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Won over by Pope Francis…and a visit that may help ease hurt



It’s about 11 am on Sunday morning, and I’m tucking into a slightly late full Irish, complete with a good bit of Kelly’s (Newport) award-winning white pudding. It’s late because I’ve spent an hour and a half looking at Pope Francis’ visit to Knock Shrine.

  I have to say that I found it all thoroughly enjoyable and strangely moving. I won’t deny that I was only a little lukewarm about the Papal visit, and unlike in 1979, when we couldn’t wait to go to see Pope John 11, the truth is that it never crossed my mind to look for tickets to either the Phoenix Park or Knock. And so it was with only minor interest that I tuned in to see the proceedings in the Mayo village.

  However, from the moment Pope Francis came down from the Aer Lingus plane, and interacted so well with everyone who came to greet him at Ireland West Airport, I greatly warmed to him. Indeed I began to regret that I hadn’t made the effort to go to the Marian Shrine to see him.

  Despite the rain, pictures from the shrine itself showed everyone to be in high good humour, which was some achievement given the early start everyone had to make to get to Knock in time. All we could see were happy smiling faces, and it was obvious that the Pope was going to receive a really warm West of Ireland welcome.

  Probably the most amazing part of the day’s events was the absolute total silence during the Pope’s minutes of silent reflection in the Apparition Chapel. It was just incredible – with the large numbers of children in the attendance – how they all managed to keep quiet. It was extraordinary.

  Now there has obviously been a lot of stuff going on around the Catholic Church. The hierarchy has been severely damaged, so clearly many abuse sufferers, in so many different guises, will have wanted more from Pope Francis’ visit than they got.

  However, on a personal level, as a somewhat disillusioned member of the Catholic Church, I thought the visit was well worthwhile, and maybe in time it might help to soften some of the hurt caused to so many innocent, vulnerable victims, hurt inflicted by those predators hiding behind the facade of religious authority.

  There can be no doubt that Catholicism and the Church face many obstacles in future, but equally the second ever trip to Ireland by a reigning Pontiff can only be a good thing, and I am glad it went off so well, even if the Phoenix Park crowd was a long way short of the half million predicted.

A memorable day at  Ballintubber Abbey

On Friday afternoon we found ourselves heading off to Ballintubber Abbey for the wedding of Michael O’Roarke, son of my local publicans, Mikeen and Carmel, to Anne Marie McDermott, from the West Roscommon village of Ballinagare.

  I have to admit that until Friday the only thing I knew about Ballintubber was that it was the home of the O’Connor brothers who play for Mayo, and that the even more famous Marcus Keane, formerly of the Bank of Ireland in Roscommon and Glenamaddy, lived there as well (and that it was somewhere outside Castlebar).

  We got to Claremorris, no problem, and hit across country towards the Abbey. Then, by some minor navigation error, we found ourselves going through the tiny village of Carnacon, home of ladies football’s most renowned player, Cora Staunton, and also home of the current All-Ireland club champions, Carnacon, who for some reason have fallen foul of the Mayo County Board and are banned from all competition, and  consequently are one of the most high profile clubs in the country at this present time.

  It was hard to believe as we passed through the tiny hamlet, that it could be the home to the All-Ireland champions, and hard as I tried I couldn’t see any sign of Cora. Later, in the pub in Ballintubber there was no-one inclined to cast any light on the reasons for the Carnacon expulsion.

  By now, we had discovered that Ballintubber Abbey is an absolute treasure and a beautiful wedding venue, and the ceremony, under the stewardship of Fr. Michael Donnelly, passed off without a hitch. A good few of us adjourned for a while to Curley’s pub across the road, where I have to say the craic was ninety. Then we headed to the Knockranny House Hotel in Westport.

  Everything about the reception was first class, and from food to service to the band and their music, it could not have been bettered. My day was complete when Fr. Donnelly, having read of my efforts to get a young man for Anne Marie (not the bride…the Anne Marie from Tuam that I met last week who was looking for a 19 to 22 year old, with money and road frontage) appointed me matchmaker for the day.

  From what I could see, my services in that department were not required, but I have to sadly admit that, so far, no-one has come forward to answer Anne Marie’s request. I was told the other night that I could be the new Willy Daly, the famous Lisdoonvarna matchmaker, but even I have to confess I need to do a lot better.

  Anyway, it was a great day and all I can do is wish the newly-weds a long, happy life together, and the health to go with it, and heartiest congratulations to themselves and their respective parents.


Annette’s reminder on summer sign-off…


I think I must be writing for the wrong newspaper (you probably do as well), as once again I am staying on Mayo matters…

  My good friend and amazing singer Annette Griffin tells me that the renowned Summer Cabaret is coming to a close in the McWilliam Park Hotel, Claremorris on Sept. 5th.

  The show features Roscommon legend Brendan Shine, Gerry Guthrie, fiddler Billy Condon, the McWilliam Park Irish dancers, comedian Frank Forde, and of course, Annette herself. Doors open at 8 pm sharp (show starts at 9 pm sharp) and admission is only €25. (More details on 094-9378000).

  As someone who has seen this show a couple of times, I can recommend it. It’s a throwback to the great cabaret shows we associate with venues like Jury’s Hotel in Dublin, and this one’s right on your doorstep, so do not miss this opportunity to see some of Ireland’s top artists in the one venue on the one night.

And finally…

Finally for this week, it’s full steam ahead with our own tickets (in Creggs) for the upcoming charity dance. So we hope to be knocking on your door soon – and thank you for your continuing support.



Till next week, Bye for now! 

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