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'Say Nope to Pope' campaign is 'petty and mean-spirited' - Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
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PEOPLE who apply for tickets to see the Pope but have no intention of attending the event are “petty and mean-spirited”, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

He has condemned the actions of protesters who are booking tickets in large number in order to prevent genuine Mass-goers getting access to his appearances in Knock and the Phoenix Park.

One person, who is part of the ‘Say Nope to the Pope’ campaign,  claims to have book 692 tickets because he wanted to “drive home the message” that Irish people are not happy with the Catholic Church.

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But Mr Varadkar said such actions are “wrong”.

“Protest is legitimate and okay, but denying other people the opportunity to attend a mass or an event is not legitimate protest in my view and is most unfair.  It should be condemned,” he said.

The Taoiseach was responding to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin who said he hoped reports of this type of protest are untrue.

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“If such actions occurred, they would be petty, intolerant and certainly the opposite of progressive,” he said.

Mr Martin told the Dáil that “any fair assessment would conclude there is a warm public response to the Pope's visit in August”.

“He is coming here in exactly the spirit we would hope for from the leader of the world's largest organised religion and faith on this island. 

“This is an important opportunity for our society to demonstrate that it respects the faith and sincerity of people at a time when significant progress on important matters has occurred,” the Opposition leader said.

Mr Varadkar informed TDs that much of the planning for the Papal visit during the World Meeting of Families on August 26 is still being finalised.

“My role will be very limited. I will be at the event in Dublin Castle to receive him and I intend to attend the mass in the Phoenix Park, which is in my constituency.  I am unsure how long my meeting with the Pope will be.

“I am unsure whether it will be one-to-one or long or short. None of that has been worked out yet, but certainly I will use the opportunity to welcome him to Ireland on behalf of the people and I think he will be most welcome in Ireland,” he said.

Mr Varadkar added that there is not yet a cost for security during the visit but said it would probably be "in the same ballpark as Queen Elizabeth’s visit” in 2011.

“In other words, it will probably be more than €10 million and less than €20 million but that is only an estimate at this stage,” he said.

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar