An Irish media student has landed a ground-breaking interview with the Pope – and hopes his achievements can change attitudes to Down Syndrome.
Michael Gannon interviewed Pope Francis and other top clerics after landing a role as the first ever intern at Vatican Radio.
The Maynooth College media student landed the historic internship through his work as an ambassador for Down Syndrome Ireland.
The 34-year-old told the Irish Sun newspaper of his pride in the role, but admitted his real joy was the chance to be a role model for others with Down syndrome.
He said, “It was my first time in the Vatican. I am a small bit religious - I go to Mass from time to time, although probably not often enough.
“They gave me a load of work to do over there. My parents and I met the main man. I felt at ease; I was myself although I was a bit nervous before the meeting.
“It’s the same format as when you meet the Queen, you line up and then wait patiently.
“The Pope was very quiet. He understands English but he doesn’t speak it that much. They have interpreters.
“He was very nice, though, and gave me a blessing and we had a chat - I said a few words to him.”
Michael has become something of a local celebrity in his home town of Newbridge since returning to Kildare from Rome.
He added, “I feel like I am a bit of a local celebrity. I opened up my dad’s computer and I had about 1,000 likes for meeting the Pope.
“I couldn’t believe how many local people had looked it up. My friends are proud of me, of what I’ve done.”
A final year student at Maynooth, Michael wants to change attitudes to Down Syndrome.
He said, “I want people to stop looking at Down Syndrome and see the person for who they are, what they are, what they do.”
His next interview target is almost as big as the Pope. He said, “My sister got tickets to see Garth Brooks and I’m a big fan.
“I might see if there’s a way of interviewing him when he’s here. It might not happen but you can only ask!”