Proud Geldof given freedom of Dublin

A flock of sheep owned by anti-poverty campaigner Bob Geldof could soon be running around a Dublin park after he was awarded the freedom of the city.

As a freeman of the capital, Geldof can let his 14 sheep graze on common ground within the city boundaries, such as St Stephen’s Green.

Geldof joins an elite list of those honoured with the award, including US Presidents John F Kennedy and Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, U2, Mother Teresa and Jack Charlton. Only 72 people have been given the honour.

And the former Boomtown Rats frontman threatened to use his privileges by letting his flock roam freely on the green.

“The truth is I do have 14 sheep, down in Kent in my house there, and I’ll actually ship them over now to Stephen’s Green and you can all bugger off. That’s where they are going to live,” he joked.

The city council voted in favour of awarding the veteran rock star the prestigious accolade after months of debate. Geldof said he was thrilled to receive such an honour from his birthplace.

“Very proud, you know it’s not a word that comes easy to my lips, but yes,” he told RTÉ Radio.

“Because it is so sparingly given it seems more, some of them are hurled around like confetti. If you are going to be honoured it’s your home town you want more than anything else. I’m thrilled.”

Geldof can vote in local government and parliamentary elections and bring goods into the capital through the city gates, without paying customs duties.

Holders of the ancient Freedom of Dublin had to be ready to defend the city from attack and could be called upon to join the city militia at short notice.

A motion to give Geldof the freedom in 1989 failed because it was thought he was too young and volatile.

“I still am,” said Geldof. “Just a bit more middle aged. That’s maybe what they said but there was a whole load of stuff going on behind it. At the time you know as usual I’d pissed somebody off.”

Geldof, who brought together some of the world’s top musicians as part of a campaign to cancel debt relief in developing countries, will be honoured alongside Irish Olympic champion Ronnie Delaney.

When first mooted by councillors, the proposal was met with opposition from Fianna Fáil, which was reluctant to give Geldof the award.

Many councillors felt he had not done enough to raise the profile of the city on an international basis.

Lord Mayor Catherine Byrne said she proposed both Geldof and Delaney based on their outstanding values and said the awards were long overdue. Councillors voted unanimously in favour of giving the Dubliners the awards.

Geldof is being honoured for his work in trying to alleviate debt in many African countries and his campaign against world poverty.

In the same ceremony, at a date yet to be decided, Irish Olympic hero Delaney will be honoured for his triumphs – 50 years after his success on the track.

Delaney won the 1,500m at the 1956 games in Melbourne – Ireland’s last athletics gold medal.

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