Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill unable to meet the Pope due to her broken leg

By Suzanne Breen

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O'Neill has said she will not be able to meet the Pope due to her broken leg.

Newry and Armagh MLA Conor Murphy will attend Papal events in Dublin this weekend in her place.

Speaking last night, Ms O'Neill said Pope Francis' visit was an opportunity to end the Church's cover-up of child sexual abuse.

She broke her leg in an accident last month.

Mrs O'Neill described the visit as "a significant event for all the Irish people and Irish Catholics in particular".

She added: "It had been my intention to attend Dublin Castle and Mass in Phoenix Park as part of the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland and the World Meeting of Families.

"However, I regret due to a broken leg and restricted mobility that I will now not be able to attend.

"Sinn Fein will be represented by senior Sinn Fein elected representatives, including Conor Murphy who will attend in my place." Mrs O'Neill said she would "listen with acute interest" to what the Pope had to say on a range of social and religious issues.

"While reflecting on our personal beliefs we must also recognise that as political leaders and as legislators, we have a responsibility beyond our own individual views to deliver equality, rights and respect for all sections of the Irish people," she said.

"We must specifically acknowledge the damage done by the Catholic Church to the lives of many women and children in the mother and baby homes, the Magdalene laundries and a succession of abuse scandals and cover-ups.

"The visit of Pope Francis is an opportunity to address these issues, to meet with victims and survivors, to fully acknowledge their suffering and the damage done, to end the cover-ups and to commit to full redress, north and south."

Mrs O'Neill said Ireland had undergone significant political, social and economic change since the last Papal visit in 1979.

"We now have a peace process and an increasingly progressive, modern and outward-looking society," she said.

"We must build on this while retaining those positive traditions and values that help to define us and which have withstood the test of time and adversity.

"The visit of Pope Francis can and should contribute to the new and positive relationship which has been developing between the Irish State and the Catholic Church."

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