herald

Sunday 22 July 2018

Around 600,000 are expected to flock to see Pope Francis in Park

Francis will celebrate mass in Phoenix Park on August 26
Francis will celebrate mass in Phoenix Park on August 26

Pope Francis is expected to draw a crowd of up to 600,000 people when he visits Phoenix Park on August 26.

That would be less than half the number Pope John Paul II drew in 1979.

The prediction has been made by the Office of Public Works (OPW), which is preparing the park for the papal visit.

An estimated 1.25m people gathered in Phoenix Park for an open-air Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II in September 1979.

Although the attendance for Pope Francis's visit is expected to be less than half this number, extensive preparatory work is required.

The OPW plans to remove all gates to the park to accommodate the crowds.

"It is expected that the number of people visiting the park that day will not exceed 600,000," said OPW minister Kevin 'Boxer' Moran after a parliamentary question.

"The OPW team is closely working with organisers, contractors and the World Meeting of Families to ensure that the event is managed safely and that the park is restored to pristine condition as soon as possible after the event.

"Given the scale of the event, it will be necessary to remove gates to the park," he added.

Other preparatory works to provide for the health and safety of attendees include plans for the installation of "welfare hubs" and security facilities throughout the park, as well as lining appropriate routes and pathways.

"A nationwide Traffic and Pedestrian Management Plan is currently under development to cater for the large crowds expected to attend, the details of which will be conveyed to the public through the Government Information Service in due course," said Mr Moran.

"It is not expected that there will be any significant damage done to the park. The weather leading up to the event, and on the day itself, will have some bearing on this."

The minister said that it was not currently possible to provide an estimated cost for the visit of the Pope, as arrangements for the event have yet to be finalised.

Celebrate

Last month, the Government sought tenders for a €1.2m contract for the provision of temporary public-address systems, CCTV cameras and radio communications for the visit.

The 81-year-old pontiff is travelling to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families. He will attend the Festival of Families at Croke Park on August 25, and will celebrate Mass in Phoenix Park the following day.

He is also expected to meet with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle.

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