Friday 24 May 2019

Drogheda was safe place for Pope to visit

Christine DOHERTY

POPE JOHN Paul II's visit to Drogheda wasn't seen as one of the most dangerous parts of his visit to Ireland in 1979, according to security briefing papers just released under the 30 year secrecy rules.

In the State Papers, secret briefing documents raised the risk of direct sniper and bomb attacks at Dublin Airport, the Papal nunciature and at the Phoenix Park but not in Drogheda.

The Pope's visit which came just a month after the Queen of England's first cousin, Lord Louis Mountbatten had been killed in an IRA explosion on his boat in Mullaghmore, County Sligo.

Irish security officials were worried that there could be a sniper or bomb attack on the pontiff during three-day Irish visit.

In the secret briefing document which was sent to the garda commissioner, it stated: 'All vantage points from which sniper fire could be directed are being identified by gardai and army and will be manned by gardai'. Even the altar at the Phoenix Park was designated a high-security zone and airspace over the park was policed by the garda task force and army Air Corp helicopters and aircraft.

The British government said they would be glad to co-operate with the pope visiting the north but hoped he would not come from the 'back door' meaning the Republic.

During a courtesy call, Michael Alinson, deputy Nothern Ireland Secretary used a 'clever line' according to Irish diplomatic staff in London. He said they hoped the Pope would come to the UK on an official visit, meet the Queen in London, and then if he wished go on (to) Armagh.'