Phoenix Park events

A history

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papal cross flowersOn a few special occasions, Phoenix Park has been host to large congregations of people gathered together for common purpose.

In former centuries, the greatest draw was the frequent displays of military prowess held in the park. These would bring out an enthusiastic gathering, often accompanied by all sorts of merchants and hawkers — many of them there to slake the thirst of the crowd.

Following the decline of the appeal of noisy military bands and whiskey tents of earlier times, religious ceremony, motor races and pop concerts have been the biggest attractions for crowds in Phoenix Park.

The largest number of people yet recorded on the Fifteen Acres was in September 1979 when an estimated one-third of the Irish population attended a mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II on an altar beneath where the papal cross now towers above all.

Military Reviews, Fenians and Pioneers
In earlier times, in 1780, two hundred years before the papal mass was celebrated, some 100,000 people attended to see the Irish Volunteers (Province of Leinster) review under their flag of “Loyal and Determined”.

In August 1871 police charged at a Fenian amnesty meeting and the ensuing furore in the Westminster parliament over police methods forced recognition of the right to hold public meetings without attack by the police.

The Eucharistic Congress
The thirty-first Eucharistic Congress, held on 23 June 1932, saw almost half a million people witness Papal Legate Cardinal Lorenzo Lauri celebrate mass in the park. Scouts from the newly formed Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland acted as guards at the high altar in the park.

goalie ct In 1994, celebration of another kind was offered to the Irish soccer team under Jack Charlton’s management when they were welcomed home on the Fifteen Acres from the World Cup by hundreds of thousands of people. Before they arrived on the reviewing stand, the team was welcomed to Áras an Uachtaráin by President Mary Robinson, and it was difficult to believe in the blazing sunshine that the team had in fact been knocked out of the tournament.

On 18 June 2002, the World Cup national soccer team, by now under manager Mick McCarthy, the former Captain Fantastic, also had a homecoming in Phoenix Park, this time in front of the park’s soccer pavilions. More than 100,000 people massed on the soccer pitches to cheer the team. Once more, the team had been knocked out of the World Cup, this time on penalties; but the crowds were just happy that they were there at all, and cheered mightily when the players landed on the stage.

Music in the Park
Music has always played a role in the life of Phoenix Park, from the trumpeters accompanying the military reviews of centuries past, right up to the concerts — pop, rock, classical and traditional — now held frequently in the summertime.

man on microphoneOn 18 August 2002, the first free pop concert took place heralding a new era of music in Phoenix Park itself. The venue was the Whitefields part of the park, and not on the Fifteen Acres, as at first envisaged.

That year, 2002, as it happened, motor racing did not go ahead in the park because of a lack of funding available to the organisers for the event, and because of their intention to market the 2003 centenary of speed trials in Phoenix Park in a prominent manner.

An August 9 Robbie Williams show was the first commercial concert to be allowed in the public park. More than 500 gardaí and a drug unit patrolled the open-air pop concert, with some 135,000 ticket-buyers in attendance. Gates opened at 1pm and warm-up acts performed from 3pm with Williams on stage at 8.30 pm for a two-hour set.

book jacket For more detail read

The comprehensive book on Dublin's own national park.

In the shops now

ISBN 1-904148-78-6
or order online here

Copies of Phoenix Park a history and guidebook are a welcome addition to your corporate or conference goodybags.

Brendan Nolan has reported on Phoenix Park as a freelance journalist for several decades and was a professional observer at many of the events of the late 20th century related herein.

He was born in Chapelizod in a house beside the churchyard of Le Fanu and counted Phoenix Park as his personal rambling ground through his growing years and beyond.

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Memorial Service for Pope John Paul II
On a chilly evening on 8 April 2005, fewer than 10,000 people gathered at a funeral mass for the late Pontiff who had died in Rome on April 2, aged eighty-four, after a lingering illness. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern TD and several government ministers were among the crowd.



"It's a fabulous book. It should be in all the schools."
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