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Dublin: 15 °C Wednesday 17 July, 2019
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‘Stand For Truth’ crowd marched in silence to remember abuse survivors as Papal Mass took place

Demonstrators held a rally beforehand at Parnell Street in Dublin city centre.

Demo Demonstrators hold up their placards in Parnell Square before marching to the site of a former Magdalene Laundry. Source: Nicky Ryan/TheJournal.ie

AS THE VISIT by Pope Francis to Ireland culminated in a Mass delivered to more than 100,000 people in the Phoenix Park, an emotionally charged demonstration was taking place in Dublin city centre.

“What I want to do first of all, is let’s take a moment to think about why we’re here,” lead organiser Colm O’Gorman, director of Amnesty International and a survivor of clerical sex abuse, told the crowd as the event got underway.

“Just for us as individuals, I want you to take a moment to think about why you’re here, about your intent, about why you’ve come to this place today, to do what we’re doing here, and just hold for that a moment.”

The crowd fell silent.

We’re here to stand for truth. We’re here to stand and affirm what we know, and to talk about who we are, and who we will be.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

Organisers did not describe Stand For Truth as a protest. Instead, it was intended to be a demonstration to mark the upset, hurt, and anger that many feel towards the Catholic Church’s role in Ireland over the past century, and the need to balance the fanfare Pope Francis has received with the realities that faced many in this country.

The pontiff himself addressed these abuses in unscripted remarks during his Mass.

Stand For Truth was timed for 3pm, as the pope was taking to the altar set on a stage built in front of the Papal Cross, itself constructed for the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1979.

More than a thousand people turned out for the Stand For Truth event, many carrying striking yellow-and-blue Stand For Truth placards, which were handed out before the demonstration got underway.

Over the course of an hour and a half, acts including Hozier, Villagers, and Brian Kennedy performed to the crowd, many passing on messages of support for the demonstration.

Papal Visit to Ireland 2018 Mary Black and Róisín O perform Grace together. Source: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Others who took to the stage included author Marian Keyes

“Caught between terror and dishonour, Ireland made our abused people invisible,” she told the crowd, “We made you invisible. We made you inaudible. We made your stories unreliable.”

“And then, somehow, through the courage of a handful of extraordinary people, the truth about the Church’s crimes began to be exposed, but the Church slandered and libeled those heroes.

The Church basically tried to gaslight our entire country.

Praising Ireland’s progress as a country – a topic other speakers also praised – Keyes hit out at the Catholic Church’s ‘lack of humility’ when addressing issues relating to Magdalene Laundries, mother and baby homes, institutional and clerical sex abuse:

We need a sincere sign they understand these are real children that they raped. These are real, joyful young women who had sex and got pregnant and then got shoved into a home to be made a slave for the rest of her life. These were real, vulnerable, little babies that were snatched from their mothers and stolen and sold.
We are real. They are real. Nothing they have said has acknowledged that we are real… I can’t understand why they’re not on their knees, begging for our forgiveness.
It feels like they’re still not getting it.

During his own speech, O’Gorman referenced an article published by TheJournal.ie prior to the Pope’s visit, which asked for readers to send in an paraphernalia they had relating to the visit of John Paul II in 1979.

This piece included the former pontiff’s famous quote from that visit: ‘Young people of Ireland, I love you.’

O’Gorman said this brought back painful memories, as a short time after that papal visit, he was raped by a priest.

He said the anger he felt – which he subsequently wrote about in an opinion piece for this website – was part of the inspiration for the need to mark the visit of Pope Francis with a demonstration.

Papal Visit to Ireland 2018 O'Gorman speaking to media before today's event. Source: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

O’Gorman praised the ‘new Ireland’  that emerged in the past two decades, describing it as people realising their own ability to not be guided by the advice of the Catholic Church:

We don’t need to behind crowd control barries and wave papal flags as he walks by in a determined effort to ignore us. We know the truth. So now when I think about, ‘Young people of Ireland, I love you’, I think, ‘No you didn’t, you did not love us’. And we have discovered over the past twenty years the depths of how much you did not love us

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

The crowd then turned around, and marched in silence to the site of the former Magdalene Laundry on Sean McDermott Street, which in October 1996 became the last of these institutions to close.

The building is still owned by the Catholic Church. O’Gorman is calling for it to be preserved as a memorial.

The crowd’s silence was not interrupted by shouting or beeping as they walked, aside from a few messages of support from passers-by, looks from tourists confused by the march of silent people, and a foreign television crew who had chosen the entrance to Our Lady of Lourdes Church along the route as their spot to record a piece to camera.

120 Papal Visit_90552509 The crowd stands in silence in front of the former Magdalene Laundry on Sean McDermott Street. Source: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

After that, performances continued, as the crowd slowly dispersed.

In the Phoenix Park, the pope’s unscripted remarks went further than previous comments on abuses by the Catholic Church. Speaking in Spanish, he said:

“We ask forgiveness for the abuse in Ireland. Abuses of power, conscience and sexual abuse perpetrated by members with roles of responsibility in the Church.

“In a special way we ask pardon for all the abuses committed in various institutions run by male or female religious members of the Church and we ask for forgiveness for those cases of exploitation through manual work that so many young women and men were subjected to.

We ask forgiveness for the times that as a Church we did not show survivors of whatever kind of abuse compassion and the seeking of justice and truth through concrete actions. We ask for forgiveness.

Additional reporting by Daragh Brophy in the Phoenix Park

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Nicky Ryan

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