U2 Hit by "Tax Dodge" Protest at UK Fest

Activists say Bono and company have dodged paying income taxes in debt-burdened Ireland.

Saturday, Jun 25, 2011  |  Updated 6:06 PM PDT
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Picture Yourself at the U2 360 Tour

AP

Bono looks typically triumphant here, but he must not have been so psyched when he saw protesters.

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LONDON (AP) — U2 and its frontman Bono, known for their global poverty-fighting efforts, were accused of dodging taxes in Ireland by activists who crashed their performance Friday at England's Glastonbury festival.

The anti-capitalist group Art Uncut inflated a 20-foot (6-meter) balloon emblazoned with the message "U Pay Your Tax 2." Security guards wrestled them to the ground before deflating the balloon and taking it away. About 30 people were involved in the angry clash.

Bono fan Gary Noble, 45, said he found the security reponse "all a bit shocking."

"I love U2 but I think everyone should pay their taxes. The campaigners have a right to voice their opinion," he said.

Art Uncut argues that while Bono campaigns against poverty in the developing world, his group has avoided paying Irish taxes at a time when his austerity-hit country desperately needs money.

Ireland, which has already accepted an international bailout, is suffering through deep spending cuts, tax hikes and rising unemployment as it tries to pull the debt-burdened economy back from brink of bankruptcy.

"Tax(es) nestling in the band's bank account should be helping to keep open the hospitals, schools and libraries that are closing all over Ireland," Art Uncut member Charlie Dewar said ahead of the protest.

U2, the country's most successful band, was heavily criticized in 2006 for moving its corporate base from Ireland to the Netherlands, where royalties on music incur virtually no tax.

Bono, guitarist The Edge and U2's other members — bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen — are among the country's wealthiest residents. Forbes magazine has estimated the band earned $195 million last year, mostly through its hugely profitable "360 Degrees" world tour.

It's not known how much personal income tax the band members pay in Ireland.

During the years when Ireland was a booming "Celtic Tiger" economy, the members of U2 invested in a wide range of Dublin properties, including a luxury riverside hotel and a planned Norman Foster-designed skyscraper on the River Liffey. Plans for the "U2 Tower" were shelved when property prices collapsed in 2008.

U2 is headlining the first night of the three-day Glastonbury festival, its first appearance at Britain's most prestigious summer music event. The band was due to perform last year but had to pull out after Bono injured his back.

Some 170,000 people have descended on a farm in southwest England for the extravaganza, which includes sets by Morrissey, Mumford & Sons, Coldplay, Beyonce and scores of other acts.

Rubber boots are the fashion item of choice after heavy rain turned the 900-acre (364-hectare) site into a mudbath. More rain is forecast for later Friday.

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