film with his mates and then ending up on the Kodak stage in Los Angeles, that’s a poetic arc that we need to complete.” So he sent this beautiful letter to the academy, all about poetry. He said, “I can’t try and help you with the nomination, but I will talk about poetry.” And that’s what he did.
21. A Special Thank You for Uncle Gaybo
Gay Byrne, affectionately known as Uncle Gaybo in Ireland, hosted Ireland’s most popular TV show, the Late Late Show, between 1962 and 1999. Hugely popular in Ireland, he also played an influential role in U2’s early career. To say thank you, Bono and Larry surprised Gay on the night he retired with a special gift:
22. Celebrating Marriage Equality in Ireland
In 2015, Ireland became the first country to legalise gay marriage by popular vote. U2 supported the YES vote before the referendum and celebrated it from the stage in Arizona the day after, performing Pride (In the Name of Love) and saying:
On this very day, we have true equality in Ireland. Because millions turned up to vote yesterday to say love is the highest law in the land. The biggest turnout in the history of the State. To say love is the highest law in the land. Because if God loves us, whoever we love, wherever we come from, then why can’t the State?”
Performing in Dublin last November, U2 also invited on stage gay rights activist Panti Bliss in recognition of a great moment in Irish history.
Happy birthday U2!
OK, so I haven’t quite made this list to 40 yet… For now, we can be polite and pretend that U2 is still 22. :) However, I’ll keep working on it — send me more ways U2 have contributed to Ireland and I’ll add them in! :)