Updated: 29/11/16 : 05:28:58
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'Hand of God,' part two, coming up for Ireland

By Eugene McGloin
Political Editor

THIRTY YEARS ago we roared wild approval all around Ireland for an Argie.

Maradona would have been elected Mayor of many Irish cities after he knocked England out of soccer's World Cup in 1986.

Thatcher wasn't managing that English soccer team .....unless, of course, you were Irish. 

Hence our screams of approval when Maradona knocked them out. Single handedly.

That he did it by 'the hand of God' -- a British media term -- has rarely ever headlined in Irish punters' (pub) analysis of the game, then or now.

Enough Religion

Since 1986, the Republic of Ireland has boxed way above its weight to become a mini power in world soccer. We started by beating England. 

But that's enough about religion! We have another Argie about to visit these shores and we must get a good welcome ready.

That visitor will be the 'hand of God' himself, Pope Francis -- due here in August 2018.

Will he get tickets for Croke Park if Mayo are in yet another semi final! Hmm.

Privately Visit

It would be nice if the Argentine Pope got to privately visit Mayo, Foxford to be precise, during his time here.

The founder of the Argentine Navy, Admiral William Browne, is honoured with a decent statue in the middle of his native town.

Of course, the Pope's team of planners will tell you he is coming on a 'pastoral' visit.

The visit will not be one with ANY political significances. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Sligo Slaughter

If that last point was 100% true we would NOT be already talking about the (political) significance(s) of a visit to the North.

His predecessor, now Saint John Paul -- or his planners -- had in summer 1979 pencilled in Armagh for a visit.

That draft itinerary was short-circuited by the August 1979 IRA slaughter at Mullaghmore in north Sligo. 

Meanwhile, worth recalling is that many Irish people left Longford and Westmeath in the 1860s to settle in the Argentine. 

Olympic Gold

Look at names of some Argentine teams with Olympic gold medals at polo, many Irish names. 

Look at the names of some of Argentine's Presidents in the past. Look at some of its street names. Irish, too.

The Pope comes from a country whose leaders kidnapped and 'disappeared' its opponents. 

Those who emigrated from Ireland in past centuries include ancestors of another big figure of the Cuban Revolution, Che Guevara.

He was executed, as was 13 years later Archbishop Romero, since declared a martyr of the Faith by Pope Francis.

That act -- and others -- have marked out this Papacy as different from what went before in our lifetimes.

Poverty, humility and mercy are recurrent motifs in the work and example of Pope Francis.

Bitter, Divisive

Will the visit to Ireland be dry and formal? Or, will it be a 'once in a lifetime' where the Church speaks of/with SOUL rather than theology and ritual?

The visit will require much more 'imagination' than us locals mostly see from the Irish Church.

As a country we could have a lot happening in 2018 so the Papal planners need to be innovative.

1. We may have national polls, we could have both a general election and a Presidential election that year. 

2. There may also be the matter of a possible new referendum and re-run of what, in the 1980s, was a (political) debate, both bitter and divisive for a generation.

3. We also need to mark the historic 1918 election, the historic 'Sinn Fein election' which changed Irish history. 

4. We wish to mark all those achievements of 1918 and especially of Madame Markievicz of Lissadell.

She was the first female ever elected to the UK House of Commons. 

Certainties Gone

The certainties of the (Catholic) past are gone in Ireland. Mostly, the Church has itself to blame.

The Irish Church (often) offered only a wan understanding of (a) the doubts and (b) the unbeliefs with which it's supporters have to wrestle.

People here have lived through hard times in the past decade, especially older people.

Yet, the Church stayed too silent during that entire era. Why? Yes, it should answer. 

The Catholic Church silences some of its internal critics in Ireland. Why? Yes, it should answer, too.