Tuesday 22 October 2019

Be prepared - survival guide for the army of pilgrims on their longest day

The importance of being properly equipped for the Papal visit is stressed by organisers, writes Alan O'Keeffe

The giant altar on the site where Pope Francis is to give the closing Mass in the Phoenix Park. Photo: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie
The giant altar on the site where Pope Francis is to give the closing Mass in the Phoenix Park. Photo: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Alan O'Keeffe

The scout motto ''be prepared'' is good advice for pilgrims travelling to the Papal Mass in the Phoenix Park, or to Knock Shrine next Sunday.

It is going to be a long day, particularly for those attending Mass in the park, and people are advised to plan to have the most suitable clothing, footwear, food, drinks - and travel arrangements.

From start to finish, travel to the park from transport hubs, participating in the event, and travelling back to transport hubs will easily take up to eight hours, or more, for many Mass-goers.

Health chiefs said people should be prepared to walk up to 14km throughout the day and to spend long periods standing.

The advice of Assistant Garda Commissioner Pat Leahy was that people should gear up for the event as if they were going on a pilgrimage to climb to the top of Mayo's holy mountain, Croagh Patrick.

"Prepare for a long day because it is a pilgrimage," said the Garda chief.

"People who climb Croagh Patrick plan it weeks in advance. They put on the right clothes, the right shoes, pack a neat bag that they can carry for the whole day."

Among the items to pack:

Plenty of water.

Sufficient food.

A rain jacket.

Something warm for when it gets cooler in the evening.

It is also important to make sure your phone is fully charged and to ensure that the battery lasts for the full day. With a half-million people expected in the park, all carrying mobile phones, the strength of the signal may be reduced.

Gardai have warned there will be security checks, so everyone will undergo bag inspections.

Items that are prohibited at the venue include:

Selfie sticks, large umbrellas

Fog horns, cans, deck chairs

Flares, drones or animals

Large banners that obstruct people's views.

There will be 150 food and drink outlets in 10 service areas in the park, staffed by 800 workers, who will be at their posts from 6am.

There will also be food and drink outlets at the seven dedicated transport hubs throughout the city where people will congregate to use public transport.

The bags that people use to bring their food to the event can also be used for any personal litter left over by worshippers.

There is a ''leave no trace'' environmental policy for the event, which encourages everyone to ensure they take home their rubbish if they do not manage to use any of the 900 special litter bins in the park.

As anticipation and excitement builds, organisers have advised all those with any health issues to consult their GPs for advice about their physical capabilities before the event.

People will be allowed to take small seats with them into the park. There will be designated rest zones along the routes into the park and at the entrances.

There will be around 2,000 toilets at the venue.

There will be more than 1,000 first aiders, nurses and doctors manning 26 first-aid posts within the park and along the approach routes.

Volunteers from the Order of Malta, Irish Red Cross, St John's Ambulance and Civil Defence will be there in large numbers.

The HSE National Emergency Management Office will be leading operations.

There will be 700 gardai policing the event, assisted by 1,600 stewards. There will also be 7,000 general volunteers from every parish in Ireland, along with more than 2,000 volunteers distributing Holy Communion and a further 3,000 volunteers singing in a huge choir.

There will be dozens of giant video screens to ensure everyone in the park has a good view.

Health chiefs said families should ensure children have been vaccinated against measles and other illnesses.

People will have to walk for up to 75 minutes from their public transport hub to the gates of the park, then queue for up to an hour to get in.

It could also take another hour to walk from the gate to the designated corral area to reach it before 2.30pm when the Pope is expected to be driven among the crowds in his Popemobile before the Mass starts at 3pm.

When the Mass concludes at 4.45pm, it may take more than two hours to walk back to the public transport hubs, with queuing times adding another hour or two.

The organisers have repeated travel advice, including the news there will be no car parks near the venue. Motorists from outside the city are advised to use park-and-ride facilities at Leopardstown Racecourse (Luas), UCD Belfield (Dublin Bus), Maynooth University (train) and Fairyhouse Racecourse (train).

Dublin residents are advised to walk to their nearest transport hubs for free public transport to the event.

Anyone with a ticket for the Mass can travel free on public transport within the city. Advance booking for many transport services is vital.

From 6am until 11pm on Sunday, August 26, there will be multiple road closures, diversions and restrictions inside the M50.

For those going to Knock on Sunday morning, the village will be closed from 6pm the previous day.

Travellers to Knock are urged to use coach services. Car parking will be limited with long walks expected.

Sunday Independent

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