Bishop and trade unions call on Ahern to rethink

THE Bishop of Kerry, Dr Bill Murphy, yesterday said Taoiseach Bertie Ahern may have been hasty in deciding not to have a national day of mourning to mark the death of John Paul II.

He pointed out that both Italy and Cuba had three days of mourning.

“I was expecting there might be (a day of mourning) in Ireland,” said Bishop Murphy on Radio Kerry’s Kerry Today current affairs programme.

Dr Murphy recalled spending about 15 minutes alone with the Pope when he was consecrated bishop 10 years ago.

He said the Pope was interested in Kerry and asked him to point out where it was on a map of Ireland.

Dr Murphy also said he told the Pope about St Brendan, Kerry’s patron saint, who is said to have discovered America several centuries before Columbus.

More than 100 people called the programme and 90% felt there should be a day of mourning.

“It’s obviously something a lot of people feel very strongly about,” the station’s head of news, Sinead Spain said yesterday.

As Mr Ahern called for a week-long period of reflection to mark the Pope’s death, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions said a national day of mourning would be the sensitive option.

The Taoiseach asked the nation to observe a week-long period of reflection to allow the country to grieve, but stopped short of calling for a national day of mourning.

“From now until the funeral is over we are having a period of official mourning,” he said.

“The whole idea is that we use it as a day of reflection.” Mr Ahern said that Ireland was doing more than many other European countries by allowing public servants time off and by letting schools close.

ICTU, the voice of almost 800,000 workers across Ireland claimed the vast majority of people wanted to observe a day of remembrance.

The congress joined calls from former MEP Dana Rosemary Scallon for businesses to shut down as a mark of respect.

Mrs Scallon said the people of Ireland, especially the young, had been appalled by the Government’s refusal to ask businesses and services to close.

“This is a decision of the Government over the heads of the people, if the government puts the needs and wants of money over what the people want today then what does that say about Ireland?” she asked.

“This is being done entirely over the heads of the people and what they want. It is entirely disrespectful to the Pope and all of his works.”

Economists have forecast that wage costs for the lost day could hit €360 million.

IBEC, the Employers’ Federation, said individual companies should make their own decisions about whether to observe a day of mourning by closing.

With the book of condolence opened at the Apostolic Nunciature in Dublin, churches across the country have been preparing for remembrance masses in honour of the Pontiff.

A Solemn Mass of Remembrance is to be held today in the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin. The Taoiseach and other government ministers are to attend the service celebrated by Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, along with hundreds of mourners.

Worshippers gathered again yesterday at the Papal Cross in Phoenix Park to pray and leave messages of respect for the late Pontiff.

The white cross, which towers above the city park, stands to mark the site of a mass celebrated during the Pope’s historic 1979 visit to Ireland.

The Taoiseach signed the Book of Condolence yesterday before holding a one-minute silence at Government Buildings alongside Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern and Enterprise Minister Micheál Martin.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Limerick people and many city residents and visitors of different nationalities queued at the Augustinian Church in the city centre yesterday to sign a book of condolences opened for John Paul II.

As well as locals, the book contained names and addresses reaching out to Africa, Russia and many more countries.

Not surprisingly, many Polish names were included on the pages.

Over the past number of years the Augustinian Church has become a major focal point for asylum seekers and refugees living in the Limerick area.

The Prior, Fr Tony Egan said the church had opened the book of condolences in response to many requests.

He said, “there had been a steady stream all day and we do not know how many will sign between now and Friday. But the numbers already are very big indeed.”

He said it had not yet been decided what ceremonies will be held on Friday to coincide with the Pope’s burial in Rome.

He said: “We will take a lead on this matter from the Diocesan office.”

School governors are to be given the option to shut down on the day of the Pope’s funeral.

A special requiem Mass for the Pope will be held on Wednesday in Galway Cathedral at 7.30pm.

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