Pope Francis to make historic visit to Northern Ireland

Pope Francis is visiting the Republic next year

Pope Francis is visiting the Republic next year

Pope Francis will make a ground-breaking visit to Northern Ireland when he travels to Ireland in 2018, Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister has predicted.

Within moments of the Pontiff confirming a widely-expected trip to Dublin for a global gathering of the Catholic Church, Martin McGuinness said there was “no prospect” of him not crossing the border.

“I think there is no prospect whatsoever of him coming to Ireland and him not coming to the North,” he said.

Asked how why he was so sure, he replied: “Because I’m around a long time and I know how these things work.”

Pope John Paul II was unable to cross the border into Northern Ireland during the last papal visit in 1979.

Instead, amid a welter of security fears and cross-community tensions, the then pope travelled as far as Drogheda, just south of the border, for a huge audience.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed Pope Francis would travel to Ireland in August 2018 after a 23-minute meeting with him in the Vatican on Monday morning.

Dublin is hosting the two-day World Meeting of Families, a gathering of the church.