Freedom of the City
The award of Freedom of the City of Dublin acknowledges the contribution of certain people to the life of our city. It also bestows honour to important visitors to Dublin.
No financial or other benefits are attached to the Freedom of the City. However it does carry significant prestige, as well as some interesting symbolic privileges and duties!
Recipients of this award may are referred to as a ‘Freeman’ or ‘Freewoman’ of Dublin. They are also Honorary Citizens of our city.
The Lord Mayor of Dublin nominates people for the Freedom of the City. Any nominations are then brought before a meeting of the City Council where it must be ratified by a majority vote.
To date, only 78 people have been given the Freedom of the City of Dublin.
Some recipients have not been available to receive their awards at the date they were conferred. For example, Nelson Mandela was a prisoner in South Africa in 1988 when he was made a Freeman of the city. (He subsequently received his award in 1990) Another recipient, Aung San Suu Kyi was under House arrest at the time of her being awarded the Freedom of the City and received her award on 18th June 2012.
Ancient Privileges & Duties of a Freeman/Freewoman
Holders of the Freedom of Dublin have a number of ancient privileges and duties not applicable to ordinary citizens, some of which have little more than symbolic meaning in the modern world!
- The right to bring goods into Dublin through the city gates, without paying customs duties.
- The right to pasture sheep on common ground within the city boundaries. This includes modern-day College Green (formerly Hoggen Green) and St.Stephen’s Green. (This right was exercised by Freeman ‘Bono’ of U2 in 2000!)
- The right to vote in municipal and parliamentary elections.
- Each Freeman/Freewoman has to be ready to defend the city from attack.
- A Freeman/Freewoman can be called on to join a city militia at short notice.
- According to a law passed in 1454, any merchant who becomes a Freeman/Freewoman must possess the following items:
- (i) A coat of mail
- (ii) A bow
- (iii) A light helmet
- (iv) A sword of his/her own
- (v) Freemen from all the other trade guilds must have a bow, arrows and a sword. A law passed in 1465, states that each Freeman/Freewoman has to provide himself/herself with a longbow (of his own length) made of yew, witch-hazel or ash. He/she must also have twelve arrows made of the same wood.
History of the Freedom of the City
The Honorary Freedom was created under the Municipal Privileges Ireland Act, 1876 and each city in Ireland had the right to confer it. The Honorary Freedom was extended under the Local Government Act 1991. Since then counties, as well as cities, are eligible to confer it. All awards are now governed by the Local Government Act, 2001.