Reuters : N. Ireland Shows Power of Pop to Heal Wounds - U2 France
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Reuters : N. Ireland Shows Power of Pop to Heal Wounds

jeudi 28 mai 1998

Source : Reuters

From Reuters :

N. Ireland Shows Power of Pop to Heal Wounds

Reuters 28-MAY-98 By Paul Majendie

BELFAST, May 28 (Reuters) - British rock star Elton John, singing his heart out for peace in Northern Ireland, said : ``I am

Then, reflecting on the new mood in a land where division and despair once reigned, he told 15,000 cheering fans on Wednesday night : ``I don’t think there is a musician in the world who wouldn’t be happy about what is going on here.’’

The Irish supergroup U2 took to the stage in Belfast last week to back the Northern Ireland peace accord. Lead singer Bono raised the hands of Protestant and Catholic politicians who were once implacable foes.

It was a deeply symbolic gesture. A photo really can be worth 1,000 words. It encapsulated a mood of hope far better than any speech from the hustings.

The picture of Bono with Ulster Unionist David Trimble and Irish nationalist David Hume gave the young a powerful message in the runup to a referendum vote on the peace accord, which was resoundingly endorsed.

Bono welcomed ``two men who have taken a leap of faith out of the past and into the future.’’

``Extremists have had their day ... This is a great time to be in Belfast,’’ he told fans.

Twice in a historic week, Northern Ireland has discovered the power of pop music to heal.

It happened before in the euphoria that followed the Irish Republican Army ceasefire.

``Days like this’’ by Belfast’s own pop hero Van Morrison became the official anthem for optimism. He sang it for U.S. President Bill Clinton in a pre-Christmas rally in Belfast in 1995.

Those hopes of peace were dashed then in Northern Ireland where 3,600 people have died in the 30-year fight by IRA guerrillas to end British rule.

But now, after decades of deadlock, the pace of change has been almost bewildering, the ceasefires are holding and a tangible peace deal is in place.

The accord, which maintains Northern Ireland’s links with Britain but also builds cross-border bridges with the Irish Republic, was backed by almost three out of four voters.

Elton John’s concert neatly encapsulated past, present and future.

It was staged on manicured lawns outside the grandiose Stormont parliament building, where politicians had hammered out the Good Friday accord.

The giant stage turned its back on the statue of Sir Edward Carson, the founding father of Protestant Unionism and, incidentally, the prosecutor in the homosexuality case against playwright Oscar Wilde.

Elton John, the flamboyant gay icon in a star-spangled lime green suit, sang ``Can you feel the love tonight ?’’

He told his adoring Belfast fans : ``You deserve some hope and you deserve some peace.’’

Firebrand Protestant cleric Ian Paisley, who once launched the ``Save Ulster from Sodomy’’ campaign in Northern Ireland, staged a prayer meeting outside Stormont with his Free Presbyterian Church.

On the rolling lawns of Stormont, the wine and beer were flowing freely among the fans.

The Irish Times offered the perfect epitaph for a night when ``there wasn’t a...flag or sectarian banner in sight.’’

West Belfast fan Sinead Kelly pointed to Carson’s statue and asked ``I wonder what he makes of all this ?’’

Her friend, Declan Mulholland, said : ``Don’t worry about him. He went to sleep a long time ago.’’

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