Former US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle will be honoured with the Freedom of Dublin City award – despite opposition from many city councillors, it was announced last night.
The motion was only passed last night by seven votes, with many councillors arguing that Obama didn't deserve it. A total of 30 councillors voted in favour, while 23 rejected the proposal and further three councillors abstained.
Those councillors voting against the motions said they believed Obama didn't deserve the Freedom of Dublin because of the drone air strikes he ordered during his presidency and the fact that his government supported plans to overthrow the democratically elected government of Honduras.
But Lord Mayor Brendan Carr, who put forward the proposal last year, argued that Barack and Michelle Obama deserve the award. "The Freedom of Dublin is a political statement, and at this juncture this council can make a clear statement about the [current] US President," he pointed out in his statement.
He added that the Obama's "did set the right direction for US as an inclusive society, and despite stiff opposition from Congress, from the US military and from commercial establishment who aren’t as progressive".
The Lord Mayor also stated, “A similar era, unfortunately, will not be experienced again for some time. I am not proposing that we canonise the Obamas, or declare Barack Obama’s presidency a success. But I do believe that Dublin City Council should seek to recognise their achievements and their vision for a better, fairer world.
"Honouring them with the highest award we can grant - the freedom of Dublin city - would reflect our shared commitment to a vision of a more tolerant world."
Previous winners of the prestigious award include the likes of Nelson Mandela, U2, Bill Clinton, Aung San Suu Ky, and Mikhail Gorbachev.
Councillor Michael O’Brien, of the Anti-Austerity Alliance, rejected the motion. Speaking last night, he said: "It seems the main yardstick he applied was comparing Obama to the disasters who came before and after him. This is not good enough."
An official invitation will now be issued to Barack and Michelle Obama, but it is not clear if they will attend. However, Barack Obama did recently hint that he plans to visit Ireland to get in a few rounds of golf.
Last month, the outgoing US Ambassador Kevin O’Malley revealed that Obama planned to return to our shores. "The last sentence the president said to me on Wednesday of this week, when we were saying goodbye, was: ‘Please tell them I’m coming’,” he said. "I think that’s the president’s way of saying informally you will probably see him again, and my guess is in the coming year or so.”
While Obama's eight cousin, Henry Healy, from Co Offaly, recently said, "The president is coming back to Ireland and we would be hopeful he will pay another visit to Moneygall. He has Irish ancestry here so we’re very much looking forward to having him down again.”
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