Time capsule containing visions for 2020 reopened for first time

Students from 72 schools across Ireland took part in 2020 vision project in 1996

“By the year 2020 we hope that we can enjoy the natural environment, hopefully this environment will be bomb free and fear free.”

This statement, written by two young students from a secondary school in Omagh, re-appeared in a Dublin classroom this week for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century.

Along with letters, photos, advertisements and newspaper cuttings, this hope for peace from two Northern Irish girls was unveiled as part of a collection of documents kept underground for nearly 25 years.

On Friday, Loreto Primary School in Rathfarnham became the first of 72 schools to open capsules which were buried by students nationwide on February 1st, 1996.


The 20-20 Vision, organised as part of the European Nature Conservation year, ran through 1995 with students across Ireland encouraged to imagine what the world would look like in 2020 and bury their thoughts in a time capsule.

Students from Rathfarnham partnered with Loreto Grammar School in Omagh for the project with many returning to the school this week to rediscover the hopes and dreams they held as children.


In one letter, a student wrote that the use of cars would be a thing of the past, and most people would choose to travel by bus or tram.

Another wrote that all pupils would have “their own computer and keyboard under their desk” and would be “typing away like secretaries”.

Fashion is 2020 would be “more economical” with clothes made using recycled materials such as boot laces, buttons and pieces of ribbon while one student listed her favourite musicians of the time with Boyzone, East 17 and Michael Jackson topping the list.

Letters from Irish public figures, who participated in the project following hand-written requests from students, were also unearthed from the capsule.

Noting that he was aged 40 at time of writing, Joe Duffy quoted the Beatles classic When I’m 64 in light of the age he would be when the capsule was reopened.

“While I know that 2020 will see a world of materialism, greed and high tech communication which is often designed to stop people meeting each other face to face, I do hope and pray that in 2020 we will remember – and live – the Beatles motto that we should all try harder every day in every way to love each other even more and feed each other in every sense of the word,” he wrote.

Gay Byrne wrote that in 2020 cars would be banned and the Luas would be the only form of transport. “Cancer, heart disease, diabetes and AIDS will be diseases with cures and we’ll all be living longer,” he wrote. “Sellafield will have had a major accident and I’ll be dead or 86 years old and still presenting the Late Late show.”

The Cure at Troy

Seamus Heaney responded with a stanza from The Cure At Troy. He wrote: "History says, don’t hope On this side of the grave, But then, once in a lifetime, The longed-for tidal wave Of justice can rise up And hope and history rhyme."

Colm O’Neill, former principal of Loreto Grammar School in Omagh, said it was important to reflect on what the people of Omagh went through shortly after the capsule was buried. “We never would have thought at that time what was going to transpire over those years. We were within ear range of the bomb, it took a long time for the school recover from that.”

Former teacher Gráinne Meaney, who led the project at Loreto in Rathfarnham, recalled the excitement and energy around burying the capsule. She added that the students’ contributions remain relevant nearly 25 years later.

“Their personal messages encouraged them to be themselves, to stand up against bullying and to be proud of who they are.”

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast