THE grief-stricken families of murdered rugby player Shane Geoghegan and Michaela Harte were among an audience of over 3,000 people who listened to the Dalai Lama deliver a stirring message of compassion and forgiveness in the University of Limerick Sports Arena on Thursday.
Shane Geoghegan’s mother Mary and brother Anthony, as well as Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte and John McAreavey, father and husband of Michaela Harte, who was murdered tragically in Mauritius earlier this year, listened intently as the 76 year-old Tibetan spiritual leader spoke for close to an hour about “infinite compassion” in an address called ‘The Power of Forgiveness’, after which he received a standing ovation.
The event was the largest on the Dalai Lama’s two day visit to Ireland, and the largest seated event the Arena has hosted to date. Invited guests also included Mayor of Limerick Maria Byrne, fellow local politicians and former Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray.
The Buddhist leader said he was there to preach two things - “the promotion of human values and the promotion of religious harmony”.
“If you practice compassion, it will benefit not only yourself, but create a positive atmosphere (around you),” he said.
“If you keep fear and distrust here (in your heart), you will live with suspicion and distrust and be more cautious and deep inside, you will have a lonely feeling. When we are facing problems, we deal with them with the sense we are the same human beings. If, as humans, we are happy, peaceful, more compassionate, we can overcome them.”
The message was particularly apt as the man responsible for bringing the Dalai Lama on his first ever visit to Limerick, Children in Crossfire’s Richard Moore, who was shot and blinded by a rubber bullet fired by a British Soldier in Derry in 1972, explained that the soldier was in the audience in the Arena. At that, all three men held hands and were applauded by the audience.
Mr Moore made specific reference to those members of the audience who had “faced difficulties and have suffered enormously”.
“I received emails from many of you who said that you had lost loved ones through violence and if anything that proves the decision to bring the Dalai Lama to Limerick was certainly the right one,” he said.
Over 300 people were involved in the event, which was watched by 3,100 people and thousands more on a live stream on the internet. Tight security surrounded the event, with the Arena closed to the public overnight. Directly after his address, the Dalai Lama travelled to Shannon Airport with a garda motorbike escort through the Limerick Tunnel, flying to Sweden from the airport.
UL director of corporate affairs, Eamonn Cregan, who helped to organise the event, said people had been queuing since 6.30am this morning.
“It has taken a lot of effort to get him here - we had a big events team working on this. It has been a fantastic team effort,” he explained.
Prior to his address, UL President Don Barry greeted the Dalai Lama from his helicopter, which landed on the ‘Sports Bowl’ in the University, and the Tibetan monk placed a traditional scarf around the president’s shoulders.
Introducing the Nobel Laureate, Prof Barry said that he was “delighted to welcome his holiness on this marvellous occasion”, adding “we are honoured and privileged to have him with us”.
The Dalai Lama told the audience: “We are the same, you and me, the same community, the same mentality, emotion, the same physically. There are no differences - yes there is a difference of faith, colour and nationality, and there are a lot of problems we are facing...but we are the same human beings.”
After the address, 30 local school children from Limerick Regeneration Areas performed a song called ‘Forgiveness is a Gift’, specially written for the event. They were joined by performers from the Irish World Academy and the Irish Chamber Orchestra and guests, who all performed before the Dalai Lama spoke, as did spiritual singer Nóirín Ní Riain and the Benedictine monks of Glenstal Abbey, among others.