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Bono mobbed by selfie-seeking ambassadors at Ireland's pitch for UN seat in New York

By Daniel McConnell, Political Editor in New York

U2 singer and philanthropist Bono said the world needs Ireland to tell its stories as he gave his backing to our bid to join the United Nations Security Council.

The singer joined former President Mary Robinson, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Tanaiste Simon Coveney and Irish ambassador to the UN Geraldine Byrne Nason to formally launch Ireland's bid for a seat on the council in 2021.

Bono, was the star attraction at the event which was held at the UN headquarters in New York and was mobbed by selfe-seeking ambassadors as soon as he left the stage at the north lawn.

Bono and the Liberian ambassador to the United Nations, Lewis Brown. Pic:

Daniel McConnell

Referring to the evening summer Manhattan heat, the singer said that “standing here, in that heat, the heat of a moment suffused with possibility and peril,” the UN needed “storytellers” because words mattered and that one word mattered in particular.

“The word is compromise because that’s how you achieve peace and compromise is a word that the Irish people understand very, very well.

"It is part of our story, our recent story, and we are storytellers,” he said.

The event was attended by several hundred ambassadors, diplomats and high profile UN figures to hear Ireland's pitch to become one of 10 non-permanent members on the 15-nation council.

The two-year campaign will conclude in a secret ballot of the 193-state UN in June 2020.

In his speech, Bono referred to the political turmoil around the world, saying the international order was being challenged.

He said it is “facing the greatest test in its 70-year history.”

During his address, the singer poked fun at Ireland's two rivals for the seat, Canada and Norway.

He quipped that the worst thing he could say about Canada was that they are “nice.”

[quote]"And Norway?” he said. “Who can ask for a better neighbour, a more committed peacemaker? Here’s the worse thing I can say about them: they are tall.”[/quote]

The U2 singer, who gifted the government several hundred tickets to their show in Madison Square Garden the night before, said the choice facing the ambassadors was not about a seat on the security council, but about the UN as a whole.

“It’s about its future and indeed whether it has one, whether its values still matter - and they better; whether peace is still possible and who will speak for those normal ideas when the heat is on,” he said.

“So your honourable peace activists, if you need some storytellers to describe what’s really important about this place… let us tell the story.”

He urged the UN ambassadors to “all become storytellers of a future we want to share” and that the story needed to be told “with imagination and passion and conviction.”

“We are storytellers but this is the best story ever,” he said of the UN bid.

Speaking next to a sculpture of a famine ship by Dublin artist John Behan, Bono spoke of Ireland’s past of conflict, colonialism and famine.

[quote]“Sadly, our greatest export for so long was our own people,” he said.[/quote]

Ireland, if it is to win, must secure the required 129 votes out of 193.

Ms Robinson, a well-known figure in UN circles, said she was strongly backing Ireland's bid saying it is found regularly doing “the difficult thing” in global diplomacy.

She said membership of the security council is “not easy.”

“It is a hard, hard labour of love if you really love what the UN stands for and I think Ireland really does,” she said to warm applause.

In his speech, the Taoiseach said that the UN was stronger being united, adding that Ireland as a global island wanted to play its part in defending, supporting and promoting UN traditions and values.

Mr Coveney said that with Ireland the UN knows what it would get: “a small country with big thinking, a country that listens and a strong independent voice.”