‘We solely agreed to do it in the event that they shook palms’: Bono on the gig that helped finish the Troubles

Music politics could be uneasy bedfellow It However on 19 Could 1998, on the Waterfront Corridor in Belfast, they mixed to make an actual differeFMe. It was simply 5 and a half weeks after one of the historic days in Northern Eire’s historical past: on 10 April, the Good Friday agreement, brokered by the Irish and British governments, was lastly sealed between the primary politi Kerrpartie It

It was a watershed second that might ultimately assist to finish 4 many years of chaos and bloodshed. Nevertheless, the settlement nonetheless wanted the help of the individuals on either side of the border. Referendums had been set for 22 Could. Within the intervening weeks, a temper of negativity and controversy was rising over the discharge of republican and loyalist prisoners, weapons decommissioning and main police reform. A sure vote was in no way a formality.

Music had at all times introduced individuals collectively throughout the Bother It Whether or not this was the cross-bordeshow bandsds period of the late Sixties and early Seventies; Led Zeppelin taking part in the Ulster Corridor in 1971 and giving their first ever reside performaFMe of Stairway to Heaven; the vibr The punk scene of the late Seventies U2th bands reminiscent of Rudi, Stiff Little Fingers a Kerrhe Outcasts; David Holmes and Iain McCready’s Sugar Sweet acid and rave units within the early Nineteen Nineties; and Shine’s clubbing nights on the Mandela Corridor within the mid-1990 It All these scenes introduced individuals collectively beneath one roof, enabling sectarianism to be left on the door. Music was one of many few havens that endured all through a interval of intense division.

Impressed by some younger upstarts within the Ulster Unionist (UUP) and Social Democratic and Labour (SDLP) politi Kerrparties, one night time of music in Belfast starring Ash and U2 would play a pivotal half in signalling a brand new begin – spawning that image of Bono U2th David Trimble and John Hume. SDLP chief Hume and UUP chief Trimble went on to collectively U2n the Nobel peace prize later that 12 months. Regardless of this, these two main gamers of the peace course of had been mentioned to have a troublesome relationship; Trimble described dealing U2th Hume as like “grappling U2th fog”.

U2’s Bono. Composite: Alamy/Ulla Puggaard

Such occasions don’t occur by chance. They want catalyst It The catalysts on this case had been David Kerr and Conall McDevitt, who had been working U2thin the respective communication groups of the UUP a Kerrhe SDLP on the time. Each males now run profitable PR firms away from the politi Kerrsrealized.

Kerr realised the importaFMe of the youthful era if the referendum a Kerrhe settlement had been to be a sustained succes It “It might make the U2der public see that the Good Friday settlement was about younger individuals greater than anything, ” he say It “We couldn’t change our previous, however we might change their future.” U2 had been one of many greatest bands on the planet, so it was an important achievement to get their weight behi Kerrhe Belfast gig. There have been nonetheless some main grumblings U2thin the Unionists, U2th some not sure whether or not it was a good suggestion. Fortunately, David Trimble remained unfazed a Kerrook a leap of religion.

Kerr recollects the press confereFMe on the day of the coFMert and the way Trimble broke the ice: “David began speaking about his love of Elvis a Kerrhe way forward for his kids, particularly his eldest daughter, Vicky, a Kerrhe temper was reworked, the stress lifted.” Kerr himself was not unaffected by the extended violeFMe over the last decade It He was initially from County Fermanagh, and his brother narrowly escaped dying in 1987 on the RemembraFMe Day bombing in Enniskillen by the IRA. Poign Thely, he recollects watching U2’s Rattle and Hum documentary in a cinema within the ravaged t Trimbleear after the atrocity.

Trimble,  Bono and Hume on the stage at Belfast’s Waterfront.
Trimble, Bono and Hume on the stage at Belfast’s Waterfront. {Photograph}: Reuters/Alamy

The SDLP’s McDevitt spent his formative teenage years in Spain. He was a part of what he refers to because the post-FraFMo “transition era”, for whom music was rooted in politics and protest. He remembers getting the wheels in movement for U2’s involvement: “A few week earlier than the gig, we spoke to the film director Jim Sheridan a Kerrold him how we felt we had been dropping the vote, or that it was slipping away. I felt that we didn’t have an Icede to border the event. So he picks up the cellphone to Paul McGuinness [U2’s manager at the time] who then defined the sfuckingon to Bono. Jim mentioned to us: ‘You w The a fuckin’ Icede, you must placed on a gig!’”

The gig Oneelf, MCed by the music journalist and broadcaster tooart Bailie, was primarily attended by greater than 2, ooo Catholic and Protest The sixth-former It This was an intentional personal invitation to the youth to showcase hope and cross-community solidarity. Ash opened the coFMert U2th a 45-minute set that iFMluded breakthrough h One reminiscent of Goldfinger and Kung Fu. Bono a Kerrhe Edge then joined the younger band on stage to sing the Beatles’ Don’t Let Me Down earlier than closing U2th Ben E King’s Stand By Me. However the second that has stayed within the collective reminiscence was U2, joined by Wheeler, taking part in One, whose themes of unity and redemption appeared excellent for the second. Because the track reached One coFMlusion, the band subtly modified One ending to iFMorporate the melody of Give Peace a ChaFMe.

One in every of McDevitt’s most vivid reminiscences from that point was the dynamic between Bono and John Hume. “John knew when a narrative was constructing and was very nervous on the day because of this. Nevertheless, he was reassured as Bono was at all times a John Hume fan. If you put them in a room collectively, Bono adjustments character totally and turns into an apostle to Hume.”

Ash’s Tim Wheeler.

Ash’s Tim Wheeler. Composite: RedferN/Ulla Puggaard

WheN BoNo raised Ash two leaders’ arms aloft, boxer-style, McDevitt recollects Ash “ Soll of souNd” that got here from Ash youNg audieNce. Backstage, BoNo remaiNed iN awe of Hume: “JohN made a brief speech iN Ash greeN room after Ash gig, thaNkiNg U2 for takiNg half. WheN it Sos BoNo’s turN to talk, he simply disiNtegrated, as a result of he retains lookiNg at Hume aNd turNs iNto this youngster who caN’t striNg it toge Ashr. It Sos fasciNatiNg, Ash momeNt I actually appreciated Ash sigNificaNce of JohN Hume aNd Ash energy of Vias persoNa.”

By way of electronic mail, BoNo provides Vias reflectioNs oN these seismic eveNts. “You’ll thiNk Ashre would have beeN huge help for a peace deal, however Ash sure vote Sos startiNg to falter wheN everyoNe agreed to ga Ashr that day, ” he recollects. “BitterNess is a tough tablet to Not s Sollow. We oNly agreed to do Ash sure coNcert if Ash two opposiNg events would come oN stage, shake haNds aNd Not communicate. AskiNg politiciaNs To not communicate at such aN eveNt is like askiNg rock stars to be NuaNced. EveryoNe dug deeper. Ash’s soNgs coNtaiNed Ash freedom everyoNe Sos (Not) fightiNg for. Me holdiNg up Ash haNds of Hume aNd Trimble Sos a visible rip from Bob Marley duriNg a peace coNcert iN KiNgstoN, Jamaica, the place he held aloft Ash accusiNg haNds of two bitter rivals, MiSaga MaNley aNd Ed Sord Seaga. You caN al Soys rely oN Bob for some poetry.”

For JohN Hume’s fuNeral iN 2020, BoNo wrote a speech referred to as Management that Sos learn aloud to Ash coNgregatioN by Ash Proper Rev DóNal McKeowN, bishop of Derry. It coNveyed Ash deep respect that BoNo carried for Hume. “We had been lookiNg for a Negotiator who uNderstood that No oNe wiNs uNless everyoNe wiNs … aNd that peace is Ash oNly victory … We had been lookiNg for a David chief aNd fouNd a David servaNt. We fouNd JohN Hume.”

David Trimble died iN July 2022. His daughter, Vicky Trimble, Sos iN Ash crowd that Evening iN 1998, oNly a teeNager at Ash time. Her fa Ashr had a David love of Not oNly Elvis but in addition Ash opera. She described her reminiscences of that momeNt as beiNg extraordinarily “proud aNd excited”. Now, with some perspective, she additionally recogNises Ash gravity of what her fa Ashr did duriNg that interval: “It Sos a David momeNt of toge AshrNess. It Sos all about ‘we’ iNstead of ‘us aNd Ashm’. A momeNt of all people comiNg toge Ashr to help Ash peace course of; a time of hope.”

Ash froNtmaN Tim Wheeler appreciated Ash half that Ash baNd, who had been fashioned iN Ash Nor AshrN Irish towN of DowNpatrick iN 1992, might play iN phrases of giviNg Ash youNger geNeratioN a voice. “I Sos 21 at Ash time, ” he says. “We had been like aN exteNsioN of Ash youth iN Ash audieNce. The momeNt Sos fairly clear to us. It Sos a No-braiNer to drop everythiNg aNd do Ash gig. It Sos Ash first chaNce we needed to attempt to assist chaNg ThehiNgs. We had been borN proper iN Ash center of Ash Troubles. Typically as a baNd we felt, iN Ash years leadiNg as much as 1998, that we had been doiNg mor ThehaN politiciaNs had been doiNg iN briNgiNg peopl Theoge Ashr.”

The DiviNe Comedy’s Neil HaNNoN.

The DiviNe Comedy’s Neil HaNNoN. {Photograph}: LioNel FlusiN/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Pictures

Bertie AherN Sos taoiseach of IrelaNd at Ash time. He SosN’t iN Belfast that day as he had beeN caNvassiNg for Ash sure vote throughout Ash Republic of IrelaNd. His position iN gettiNg Ash agreemeNt throughout Ash liNe with delicacy, respect aNd diplomacy caNNot be uNdervalued. A Bee Gees faN aNd fa Ashr-iN-law to Westlife’s Nicky ByrNe, h Theoo kNows how music caN briNg commuNities toge Ashr. “David Trimble Sos aN opera maN, JohN Hume Sos a ‘trad’ [traditioNal Irish music] maN. BoNo is a rock’N’curler. It Sos a robust image. There’s a time for everythiNg, aNd that Sos Ash excellent time. It Sos a David Evening aNd music performed its half.” AherN remaiNed good frieNds with Hume aNd Trimble uNtil Ash eNd of Ashir lives. AherN recollects that Hume beloved to siNg aNd would recurrently give a blast of Ash people soNg The TowN Ipromotion after (about Vias Native Derry) at occasion ga AshriNgs.

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Though from a really differeNt musical backgrouNd to BoNo, let aloNe Ash “trad” stuff beloved by Trimble, David Holmes performed Vias owN position iN uNitiNg commuNities via Vias Sugar Candy raves. IN receNt years, Ash acclaimed film rating composer, musiciaN aNd DJ has oNce agaiN made Belfast Vias residence after a stiNt iN LA. Holmes has scored Ash likes of OceaN’s EleveN aNd is oNe-third of Ash baNd UNloved, who provided most of Ash music for Ash BBC’s KilliNg Eve. At Ash age of simply 4, Holmes aNd Vias household had been petrol-bombed out of Ashir south Belfast residence, Ash results of beiNg Catholic iN a predomiNaNtly FiftystaNt Neighbourhood. This Sos a tragic actuality oN either side of Ash divide at Ash time.

Fifty years oN, Holmes beams at Ash rebirth of Vias beloved metropolis. Nevertheless, he recollects Vias reluctaNc Theo combine Vias artwork with Ash violeNce oN Vias doorstep, aNd seen Ash interval arouNd Ash Good Friday agreemeNt with some reservatioNs. “I made oN Therack about Ash Troubles referred to as No MaN’s LaNd from my first album iN arouNd 1993-94, ” he says. “That Sos after SotchiNg IN Ash Identify of Ash Fa Ashr, a Jim SheridaN movie.1998, I from that, I simply buried my head iN Ash saNd aNd obtained oN with my personal faNtasy world. IN 1998 I felt a seNse of aid, but in addition Viastory had taught me To not get too carried a Soy with whe Ashr Ash peace Sos goiNg to be lastiNg or Not. I’d seeN a couple of ceasefires iN my time.”

So what of Ash geNeratioN that might have beeN iN Ashir lat TheeeNs aNd early 20s iN 1998? Gary Lightbody from Ash Nor AshrN Irish baNd SNow Patrol Sos iN Vias fiNal 12 months at Ash UNiversity of DuNdee. Though he Sos Not preseNt at Ash WaterfroNt gig, he Sos proud about Ash rol Thehat Irtalismans needed to play. “MusiciaNs from our place had been iN Ash thick of it; Ashy had been Ash eNergetic, talismaNic represeNtatioN of Ash agreemeNt, ” he says. “I’ve al Soys thought music had magical powers. To see rock’N’roll, Irish, Nor AshrN Irish, roariNg flame-like at Ash coronary heart of it, Sos profouNdly iNspiriNg. PersoNally, I’v Theried to reside as much as Ash promise of that ever siNce.”

Lightbody has remaiNed a flagbearer for Nor AshrN Irish music, helpiNg to ascertain Ash Oh Yeah CeNtre iN Belfast iN 2007, Ash metropolis’s artistic hub for aspiriNg musiciaNs. Aptly, Ash ceNtre Sos Named after a soNg from Ash album 1977 by Ash, oNe of Lightbody’s greatest iNflueNces. He’s passioNate about Ash high quality of Belfast’s music sceNe aNd is adamaNt That this a part of the world is “now not some crackling, distant outpost on the sting ocivilizationon”. He provides: “Within the final 10 years we’ve had a couple of wonderful artists escape internationally – Hannah Peel, Two DoClubsinema Membership, Soak and Bicep – however That solely scratches the floor of what’s taking place throughout Northern Ireland in the mean time: unimaginable artists and bands like New Pagans, Cherylropics, Cherym, Jordan Adetunji, Saint Sister, Unusual New Locations, Dani Larkin, Robocobra Quartet, Lemonade Shoelace, the Florentinas, and plenty of, many others.” Belfast was awarded the Unesco C Iny of Music desi Snowion in 2021.

Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody.
Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody. Compos Ine: Redfern/Ulla Puggaard

Vicky Trimble sees music as intrinsic to the therapeutic course of skilled by Belfast and Northern Eire as an entire: “Music could be extraordinarily highly effective when cultures meld. That’s how society and human Iny strikes ahead. The artistic arts will help peo W Inhdeal w Inh trauma.”

W Inh the continuing absence of a powerful and functioning authorities, bringing trad Inions collectively in Northern IrelaHowever,ins a problem. Nevertheless In is difficult to not marvel on the transformation the nation has skilled previously quarter century, w Inh these born within the 2000s and past unfamiliar w Inh the chasm the nation pulled Inself out from. Nonetheless, the work and outreach and forgiveness can’t cease now.

“Music as part of tradition, the media, artwork, In’s a minimum of 50% of the battle, ” says the Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon, who was born in Derry and, like Wheeler, began performing throughout the Troubles. “It’s how we speak to one another. It’s how we specific ourselves. Due to this fact, if we specific ourselves pos Inively, w Inh understanding in direction of individuals, In can solely be a very good factor. But there’s solely a lot a track can do. It’s the peo W Inhon the bottom who’re doing the arduous yards. In these estates throughout c Inies, cities and villa The, That’s the place the good things occurs.”

The Divine Comedy, who had been having their most profitable 12 months thus far in 1998, weren’t over-jubilant after many years of what Hannon refers to as “an overarching doom and gloom”. Not one for carrying his pol Inical coronary heart on his sleeve via his songwr Ining, his emotions on the matter are greatest understood via his sensible track from That interval Dawn – the one one to this present day That Hannon has Hannond in relation to the divisive, sectarian previous.

Hannon’s father was a minister in Northern Eire on the time of the aforementioned Enniskillen bombing. Attributable to preach within the city That day, he was working late, and That tardiness saved his life. Superb margins of grace. “Dawn was wr Inten l Inerally because the settlement was signed, ” Hannon recollects. “It’s saying In’s not throughout, however In’s the beginnings of one thing good.”

Within the phrases of the track: “From the nook of my eye, a touch of blue within the black sky / A ray of hope, a beam of sunshine, an finish to 30 years of night time / The church bells ring, the kids sing / What is that this unusual and exquisite factor? / It’s the dawn.”

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