Irish Times

18 January 2003

Sir Bob finally makes it to conferring ceremony

By Frank McNally
Irish Times

More than a quarter of a century later than his father would have liked, Bob Geldof finally made it to a conferring ceremony in UCD yesterday.

It was only for an honorary fellowship from the Literary and Historical Society - about as useful as the honorary knighthood he received from Buckingham Palace and which saw him introduced to the L&H as "Mister or Sir", by an MC hedging his bets.

But Ireland's most opinionated pop star was clearly chuffed by the recognition from Ireland's best-known college debating society. And for a man who failed his Leaving Cert but has argued more causes than a retired lawyer, the honour was certainly apt.

Still angry after all these years, he used his speech to rail against racism in contemporary Ireland, not to mention the "vulgarity" that came with economic success, the neglect of emigrants whose remittances once propped up the Irish economy, and even the "Hibernianistic claptrap" of the film Gangs of New York.

He was at his fiercest, however, when discussing fathers' rights - or the complete lack of them, to be more exact - a subject he became intimately familiar with during the "dark years of the soul" that followed the break-up of his marriage to Paula Yates.

In the last six months alone, he had received "70 black bin bags of letters" from men deprived of contact with their children, "criminalised" because relationships had ended. He hadn't read the letters "because the pain in them is too much", but with the bloody-mindedness that organised Live-Aid, he added: "I will get the law changed, eventually. I will do it."

© 2003