By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — The last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, is to be conferred with the Freedom of Dublin for his contribution to democracy and world peace at a special meeting of the Corporation in City Hall today, Jan. 9.
He will become the 71st person to receive the city’s highest accolade, Freeman of Dublin, and sign the roll book of honor that dates from 1876.
It already includes names like U.S. Presidents Ulysses Grant, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton, South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Lord Mayor Michael Mulcahy proposed that Gorbachev receive the honor at the December meeting of the Corporation and the 52 members unanimously backed the motion.
A Corporation spokesman said Gorbachev would be arriving in Dublin on Tuesday and would also be conferred with an honorary degree by Trinity College before the Corporation ceremony attended by the fully robed city fathers the next day.
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Gorbachev became the youngest person to hold supreme power in the USSR since Joseph Stalin when he succeeded Konstantin Chernenko in 1985.
He launched a series of reforms that brought “perestroika” (restructuring) and “glasnost” (openness) into common parlance around the world.
He transferred power from the Communist Party to elected bodies in the Soviet Republics, normalized relations with China, signed a series of arms deal with the U.S. and withdrew troops from Afghanistan.
By ignoring a series of largely peaceful revolutions against Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, including the collapse of the Berlin Wall, he effectively ended the Cold War.
However, the Soviet economy deteriorated and after an attempted coup d’etat by hardliners in 1991, Boris Yeltsin asserted his authority and set himself on course to take over.
The USSR voted itself out of existence in December 1991 and Gorbachev resigned as pPresident.
His new Freedom of Dublin will give the former Soviet leader a number of ancient privileges, including the right to graze sheep in area of the city, including St. Stephen’s Green, to import goods through the city gates without paying customs duties and to vote in elections here.
It gives exemption from having soldiers billeted in his home, but his duties mean he needs to have a coat of mail, a bow, a light helmet and a sword and be ready to defend the city from attack at short notice.
The last time the honor was bestowed was in March 2000 when tribute was paid to the struggle for human rights and home-grown rock music.
The U2 foursome, Bono (Paul Hewson), The Edge (Dave Evans), Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton and their manager, Paul McGuinness, were honored because their international success had raised Dublin’s profile and they had made a major contribution to the city.