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Irish visit: Pope John Paul II arrives in Ireland on board Aer Lingus jet

Remembering Pope John Paul II's 1979 visit to Ireland

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Irish visit: Pope John Paul II arrives in Ireland on board Aer Lingus jet

It is 30 years to the day since Pope John Paul II visited Ireland in a three-day visit that brought the country to a standstill.

Nearly 3 million people turned out to welcome the Pontiff at five venues; Dublin, Drogheda, Galway, Limerick and Knock.

The numbers were phenomenal when you consider that the population of the Republic was 3,368,217 in 1979.

In Dublin's Phoenix Park, more than 1 million people from all over Ireland and some cities in England, attended the first papal Mass in Ireland.

There was a mammoth roar from the giant crowd when the pope's plane flew over the Phoenix Park en route to Dublin aiport.

In that day alone, the Pope's itinerary included the Vatican, Rome Airport, Dublin Airport, The Phoenix Park in Dublin, Killineer in Drogheda, Dublin and then several meetings.

His papal itinerary was so thronged that the Pope jokingly claimed the Irish were trying to kill him on his first day.

It was in Drogheda, County Louth, where the Pope appealed to the paramilitaries to lay down their arms.

"I wish to speak to all men and women engaged in violence," he said.

"I appeal to you, in language of passionate pleading. On my knees I beg you, to turn away from the path of violence and to return to the ways of peace."

That visit to Drogheda in the border county was as near to the North as the Pope would get.

A planned mass in St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh had been cancelled as his advisers feared he would be a target for loyalist paramilitaries.

Just weeks earlier, the British Queen's cousin, Lord Louis Mountbatten, had been killed in an IRA bomb attack on his boat in County Sligo while 18 soldiers were killed in two explosions near Warrenpoint, County Down.

However, hundreds of thousands of Irish people North and South trekked to one of the five venues while many more watched the visit unfold on TV.

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