It’s time Bono came to the aid of his own country
Johnny Dee: Ireland needs its rich to pay their taxes. That means U2, Bono...
Amid all the debate about Ireland's financial woes and the subsequent bailout by British and European taxpayers, one voice has remained silent. Odd really considering that he is one of Ireland's richest inhabitants, certainly its most famous, a friend to presidents and kings, and someone rather fond of the sound of his own voice.
That man is Bono - lead singer of U2, political activist and, if his speech at a prayer breakfast attended by President Bush and Jordan's King Abdullah in 2006 still holds true, a seeker of justice for "the poorest of the poor".
"Holding children to ransom for the debts of their grandparents," he told the assembled dignitaries, "... that's a justice issue."
Well, could justice finally be served on Bono himself? Writing in the Irish Independent last week, columnist Kevin Myers pointed out that a possible upside of the country's current position was that it would finally expose the singer for the hypocrite he is.
"I imagine Bono has stayed silent on the Irish crisis," wrote Myers, "because the solution of it was always going to involve the abolition of the artists' tax exemption, which has now happened. He will be paying 53 per cent of his income in taxes, like the rest of us.
"Now we'll see how keen he is on giving government aid raised from taxpayers to developing countries - or will he simply flee to an easier tax regime?"
For years Bono and artists like him benefited from a ridiculously lenient taxation system in Ireland - although he still complained to the Belfast Telegraph in June 2005 that U2 paid "a lot of tax by the way, a lot of tax, enormous, millions in tax".
So, in 2006, U2 moved the publishing arm of their business empire to the Netherlands - cutting their taxes by half but also depriving Ireland of tax revenue. All the time, however, kind-hearted Bono was lobbying for Ireland to dig deep to help the world's poor. Good on him.
Bono has felt the heat over his offshore dealings before and has always explained it as being "tax efficient". Hardly the language of the punk rock peacekeeper he no doubt sees himself as. In common with so many celebrities, he's a man who enjoys the glow of global philanthropy while rarely having to dig into his own pockets.
U2 are currently mid-way through their 360° World Tour. By the time it ends in Pittsburgh next July it is estimated that they will have generated over $1billion in revenue making them one of the only bankable businesses left in Ireland. When they return home surely it is time that they did the right thing and brought all that wealth back to their homeland - including their Dutch registered income.
If Bono is to continue to be a statesman - and regardless of your opinion of him, he is a man who has done much good in raising issues that needed a voice - then he needs to put his own house in order first.
In Ireland he could scarcely be less popular. In a recent poll to discover 'Ireland's Greatest' he received a paltry 4,426 votes compared to John Hume's 54,586. For the lead singer of one of the biggest bands of all time, that speaks volumes. It is time Bono did the right thing for his country rather than the right thing for his already bloated bank account.
Perhaps, it's time Bono was reminded that Ireland is now ranked as one of the poorest nations in Europe and that according to EU statistics 17 per cent of the population cannot afford to feed or clothe themselves. Continuing to be "tax efficient" when you paint yourself as a humanitarian, an Irishman and a righteous activist... that's a justice issue. ·
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