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The boys are back in town!

U2 returned to their native Dublin last weekend. Their gigs were held in Croke Park, Ireland’s main sporting stadium, which holds over 80,000 people.

I went along on Saturday evening. It was more than a great musical event. Among the vast crowd there was a sense of welcoming home a band that is a global phenomenon but still has their roots deep in Dublin.

Dublin roots

This was reflected in how Bono connected to the crowd. He explained Irish slang terms to the many foreigners present, and welcomed the children from the local Crumlin hospital – “our heroes.”

Local meets global

There were other ways in which the local and global connected. About half an hour before the concert started, Bono spoke to myself and the Aid Minister Peter Power about ensuring Ireland keeps its promise of giving 0.7% of our national income to help the world’s poorest people by 2012. 

Defeating hunger

For someone about to perform to 80,000 people, he was remarkably calm. Two hours later, Bono recalled this conversation to the crowd when he spoke about Ireland’s critical role in working to defeat famine and hunger. He was a key member of the Irish Hunger Task Force which reported last year. During this speech, he referred kindly to the good work of Irish agencies such as Concern and Goal.

Message from space

Many of the great U2 songs were played as the rain spattered spasmodically down. But there were other memorable moments, in addition to the great music.

During this tour, Bono has been speaking onstage to occupants of a space station. Last night they sent a goodwill message to Dublin. One of them reflected on how much he looked forward to re-acquainting himself with Guinness when he returns to earth.

Remembering Burma

There was a powerful message from Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “our Boss” as Bono called him. The imprisoned Burmese opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was remembered by scores of young people who came on stage with her mask in front of their faces. The message went out from Croke Park that we remember her.

That message, put in front of hundreds of thousands of people who will attend U2’s concerts on their world tour over the next year, must hasten the day when the Burmese authorities set free this heroic and principled woman.

It was a night to remember!