Self Aid - 1986

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Self Aid

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"I can do it/ You can help me/ We can make it work" - "Let's Make It Work" by Christy Moore & Paul Doran


The Self Aid concert was held on May 17, 1986 in Dublin, Ireland with an all Irish line-up of artists. The goal of the benefit concert was to draw attention to the 250,000 unemployed people of the country. Over the course of the fourteen hour televised concert, over a million pounds were raised and placed in a job creation trust fund. One thousand jobs were also pledged.

In 1980’s Ireland workers were leaving the country for jobs in England. However, Ireland was also losing its college graduates overseas. It was estimated that nearly thirty percent of college graduates left Ireland by the end of the 80’s. This period was called Ireland’s “brain drain.”

In 1987 it was reported that fifty percent of all engineering graduates and seventy percent of architecture students left within half a year of graduating.(Source)

Similarly, science graduates were often offered post-graduate experiences abroad and thus a large number left the country. Commerce and business studies majors did not fare much better – one fifth emigrated. (Source)


Significance in Rock & Roll History
Self Aid was the largest concert to take place in Ireland at that time with over thirty music acts performing

Like Live Aid, a song was written specifically for the cause – “Let’s Make it Work” by Christy Moore and Paul Doran. It was sung as the finale with all the musicians joining in onstage.

Phil Lynott of Irish rock group Thin Lizzy died four months before Self Aid, so the remaining members paid tribute to him and performed with Bob Geldof.

Self Aid was the last concert of Bob Geldof’s band The Boomtown Rats.

Other participants included The Chieftains, Clannad, Rory Gallagher, Van Morrison, The Pogues, U2, and Elvis Costello (as an “honorary Irishman.”)


Several journalists criticized the event saying that while the message was good, it did not solve the root of the issues at hand. (Source)