State papers: Plan for ‘Irish knighthoods’ system fell through in 1991

Cyclist Stephen Roche and musicians Bob Geldof and U2 could have been in line for a State honour if the government had pressed ahead with plans to introduce an honours system 30 years ago
State papers: Plan for ‘Irish knighthoods’ system fell through in 1991

Cyclist Stephen Roche and musicians Bob Geldof and U2 could have been in line for a State honour if the government had pressed ahead with plans to introduce an honours system 30 years ago, recently released state papers reveal.

The response from Geldof and others, which was far from positive, scuttled the plans, The Irish Times reports.

Labour’s Michael Bell became the latest of many politicians to raise the question in the Dáil in February 1991, prompting a memo from the Department of the Taoiseach’s office.

The official said the lack of such a system was highlighted by the success of Geldof, Roche and U2.

Roche had won the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and World Championships in 1987, while U2 had just claimed four Grammy awards.

“In the case of Mr Geldof it was left to the British Government to award him an honorary KBE,” the official noted. The Live Aid organiser was knighted in 1986 for his work in drawing public attention and funds to the plight of Ethiopians during the famine.

Having a State decoration would also avoid “the present embarrassing situation whereby we are unable to reciprocate in cases where honours are conferred on citizens of Ireland by other states,” the official added.

On points against the system, the official attached newspaper reports of Geldof criticising the idea.

Taoiseach at the time, Charles Haughey, attempted to organise a meeting on the plan with party leaders. The file is unclear on whether such a meeting ever took place.

In 2015, the late senator Feargal Quinn published legislation which would have given a gradam an uachtaráin (president’s award) to people with outstanding achievements. However, the Bill did not progress after an election was called the following year.

 

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