Musician and activist Bob Geldof believes that the Irish Great Hunger was the "true birth of the Irish nation" and that the 1916 Easter Rising was "nonsense."
The 67-year-old philanthropist and Dublin native, Bob Geldof, was speaking at the closing of the Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger exhibition. He also said that the “true horror” of the period could never be captured in art.
He told the crowd that when he saw the record-breaking exhibit for the first time, he found it “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 rigors of what happened here are so inexpressible.”
The Boomtown Rats frontman also said that people needed to be vigilant when conjuring up famine stories “for our own political end” via nationalism and political stances.
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Ardent charity campaigner Geldof, who founded Band Aid and organized Live Aid to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia in the 1980s, said he believed that the Great Famine of 1845-1849 was the real beginning of Ireland.
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“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.”
He continued to talk about a visit to Ethiopia in 1984.
“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.”
The now-closed exhibition was on loan from Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, United States. The collection, the world’s largest curation of famine-related art, debuted at Dublin Castle earlier this year before moving to West Cork Arts Centre.
The exhibition featured moving works by some of the most eminent Irish and Irish-American artists of the past 170 years, including Daniel MacDonald, Margaret Allen, James Mahony, Lilian Davidson, Howard Helmick, James Brenan, Paul Henry, and Jack B Yeats.