Northern Ireland news

No official figure for numbers who attended Phoenix Park Mass

An aerial view of the crowd at the Phoenix Park in Dublin as Pope Francis attends the closing Mass at the World Meeting of Families

GARDAI have declined to put an official figure on the numbers who attended Mass at the Phoenix Park - as the crowd appeared well short of the expected 500,000.

Both An Garda Síochána and the Office of Public Works (OWP) confirmed numbers were less than expected.

They said, however, that they did not have the information to confirm the exact attendances.

It has been suggested that the figure may have been between 150,000-200,000.

There was no scanning of tickets meaning it was not possible to calculate exactly how many attended.

An estimated half a million pilgrims were expected to gather to hear Pope Francis say Mass on the second day of his visit.

Tickets had been distributed in July but the number of people who attended is likely closer to less than half of that.

The Phoenix Park event took place after Francis visited the Knock holy shrine in Co Mayo at which 45,000 people were estimated to have turned out.

Sunday saw massive amounts of rain from the early hours of the morning, resulting in a huge washout of the park, with pilgrims forced to trek through blowing gales and constant downpour for much of the 3km walk.

Some reported that although they had secured their tickets for the event, the amount of walking from the park entrance to their standing position prevented them from attending, especially for the elderly or infirm.

Many also noted that during the Pope's tour around Dublin city centre via Popemobile, crowds were considerably smaller than expected.

In areas including College Green, crowds were one or two people deep, while some streets had barely any onlookers as the pontiff passed by.

Meanwhile, the Phoenix Park reopened to the public at 4pm yesterday, 15 hours ahead of schedule following an extensive overnight clean-up operation.

More than 200 litter pickers worked through the night to clean up all public routes. The gates have been put back in place as has road signage. Tar installed on road kerbs for universal access has been removed. The Papal site itself is almost completely cleaned.

Chief Parks Superintendent with the OPW Margaret Gormley said there was a no waste policy in operation for yesterday's event adding those who attended were extremely compliant in disposing of their waste in recycling bins located around the site.

"Given the weather conditions, volume of people, infrastructure, I am delighted to say the park is in remarkably good condition and is now open again to the public," she said.

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