Yes that picture above is ridiculous, no that’s not why many in Ireland don’t dig their vibe.
U2 aren’t exactly struggling for fame, wealth and international acclaim, but it might come as a surprise to some that in their home country they’re often much maligned.
No streets bearing their name, no statues erected in their honour – where is the love?
That’s not to say they’re not popular – they just sold out Dublin’s Croke Park, capacity 73 500 – but ask the man on the street about the band and they’ll generally tell you to sod off.
The Guardian asked the patrons of a pub in Dublin and here’s what they found:
“I think it’s quite an accomplishment for Bono. He does so much for charity and the poor and yet people still do hate him,” says 24-year-old Karl Downey. “I don’t really like him. Maybe it’s because he’s a bit sanctimonious. It might be the glasses as well. He never takes off those glasses.”
“We don’t like them because they did well,” adds Karl Devereux. “They’re not the Dubliners [below], the Pogues, even the Cranberries – they all weren’t that big. But U2 did very well.”
…In other words, the nation’s dislike of U2 is classic Irish begrudgery – the phenomenon that Irish people are predisposed to feel envy and resentment towards those who achieve a certain level of success.
That’s just the man down the pub, though, and the dislike the country feels towards the band goes far deeper than those gripes.
Some moan about their ties to Noraid, an organisation that funded the IRA (Irish Republican Army), whilst others point to Bono’s knighthood and ties to British establishment figures.
Those add some spice to the mix, but a major sore point is the band’s tax-dodging antics:
In 2006, U2 moved part of their business to the Netherlands, where the tax rate on royalty earnings is more favourable for artists. When you operate on U2’s financial scale, this is a major detail. Ireland was scalded by the global 2008 financial crash; communities were eroded by austerity, while the band’s reputation as “tax dodgers” persisted. As People Before Profit party TD Bríd Smith says: “Bono is seen as part of that cohort of very wealthy people who avoid paying tax in this country but enjoy the fruits of being of this country.”
Smith adds: “There’s a huge [number of people] that just see U2, and Bono in particular, as hypocrites, because their tax arrangements are deliberately structured – and he makes no bones about this – so that they don’t pay [as many] taxes.”
All of that and I bet you can still guess what the number one cause of the Irish disliking U2, can’t you?
Drum roll – it’s Bono:
To some, though, there’s a hypocrisy to the samaritan who avoids the taxman, aligns himself with corporations like Apple, which is itself fighting a legal battleagainst paying back taxes in Ireland, and dines with George W Bush and Tony Blair. To others, there’s just something about Bono’s perceived self-righteousness that rubs them up the wrong way.
Shame, but I’m sure a quick look at his bank balance will make it all OK.
So folks – U2, legends or tossers?