Between 35,000 and 40,000 climb Croagh Patrick


BETWEEN 35,000 and 40,000 people are estimated to have climbed Croagh Patrick yesterday, a figure which is believed locally to be twice the number who did so last year.

Gardaí indicated that people had been there from 3.30am yesterday morning and that, such were the crowds, it was believed unlikely they would have cleared until well into the night last night.

Generally most people would have gone home by late afternoon. Traffic also was at unprecedented levels, in both directions, between Westport and the mountain base at Murrisk throughout the day.

Gardaí attributed the increased numbers to the media focus in recent days on the first televised Mass being broadcast from the chapel at the mountain top yesterday and to the visit to the area last week by Ireland football manager Giovanni Trapattoni.

Following the live broadcast of Mass at 11am yesterday there was an additional increase in traffic as people drove to the area in the afternoon. Throughout the weather was dry if muggy, a mist setting in at about 4pm.

The Order of Malta was busy with 22 minor injuries, four helicopter evacuations from the mountainside and four major injuries, mainly fractures.

Operations manager Eamonn Berry said there were 150 Order of Malta staff on duty there throughout the day. One woman was seriously injured on the mountain in a fall on Friday night, when it is understood she suffered wounds to her back.

Due to the televised Mass yesterday the Croagh Patrick summit was crowded from early in the morning with many people staying on there longer than usual afterwards. The Mass was celebrated by Archbishop of Tuam Dr Michael Neary, who had climbed to the chapel as he does annually and who completed his descent in mid-afternoon.

In his homily he said: "We remember Christ's words about the faith which would move mountains; today we pray that this holy mountain will move faith."

He welcomed the many thousands present "to the summit of Croagh Patrick, nature's cathedral of the west.

"An age of computer technology and rapidly developing civilisation might have been expected to rob us of the capacity to be surprised.

"Repeated discoveries of our creative strength, however, can have quite the opposite effect, stimulating thirst for that ultimate creative event which is the kingdom. You are not at your computer terminals today. You are here. The rediscovery of mystery is surely one of the great challenges facing our age.

Here on Croagh Patrick, one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring places in the world, man and mountain meet and we are enveloped in mystery."

He continued "this year has been designated as a year when we reflect upon and pray about the call or vocation we have received. Vocation is a call to witness, service and love. It is not so much about what we do but about who we are and how we live our lives.

"In years gone by this would have focused solely on the call to religious life or priesthood but now we realise that through our baptism, we are all called to live out our lives in whatever vocation or ministry we find ourselves."

He said that "all of us would agree that Ireland, without the prophetic witness of religious sisters and brothers in education, healthcare and so many other areas, would be a poorer place.

"The priest ministers to and on behalf of the church. A church bereft of a vibrant priesthood cannot proclaim the Gospel as effectively as it should.

"In situations of bereavement and brokenness, in tragedy and trauma, sickness and separation the priest will be found standing shoulder to shoulder with his people in the gardens of their Gethsemane," Dr Neary said.