Oldest swingers join Bono's crusade to rock young voters

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The Independent Online
IT WAS an incongruous scene at Belfast's Waterfront Hall, a rock concert with 3,000 screaming fans, the internationally renowned band U2, and two middle-aged politicians in shirts and ties on stage with them.

But David Trimble and John Hume were prepared to be accused of being the oldest swingers in town for the cause of peace in Northern Ireland. Hanging on the stage behind them was a banner saying: "Yes - make your own history".

Bono, the lead singer of U2, is an impassioned supporter of the peace process and had played a key role in organising the event.

Mr Hume, the 61-year-old leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party and Mr Trimble, the 53-year-old Ulster Unionist chief, had agreed to appear together to back the "yes" campaign in the impending referendum.

With the vote getting increasingly close there is a growing recognition that young people will have a crucial role to play in deciding the political map of the future.

A recent opinion poll showed that of those who had made up their minds 56 per cent were backing the peace accord, but another 26 per cent were still undecided. It is the first time the two men have appeared together in the campaign and is a sign of the growing realisation of how crucial young voters will be in the referendum.

U2 had a picture of Messrs Hume and Trimble on the cover of one of their recent hit singles, "Please".

Bono said: "The referendum is such an important matter for all of us. We are going to the gig in Belfast to highlight and support the `ye' campaign."

The concert, in front of an invited audience of Protestant and Catholic sixth-formers from across the province, was by the Ulster band Ash, but there was little doubt who the real attractions were - not Messrs Hume and Trimble, but Bono and U2.

After his name had been chanted for a while Bono entered the stage to a thunderous welcome to give a first number of "Don't Let Me Down", which slid into "Give Peace a Chance" to a rolling ovation.

Mr Hume and Mr Trimble were then introduced by the singer as "men who had made the leap of faith from the past to the future".

The young audience rose to its feet to cheer them. The initial plan was for the two politicians to make a speech. However, Bono instead asked for a minute's silence in memory of those who had suffered in the 30 years' of troubles in Northern Ireland. This was observed as well as a minute's silence can ever be at a rock concert.

The evening ended with both the bands belting out an emotionally charged version of "Stand By Me" and the audience and the bands holding up V for victory signs.

Afterwards as the crowd fanned out of the Waterfront hall and a man was giving out "yes" leaflets. They were not thrown away and some of the young people looked at them and showed them to each other.

But there was also a television van and booming out was the voice of Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionists, making his views clear on Mr Trimble attending a concert. "He is already rocking now and he would be rolling on Friday," prophesied the uncompromising voice of rejection.

Afterwards 18-year-olds in one group said they intended to exercise their right to vote, and vote yes. Jane Hastings, who is doing an international baccalaureate, said: "I don't see there is an alternative. I'm sure most people of my age feel the same way, none of us want to go back to the way things were before."