Bono received death threats from IRA, Dublin gangsters and US far-right because of 'peace-stance'

17 October 2022, 10:59 | Updated: 17 October 2022, 11:05

Bono(l) talks about threats to himself and his family
Bono(l) talks about threats to himself and his family. Picture: Alamy

By Stephen Rigley

U2 frontman Bono has opened up about the death threats he received from the IRA, Irish mob and US far-right due to his pro-peace stance.

The singer, real name Paul Hewson, admitted his comments have caused him difficulties over the years and left not only him as a target but his wife Ali Hewson and their four children, Jordan, 33, Eve, 31, Elijah, 23, and 21-year-old John.

In his upcoming memoir 'Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story', Bono recalled Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams saying he "stinks" after it was perceived “U2’s opposition to paramilitaries (of all kinds) had cost the IRA valuable fundraising in the US”.

However, he was told by special branch officers that his wife was most likely to be their target which he "still takes badly".

A further appalling threat occurred during the 1990s. Bono writes: "A famous gangland leader in Dublin had been planning to kidnap [his daughters], that [the gangster’s] people had been casing our houses for several months and developed an elaborate plan”.

And while touring America in the 1980s, the group spoke out against the Arizona state governor's opposition to a memorial day for Martin Luther King, prompting a sinister threat about what would happen if they sang 'Pride', their tribute to the civil rights leader, at their show in the state.

Speaking at the The Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival on Sunday, Bono, 62, explained: "The specific threat was that if Bono sings the verse about the assassination of King he will not make it to the end of the song”.

He told how he had "got all messianic on myself" and half-knelt to sing the lines "Shot rings out in the Memphis sky, Free at last, they took your life, they could not take your pride."

He added: “I then realised the gravity of the situation and I did close my eyes. It was a slim possibility but just in case.”

He then opened his eyes to find that his bass guitarist Adam Clayton had stood squarely in front of him throughout the entire verse to protect him from any shots from the crowd.

Bono with wife wife Ali Hewson & Eve Hewson & Jordan Hewson
Bono with wife wife Ali Hewson & Eve Hewson & Jordan Hewson. Picture: Alamy
U2 in the 1980s
U2 in the 1980s. Picture: Alamy
Bono with former US President George W Bush and Bob Geldof
Bono with former US President George W Bush and Bob Geldof. Picture: Alamy

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Bono, who segued from being perhaps Europe’s best known musician to a campaigner for debt relief in the developing world and the provision of HIV drugs in Africa, also recalls meetings with powerful figures.

He writes about Pope John Paul II trying on the singer’s tinted wraparound glasses as they discussed debt. He tells how he had to apologise for his anger after behaving shrilly” as an “overzealous rock star” while with the younger President Bush.

Bono also recalled how Mikhail Gorbachev met his wife's goddaughter Anna, who had been born severely disabled because of the Chernobyl disaster, when he visited his home in Dublin in 2002 and the politician confided that he knew the Soviet Union was finished following the 1986 nuclear disaster.

The memoir, due out next month, also explores the band’s rise to power, the impact on Clayton in particular, and Bono’s embarrassment whenever he watches the 1985 Live Aid concert. “There is only one thing that I can see,” he writes. “The mullet.”