Northern Ireland

Belfast: U2 plays first concerts since cancelling Paris gig

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Image caption U2 paid their respects near the Bataclan concert hall in Paris on Saturday

Irish rock band U2 are due to play their first concerts since cancelling their Paris show after last weekend's attacks.

The venue is Belfast and the band has had a long association with Northern Ireland.

Dubliners often boast about seeing U2's first gigs long before they were either famous or particularly good.

The band that formed in 1976 at Mount Temple Comprehensive School in north Dublin did not play Belfast until 1981.

And some in the city proudly say they were there to see the band, still in their teens, perform.

From the very outset, U2 made it clear they had a strong affection for a Northern Ireland that was still blighted by the Troubles.

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Image caption U2 received a Golden Globe in 2014 for Ordinary Love, as featured in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

It was an affection that has been reciprocated down the ages.

In the intervening years, the band became the biggest in the world.

In 1997, Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen arrived in Belfast to play on their Pop tour.

At the time, Bono said: "It's going to be a great night in a great city with 40,000 of our closest friends.

"It's hard to put it into words but, actually, this was the easiest gig in the whole world tour to put together."

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Image caption The band has a close affection for Belfast

Within a year the band, along with County Down act Ash, campaigned for a Yes vote for the Good Friday Agreement, a political deal that would pave the way for a resolution to the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

U2 were joined on stage by the Ulster Unionist Party's David Trimble and John Hume of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) - the two political leaders would later win the Nobel Peace Prize.

It was no surprise that the Dublin band would get involved.

U2 had long made clear their opposition to paramilitary violence, with Bono often reminding his audiences that the song Sunday Bloody Sunday, about civilian deaths during a civil rights march in in Londonderry in 1972, was not a rebel song.

And on that night in the Waterfront Hall, he was on the side of the peacemakers, Mr Trimble and Mr Hume.

He welcomed them on the stage as "two men who've taken a leap of faith out of the past and into the future".

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Image caption Bono and U2 are currently on a European tour to promote their latest album, Songs Of Innocence

"We want to join them, but first we want them to join together," he added.

But the euphoria of the moment did not last, punctured as it was months later in August 1998 by the Omagh bombing that claimed the lives of 29 people.

It was the worst single atrocity of the the Troubles and inspired U2's song, Peace on Earth.

But the worst single day of the Troubles was the day of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings when 33 people lost their lives in the Ulster Volunteer Force's attacks in May 1974.

A simple grey monument on Dublin's busy Talbot Street carries the names of the victims.

Many in Dublin believe there was British collusion in the killings and UK files on the case were not handed over to an Irish state inquiry.

Standing beside the monument Kevin O'Loughlin, who lost his mother Christina in the attacks, said he was very pleased that U2's song about the bombings, Raised by Wolves, will be performed in Belfast and Dublin complete with photographs and images of the victims.

"It's a very important song for us, it expresses our feelings about the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and the fact that the files have not been released," he said.

"So, we're very happy that U2 are putting on these concerts in Dublin and in Belfast and I'll be there on Monday night with my family."

Image caption A ceremony to mark the 41st anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings was held in Dublin in May

Wednesday night will be U2's first concert since their cancelled shows in Paris last weekend after attacks in the French capital.

But at a time when the past still casts a long shadow and is a source of political disagreement, Margaret Urwin, a long-time campaigner on the Dublin and Monaghan bombing said there are differences between the two atrocities over 40 years apart.

"What has happened in Paris is absolutely dreadful," she said.

"It was a dreadful act of terrorism and our hearts go out to all the victims.

"What we're talking about here in terms of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings was state terrorism."

But politics is unlikely to be uppermost on most people's minds on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

It will be all about the show and U2 remain one of the best live rock acts in the world.

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