By Eileen Murphy
Whether you think of him as St. Bob of Live Aid or Sir Bob of the rock star Sirs (Elton, Paul, Mick, etc.), one thing’s for certain: Bob Geldof is that rare person for whom the evening news is a call to action. Over the past 17 years, he’s spearheaded the campaign to fight famine in Africa, joined forces with fellow Irish rocker Bono to seek an end to Third World debt, and supported the cause of fathers seeking changes in British child custody laws.
But of all the issues he’s adopted over the years, the most compelling cause for him is also the one that hits closest to home. Geldof has become an ardent supporter of the families of the 1998 Omagh bombing, which claimed the lives of 29 people and injured dozens more. In the past year, he’s raised over euro 700,000 to fund The Omagh Victims’ Legal Trust in their battle against the perpetrators of the crime, and he has been the group’s most high-profile and vocal advocate. According to Geldof, the 1998 Omagh bombing was, he says, “Ireland’s September 11th.”
While acknowledging that Americans might feel that making this type of comparison – barely one month before the first anniversary – is a diminution of the World Trade Center attacks, Geldof dismisses that notion.
“I know there’s no equivalence in number, but there is an equivalence in evil and horror,” he said. “I don’t see a moral distinction between the two.”
“Both were cold-blooded,” he continued. “The attacks were calculated for maximum damage and impact.”
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The nascent peace process in Northern Ireland was rocked by acts of violence during that tense summer four years ago. Three young boys, brothers Richard, Mark and Jason Quinn, ranging in age from 9 to 11 years, were burned to death when a firebomb was thrown through their window, by a paramilitary gang. The world held its breath as the July 12th standoff in Drumcree stretched into weeks, with images of orange sashes, RUC officers and barbed wire flashed around the globe. Politicians urged people to stay calm, to preserve the fragile d