City giveth but unable to taketh away as Bob Geldof tries to hand back Freedom of Dublin City

He was a freeman of the city but he was also a slave to his conscience.

And so it was that Bob Geldof came cap, or rather Russian ushanka hat, in hand to beg Dublin City Council to take back his scroll.

It’s her or me, he told them, her being Aung San Suu Kyi, the once celebrated, now excoriated, leader of Myanmar, where 500,000 Rohingya people have fled slaughter under her apparently disinterested watch.

But while the city giveth, it doesn’t necessarily taketh away, and much as Bob wanted not to share a list of freepersons that included a woman accused of genocide, the city council didn’t have a process for undoing the deed.

Bob’s not big on process. Give me a felt tip pen, he challenged them. I’ll scribble her name out.

Not so easy, the city official sent to the door of City Hall to receive him explained.

First the councillors would have to agree to do it — it hasn’t been done since 1915 when a German scholar was temporarily removed for his views on the First World War — and then the councillors would have to investigate how it was done.

And the elected members can’t think about it for the moment because their next meetings will be preoccupied with agreeing the annual budget.

A full-blown Banana Republic-era Geldofian tirade seemed to be inevitable. But the air didn’t turn blue — Bob did.

He was sad to return his scroll. It left a big patch on his sitting room wall. It still had the distorted calligraphy where the rain that fell on the day he received it made the lovely ink run.

“I want it back,” he said. It was hard not to believe him.

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