Terry Eagleton in The Guardian:
It is no surprise that Bono and Bob Geldof, the two leading celebrity philanthropists of our time, are both Irish. The Ireland into which they were born in the 1960s was caught between third and first worlds, and so was more likely to sympathise with the wretched of the earth than were the natives of Hampstead. As a devoutly Christian nation, it also had a long missionary tradition. Black babies were a familiar object of charity in Ireland long before Hollywood movie stars began snapping them up. Bono himself was a member of a prayer group in the 1970s, before he stumbled on leather trousers and wrap-around shades. Scattered across the globe by hunger and turmoil at home, the Irish have long been a cosmopolitan people, far less parochial than their former proprietors. Small nations cannot afford the insularity of the great.
Besides, if you were born into this remote margin of Europe and yearned for the limelight, it helped to have an eye-catching cause and a mania for self-promotion. Rather as the Irish in general were forced by internal circumstance to become an international people, so men like Bono and Geldof could use their nationality to leap on to the world stage.
Bono belongs to the new, cool, post-political Ireland; but by turning back to the old, hungry, strife-torn nation, now rebaptised as Africa, he could bridge the gap between the two. Even so, he has not been greatly honoured in his own notoriously begrudging country, or elsewhere. Harry Browne recounts the (perhaps apocryphal) tale of the singer standing on stage clapping while declaring: “Every time I clap my hands, a child dies.” “Then stop fucking doing it!” yelled a voice from the crowd.