The Lord Mayor of Dublin Caroline Conroy, with the support of Group Leaders on Dublin City Council, has nominated Swedish Environmentalist Greta Thunberg and Irish Environmentalist Duncan Stewart for the Honorary Freedom of the City of Dublin.

"I am a huge admirer of both Duncan and Greta," Conroy said on Wednesday, June 7.

"They are absolutely passionate about raising awareness of this huge issue.

"Our city has never before used this award to celebrate the role of environmental activists.

"We must recognise the incredible work done across generations to protect our shared city and planet.” 

Dublin City Council said on Wednesday that Thunberg replied "late last night" that she would accept the honor after Conroy reached out to the teen activist's team "some time ago."

"Greta has been a significant presence on the international stage, particularly in rallying young people to the climate challenge," Conroy said on Wednesday.

On nominating Stewart, Conroy said: “I said already that I couldn’t think of any other Irish person who had done more over such a long period of time to spread the word about environmental issues than Duncan."

I am proud to nominate @GretaThunberg and @DuncanStewart4 for the Freedom of Dublin.

Our city has never before used this award to celebrate the role of environmental activists. We must recognise the incredible work done across generations to protect our shared city and planet.

— Cllr. Caroline Conroy (@caroline1conroy) June 7, 2023

The nominations were made this morning, June 7, during a meeting of Dublin City Council’s Protocol Committee and will now go forward for approval at the next monthly meeting of Dublin City Council on June 12. 

Stewart and Thunberg are set to join more than 80 other Freemen and Freewomen, including former US Presidents John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton, Barack and Michelle Obama, U2, Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, entertainer Maureen Potter, former Dublin Football Managers Kevin Heffernan and Jim Gavin, broadcaster Gay Byrne, and poet Thomas Kinsella. 

Kellie Harrington, Ailbhe Smyth, and Professor Mary Aiken were the most recent people to be awarded the Freedom of the City of Dublin in June 2022. 

Notably, in November 2017, Bob Geldof returned his award in protest over Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi also holding the accolade, stating that he did not "wish to be associated in any way with an individual currently engaged in the mass ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people of north-west Burma."

The following month, Kyi's award was revoked by Dublin City Council "over human rights abuses against the Rohingya people in Myanmar," though the Council denied it was in relation to Geldof's protests. Both Kyi and Geldof's names were removed from the Roll of Honorary Freedom.

What is the Freedom of the City of Dublin?

The Lord Mayor of Dublin nominates people for the Honorary Freedom of the City of Dublin, and a meeting of the City Council must ratify each one.

The recipient of the Freedom of the City of Dublin are referred to as "Freemen" or "Freewomen" of Dublin and become honorary citizens of the city.

The Council has conferred this award on only 86 people.

Ancient Privileges & Duties of a Freeman or Freewoman

While no financial benefits are attached to the award, holders of the Honorary Freedom of Dublin have some ancient privileges and duties not applicable to ordinary citizens, some of which have little more than symbolic meaning in the modern world.

Ancient Privileges include:

  • The right to bring goods into Dublin through the city gates, without paying customs duties.
  • The right to pasture sheep on common ground within the city boundaries, including modern-day College Green (formerly Hoggen Green) and St. Stephen’s Green. 
  • The right to vote in municipal and parliamentary elections.

Ancient Duties include:

  • Each Freeman or Freewoman must be ready to defend the city from attack.
  • A Freeman or Freewoman can be called on to join a city militia at short notice.
  • According to a law passed in 1454, any merchant who becomes a Freeman or Freewoman must possess the following items:
    • A coat of mail
    • A bow
    • A light helmet
    • A sword of their own
    • Freemen from the other trade guilds must have a bow, arrows, and a sword. A law passed in 1465 states that each Freeman or Freewoman has to provide themselves with a longbow (of their length) made of yew, witch-hazel, or ash.
    • They must also have twelve arrows made of the same wood.