Stump attracts a global audience

THE Rathkeale willow tree stump which people claim projects an image of Our Lady is making global headlines.

Yesterday the internet had more than 245 stories as news agencies flashed the story throughout every continent. Newspapers in the US, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and many others carried stories on the Rathkeale apparition.

The Times of London carried a page spread, with a photograph, headlined “Pilgrims gather at image of Virgin Mary in tree stump”.

Local shops have been enjoying a surge in business from visitors coming to the town to visit the stump.

Limerick County Council, which is expecting an influx of casual traders selling everything from holy medals to fast food, said a casual trading licence was needed to do this.

Local people feel the tree stump should not be moved and they hope to meet with parish priest Canon Joe Dempsey when he returns from holidays. Curate Fr Willie Russell came out against people worshipping at the tree earlier this week. He said: “It is just a tree and you can’t worship a tree.”

However, chairman of the local community council, Noel White, said the church authorities would find it impossible to find a local contractor that would remove or interfere with the stump. Bookmakers Paddy Powers initially offered odds of 33/1 that church authorities would consider authenticating the local phenomenon but, following Fr Russell’s comments, the odds went out to 66/1.

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