An amnesty for prisoners to mark the visit of Pope John Paul II was put back over fears of a burglary blitz on the country's empty homes, Irish government files revealed yesterday.
Previously classified documents — now released into the National Archives — also show that the historic 1979 trip was nearly scuppered over a lack of preparations by the Irish government.
Dozens of inmates were freed early as part of the three-day celebrations 30 years ago, while behind the scenes Cabinet ministers fretted about its potential for a crime spree.
In a handwritten memo to then Taoiseach Jack Lynch, one official warned against the plan overall but was particularly worried about freeing prisoners on September 29 — the first day of the Papal visit.
“It would be risky to give the amnesty on the first day of the visit because of the threat to Dublin's empty homes!” he cautioned.
In the end, 78 prisoners were freed on October 1, as the Pope left Ireland.