He is the rock legend dubbed ‘Saint Bono’ for his long-running campaign against global poverty. But when Bono’s band U2 perform at Glastonbury later this month, protesters are planning to accuse them of avoiding taxes which could have helped exactly the sort of people the singer cares about so dearly.
Members of activist group Art Uncut will hoist a massive inflatable sign with the message ‘Bono Pay Up’ spelt out in lights during the Irish band’s headline performance. They will also parade bundles of oversized fake cash in front of the singer.
The protest has been provoked by U2′s decision to move their multi-million-pound music and publishing business away from Ireland – thus allegedly avoiding taxes on record sales.
A spokesman for Art Uncut, an off-shoot of controversial group UK Uncut, said the protest would not be violent or disrupt U2′s set – but would be ‘highly visible’. He said: ‘Bono claims to care about the developing world, but U2 greedily indulges in the very kind of tax avoidance that is crippling poor nations. We will be showing the very real impact of U2′s tax avoidance on hospitals and schools in Ireland. Anyone watching will be made very aware that Bono needs to pay up.’
Bono has previously been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and granted an honorary knighthood by the Queen in recognition of his charity work and activism. The U2 frontman regularly meets political leaders to lobby on behalf of developing nations and has visited countries including Ethiopia and Mexico to try to improve the lives of the world’s poor.
But U2 sparked criticism in 2006 by shifting part of their business affairs from Ireland to the Netherlands after a cap on generous tax breaks for artists in their home country. At the time, Irish politicians branded U2′s move a cynical ploy, leading to accusations that, while the band were urging the Government to give more money to relieve poverty, they were denying it the funds to do so.
Last year, U2 members were the highest-earning musicians in the world, raking in approximately £80 million.
Protesters also aim to draw attention to what they say is the ‘bigger picture’ of the impact of tax avoidance on Ireland’s economy. They plan to float an oversized bundle of fake cash across the crowd, from an Irish tricolour on one side of the spectators to a Dutch flag on the other, during the band’s set at the rock festival in Somerset on June 24.
Tax expert and anti-poverty campaigner Richard Murphy said: ‘If Bono thinks he is just like any other Irishman, he should pay his taxes like everyone else. That is the only way for Ireland to break out of the mess it is in.’