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Was it a success?

Wednesday, 29th August, 2018 5:04pm

Was the Pope's visit a success? Did you go to see him in the Phoenix Park or in Croke Park?

I don't think the Pope's visit can be considered a success.

Around 130,000 people or something roughly in that range are likely to have shown up in the Phoenix Park last weekend. There were 600,000 tickets available and taken up, so that's got to be a disappointment, at least in numbers alone.

A bit of rain can't account for the disparity. As some people have pointed out, it was raining for the previous papal visit in 1979 when around 700,000 people showed up.

The long walks, estimated at around three miles, would certainly have put off some elderly people.

On Saturday, one newspaper predicted on its front page that 600,000 were predicted to attend. That was never likely. How many people do you know that were planning to attend?

I know of nobody that was going. That meant it was surely unlikely that anywhere near 600,000 people were going to go.

Comparisons aren't completely helpful but 400,000 people bought Garth Brooks tickets. Far less than that showed up to a free gig by the Pope.

The visit was marked too by a number of high-profile protests and calls from abuse survivors for the Church to acknowledge its past.

Did this happen? Was a line drawn under a horrific period in Ireland when the Catholic Church humiliated and abused unmarried woman and kids, when it sold babies abroad for adoption? When it shielded priests who abused children? When it failed to pay what it promised it would pay to its victims?

Some of this could have been redressed by Pope Francis, but he didn’t do enough. His apologies sounded like more of the same; mere words when deeds were needed.

Bishop Leo O’Reilly called it “a huge success”. I can’t agree.

Also this week came the sad news that the Cork-based Irish professional cycling team Aqua Blue Sport is to seemingly immediately cease operating, despite the fact that a number of riders have contracts for 2019 and 2020.

The riders are now left with very little time to try and secure a contract for next year. Most teams have already signed the majority of their riders for the 2019 season.

The team was due to race the Tour of Britain next week, a last chance for six riders to showcase their talent and try and get a new job.

The team, in an unusual move, will not now ride that race, so the team appears to be stopping immediately. The team told me there will be no job losses at the headquarters in Cork.

That, at least, is some good news.

The team promised a new way to survive in the sport.

Unfortunately words did not match deeds in this case either.

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