Rock star and charity fundraiser Bob Geldof says Ireland the nation was born out of the Famine, not the 1916 Easter Rising, which he described as ‘nonsense’.
The Famine is the most tragic event in Irish history and remains controversial even today. Between one and two million died of hunger or related diseases and a million more were forced to emigrate. The devastation it caused was felt long into the 20th century.
Many people, especially Irish Americans descended from those who fled the Great Hunger, refuse to even refer to it as the Famine, preferring to call it Genocide or the Irish Holocaust on the basis that it wasn’t the failure of the potato crop that caused the disaster, but the attitude and failures of the British government at the time.
Geldof made his remarks at the closing of the Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger exhibition, shown in Dublin and Skibbereen, one of the areas worst affected by the famine.
He said: “When I saw the exhibition in Dublin a couple of months ago, it was astonishingly painful. It’s impossible to describe the actuality of the famine. It doesn’t bear thinking about and certainly can’t be reproduced in painting. The rigours of what happened here are so inexpressible.”
The influence of the famine was in Geldof’s mind when he set up Band Aid in 1984. He persuaded, bullied and cajoled some of the most celebrated pop stars of the day to perform on the record, Do they know it’s Christmas, to raise money for the victims of the famine that was raging in Ethiopia.
Geldof went to Ethiopia at the time to see the devastation first hand. “When you see these human beings, they don’t look like that, they don’t sound like that. The sound is a low moaning. What you are aware of is the constant buzzing of flies. The final thing is that this human shifts its life through your fingers, voids itself and is gone. How is that expressed in any known medium? It can’t be.”
Speaking of the Irish famine, he said: “It for me has always been the birthplace of where we are, not the nonsense of 1916. When Band Aid and Live Aid happened, it was no accident that this country pro rata gave more than any country in the rest of the world. Of course, I’m a Paddy, so that has a lot to do with it. But more to the point, there was an immediate association of understanding of the horror and the consequences of that.”
Following the success of the single, Do they know it’s Christmas, Geldof then organised the Live Aid concert featuring leading rock stars from Ireland, the UK and the US.
Take a look at Geldof in Band Aid’s Do they Know It’s Christmas in the video below.