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Friday 19 October 2018

Hundreds including children ignore safety warnings to climb Croagh Patrick

The annual Croagh Patrick pilgrimage cancelled due to adverse weather
The annual Croagh Patrick pilgrimage cancelled due to adverse weather

Caroline Crawford & Sarah-Jane Murphy

Hundreds of people including families with young children have ignored safety warnings to climb Croagh Patrick today.

Despite the advice of mountain rescue teams and the gardai, a constant stream of pilgrims have continued to arrive at the Mayo mountain to complete the annual pilgrimage.

Croagh Patrick is considered the country’s holiest mountain and the pilgrimage has been carried out uninterrupted for over 1,500 years.

This is the first year in living memory that the pilgrimage had been cancelled.

Rescue teams said they would be unable to properly assist those who got into difficulty because of the dangerous climbing conditions.

Part of the temporary structure erected for Masses on the top of the mountain was blown away as was Mayo Mountain Rescue’s medical tent.

The Coastguard had also warned their helicopter would not be in a position to land due to the zero visibility on the mountain.

However, that hasn’t stopped a significant number of walkers, with some still opting to complete the pilgrimage in their bare feet.

The pilgrimage is held annually on the last Sunday in July and up to 30,000 people were expected to attend the event.

Met Eireann have forecasted heavy rain with isolated thunderstorms.

A status yellow warning is currently in place, with up to 25 to 35 mm of rainfall expected.

Sergeant Denis Harrington from Westport Garda Station urged people not to attempt the climb today.

He said that weather conditions in the area are extremely treacherous, "high winds and rain have caused a lot of damage to the medical tents and structures at the top of Croagh Patrick," he said.

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Masses that were scheduled to be celebrated by the Catholic Archbishop of Tuam, Dr Michael Neary on Croagh Patrick from 8.30am, will now take place at the nearby St Patrick's Church in Lecanvey instead.

Dr Neary expressed his disappointment that "Reek Sunday" was not going ahead.

"I'm not aware that it has ever been cancelled before and I have been climbing this mountain since I was a young lad many, many years ago,"  he said.

Up to 300 volunteers from more than a dozen mountain rescue teams around the country had travelled to Co Mayo to assist those making the climb.

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