I know I'm rowing back a bit, but I'm beginning to think we should have a full National Day of Mourning on Friday, including the day off. I've been hearing people on the radio and on the street talk about this and older people seem to be scandalized that the country will not come to a halt for a day as a mark of respect for John Paul II.
The old Ireland is dead and gone, no doubt about it. For many of this country's older generation this is almost a defeat, a repudiation of all that they believed and still believe. It seems almost churlish not to grant them this one small victory. From what I've been gathering (and I'm not from here and maybe missed this initially) John Paul II was THE MAN as far as older people are concerned.
No Irish leader (or pop star or writer or anything) generated the respect, no love, that John Paul II seems to have engendered in Irish people of a certain age. It seems to be nearly universal among those who remember Paul VI becoming Pope. And, that's just the point. John Paul II was more than a Pope. He was the "people's Pope".
Of course, old people can honor John Paul II even if the country doesn't close down, but they want the day to be special. They don't want it sullied by crass commercialism, drinking in pubs or football matches.
Ireland is no longer in the grip of the bishops and priests. Making Friday special is not a return to that Ireland nor is it an insult to those of other faiths. Rather, making Friday special is an acknowledgement to all those older people that they are still respected. All those politicians who make noise about adding a few euros to the Old Age Pension (social security) at budget time should recognize that for many old people a proper acknowledgement for John Paul II is worth more than a few euros per month.
Would it be too big a price to pay to give them their day? I don't think so.