Dublin: 12 °C Saturday 19 September, 2020
Advertisement

'Like Electric Picnic ten times over': 'Young people of Ireland' tell us about Pope's 1979 visit

And will they be seeing him this time?

WHEN POPE JOHN Paul II visited Ireland back in September 1979, he not only made history by becoming the first Pope to visit Ireland, but also made a significant cultural impact on the youngest generation of Irish people.

Pope John Paul II visit to Ireland Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Karol Wojtyla knew better than most how your early years can impact upon you.

When he was eight years old, his mother died in childbirth. His sister had died before he was born, and at the age of 12, Karol’s only brother Edmund, a physician, died aged 26 of scarlet fever. Seven years later in 1939, Poland was invaded by the Nazis, and less than two years later, Karol’s father died of a heart attack.

Nearly 40 years later, when reflecting back on those formative years, Pope John Paul II said:

I was not at my mother’s death, I was not at my brother’s death, I was not at my father’s death. At twenty, I had already lost all the people I loved.

Powerful words from a man who went on to become the Roman Catholic representative of God the father on earth.

Pope John Paul II visit to Ireland Source: PA Wire/PA Images

When he visited Ireland, it was the young people of the Ireland that he wanted to connect to:

Young people of Ireland, I love you.

 Extremely moving when you reflect on his tragic family history.

Inspired by my dad’s stories of the event, I asked friends to reach out to their parents -  1979′s “young people” of Ireland -  to see what they thought of the 1979 visit and also what do they think about this visit.

  1. What age were you in 1979?
  2. What are your memories of the 1979 papal visit? Did you go to see him?
  3. What are your thoughts on this visit?
  4. Will you see him again?

Here are nine stories.

1. Rosemary from Cork

1) What age were you in 1979?

 A very young thin beautiful 19 year old.

2) What are your memories of the 1979 papal visit? Did you go to see him?

No I wasn’t in Ireland when he came. I was in Ios Greece. I did [years later] meet my mother and brother in Rome and went to see him there.

3) What are your thoughts on this visit? Will you go see him?

Not going to see him. Thought we were having visitors so did not arrange [to do so]. Happy to see him come and curious as to what he will do and say.

2. Eugene from Dublin

1) What age were you in 1979?

I was 20 in September 1979.

2) What are your memories of the 1979 papal visit? Did you go to see him?

Yes, in the Phoenix Park. Early morning Dublin Bus buses from Leopardstown Road (opposite Laura Lynn) and dropped to Island Bridge. The whole neighbourhood went and shared a pen that was roped off. Everyone had a coloured section with a number to go to, really well organised. Some people were allowed drive and had the colour coded stickers with the papal flag on their cars for years afterwards. Remember the sandwiches and pints of milk we brought with us. The Pope drove up and down after mass in the Pope mobile waving. The sound was terrible and echoed all over the place. Great occasion and a long day.

3) What are your thoughts on this visit?

I think it’s fine for people who want to see him but it’s a very different Ireland now and the church has a lot of issues to deal with.

4)Will you see him again?

Nope. Off to Inishboffin.

Ireland abortion laws Inishboffin, a small island off the coast of Connemara, County Galway, Ireland. The population is so small that they vote a day early. Pictured here is a polling box from May's 8th Amendment Referendum. Source: CLODAGH KILCOYNE

3. Fidelma from Dublin

1) What age were you in 1979?

I was 16 at the time.

2) What are your memories of the 1979 papal visit? Did you go to see him?

Yes, my mother decided at 6am on the day that we were all going to see the Pope! My father had left the house much earlier – he was an ambulance driver ferrying ill people back and forth to behind the pope’s altar. He sat in his ambulance smoking Sweet Afton cigarettes. Although a Catholic, my father wasn’t too impressed with the big display. We walked five miles to the Phoenix Park and my biggest memories are sambos in tin foil, trying to jump up and see if I could spot my dad’s ambulance and being utterly unable to believe it when the Pope passed close by in his pope mobile. Also queues for toilets and watching long rows of Ministers of the Eucharist waiting solemnly to hand out communion.

3) What are your thoughts on this visit?

I am going this Sunday to see Pope Francis. I’ve had much heart struggle with the institutional church but believe this man is genuinely concerned about humanity. This time I won’t have a flask. I’m treating it as a personal pilgrimage in memory of my mam and dad and as a celebration with a community. I’ll still be walking five miles but this time am hoping to have a latte en route rather than dunking a tea bag in tepid water.

Pope Francis visit to Ireland Source: PA Wire/PA Images

4. Catherine from Louth

1) What age were you in 1979?

 I was 16.

2) What are your memories of the 1979 papal visit? Did you go to see him?

Yes in Drogheda in 1979. I was very excited – first time to see the Pope in person. Had been very little prior TV coverage of any Pope. No internet. Logistics of travelling were horrendous. I went with my new boyfriend [and now husband] and his mother in her Morris Minor. We had to take flasks/sandwiches etc, as no food outlets at venue. Traffic jam from Ballymac [outside Dundalk] to Drogheda so took hours to get there. We were assigned different pens. Long wait then. Fantastic elation when pope arrived by helicopter – pop star type entrance. Mass held but very far in the distance. Then the Pope went through crowds in his popemobile, which my neighbour [Chocolate Hanlon - a real name) in Boher, Louth now owns! Tremendous excitement all round. I felt like I was in the presence of someone very special and a spiritually powerful persona.
Whole northern half of Ireland seemed to be in Drogheda. Country shut down for the day. Nothing else happened in the country that day it seemed!

3) What are your thoughts on this visit?

No plans to see him in person but will probably watch highlights on TV. Sense of excitement totally absent [this time around]. Feel this is an ideal opportunity for Pope to properly address past sexual abuses in church but [I'm] not optimistic this will happen. Believe this visit will highlight how much Ireland has changed since 1979 and church needs to respond to that change in a more constructive, creative manner.
[However], maybe it’s too much to ask of an 82 year old? Even though his heart/mind might be in the right space.

pope jp Source: Anwar Hussein

5. Oonagh from Dublin

1) What age were you in 1979?

I was 13 in 1979.

2) What are your memories of the 1979 papal visit? Did you go to see him?

I was sick during the papal visit. Everyone I knew was going to see him. I couldn’t so my mum put the camp bed up in the living room for me (!!) and we watched it on the TV.

3) What are your thoughts on this visit?

My thoughts are this time is that it is the biggest waste of the country’s resources to bring him here. It would be better spent on helping the homeless or the very broken health care system. I also think that he should not actually be allowed to come until the Catholic Church give compensation to its sex abuse victims- or to the people who were sold as babies- or to the women in the laundries- but if he has to then the vatican should foot the bill. It also really annoys me that the whole city basically is on shut down for a visit by the head of a paedophile ring and the streets will be sanitised so he wont have to see the extent of the homeless crises. I most definitely will not see him.

Pope John Paul II visit to Ireland Source: PA Wire/PA Images

6. Helen from Dublin

1) What age were you in 1979?

I was 15 years old when the Pope came to Ireland in 1979.

2) What are your memories of the 1979 papal visit? Did you go to see him?

We stayed with friends in Castleknock the night before so we could get up at five in the morning. My vivid memory was running with so many people in the early hours of the morning in the dark to get to the Phoenix park. We were all corralled according to the gates we went in. There was just so many people there. And the laughing and good humour all around is what struck me. Also when the Pope’s plane flew over the park there was loud clapping and cheering. I suppose events like that just didn’t happen back then. It must [have been] like Electric Picnic ten times over. The excitement when he passed us. Waving like mad people.

3) What are your thoughts on this visit?

Am I going to see him this time? I have tickets but it will be weather dependent.

Electric Picnic festival Source: Niall Carson

7. Tina from Dublin

1) What age were you in 1979?

I was all of 18 years of age.

2) What are your memories of the 1979 papal visit? Did you go to see him?

 To be honest…memory very vague of Pope’s visit! I went to Galway and camped – seem to remember huge crowds. Couldn’t hear what he said as acoustics terrible :) Sorry I can’t give you more.

3) What are your thoughts on this visit?

Defo no interest in going to see him this time. Ireland a different place now and the Catholic Church has a lot to answer for in Ireland and of course around the world.  Maybe some good will come of his visit – I hope so.

Pope Francis visit to Ireland - Day 1 Source: PA Wire/PA Images

8. Mary from Cork

1) What age were you in 1979?

I was 18 in 1979 and wondering where those years disappeared.

2) What are your memories of the 1979 papal visit? Did you go to see him?

Went to see him in the Phoenix Park My memories are it was a very happy occasion There was the feeling you get when Ireland gets snowed it say Everyone talking to fellow event goers and pulling together.

3) What are your thoughts on this visit?

I think this visit has had very bad press from the start. No feelings of joy or expectation have been allowed to develop. Have tickets for the Phoenix Park again for this visit.

Pope Francis visit to Ireland - Day 1 Source: PA Wire/PA Images

9. Susan from Dublin

1) What age were you in 1979?

I was as born in ‘54 so I was 23.

2) What are your memories of the 1979 papal visit? Did you go to see him?

I did NOT go to see him. From the very start I knew I would not be going. The whole country was beside themselves over the visit. I just didn’t get it and I still don’t. Here was the leader of an organisation which excluded 50% of the population being welcomed by the same people he saw fit to exclude. I just didn’t get it then and I don’t get it now. I’ve felt like that since I was 16. As I say never mind the despicable cover up[s] that have taken place. The place was deserted as everyone had gone to Dublin. It was weird. But I just felt it was the correct decision not to support.

3) What are your thoughts on this visit?

No. I have since had 4 daughters and I knew I would not be rearing 4 “Handmaids” and I have a “felt sense” that it was the correct decision for them too.

sinead o connor Source: Youtube

10. James from Meath

1) What age were you in 1979?

I was 18.

2) What are your memories of the 1979 papal visit? Did you go to see him?

Great excitement as the visit was a huge event. Ireland was a very different place back then and nothing very much happened. The troubles were the big issue of the day and it was though he may visit Northern Ireland. Much debate on this. He didn’t. Then [thought] would he condemn the “men of violence”. He did. It had little or no effect.
My generation were very hopeful he would be a reforming Pope. He seemed to be much more liberal and in touch with real people and their hopes and fears. He let us down on that front. He said “Young people of Ireland I love you” in a really thick Polish accent. This became a jokey catchphrase among youngsters. We went to Drogheda with one million others. Walked a good part of the way as [my] Mum drove because there was so much traffic. Very exciting. It felt like going to a massive festival.  Don’t remember much about the mass except him driving among the crowd in the popemobile .

3) What are your thoughts on this visit?

Nope, I’ll be spending the day with my granddaughter.

Pope Francis visit to Ireland - Day 1 Source: PA Wire/PA Images

DailyEdge is on Instagram!

About the author:

Read next:

COMMENTS (1)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel