Photo Credit: Kieran Maynes

IN PHOTOS: Thousands gather for ‘Light the Fire’ event with Dana in Slane

Thousands of people joined in a special open air Mass celebrated by Archbishop Eamon Martin at a ‘Light the Fire’ event with famed singer and former MEP, Dana Rosemary Scallon, on the hill of Slane last weekend.

Despite the heavy showers, more than 3,000 people climbed the hill to participate in the event spanning almost five hours of praise and worship, rosary, and Mass – with a special ceremony recalling how St Patrick lit the fire of faith in Slane in 433AD.

Credit: Kieran Maynes

Dana received a rapturous welcome from the thousands in attendance when she performed a song written by the Derry woman and her brother-in-law Fr Kevin Scallon which told the story of Ireland’s patron saint in terms of “bringing light and understanding to the darkness”.

Dana said that Fr Kevin, who has since passed away, described the song Light The Fire (St Patrick’s Song) as “an anthem for today”.

“He said, ‘You know we need a new hymn to St Patrick for today. Because the message of St Patrick is not belonging to a past generation and it’s not just for Ireland. It’s a message for today and for the whole world’,” Dana said.

Credit: Kieran Maynes

“I know those embers are still there and the ground we walk on in Slane is Holy Ground,” she said. “We hoped people would come to bring those flames to light and spread the joy and the hope that comes from that, and they did in their thousands. It was a very special day.”

Archbishop Eamon Martin joined priests from dioceses across the country to celebrate Mass on the thronged hill, next to the ruins of a Franciscan Monastery, dating from 1512, itself built on site of a monastery founded by St. Erc, a follower of St. Patrick.

He said that the thousands who attended came to Slane to pray for a renewal of faith, hope and love in Ireland. Hailing the Faith-filled actions of St Patrick he said it “is now our turn to shout aloud the message of salvation and tell others about the difference that faith makes to our lives, and the value it brings”.

The way to win souls would be by communicating ‘heart to heart’ he said, “by speaking the truth with love and attracting others to God by the example of our lives”.

In his homily Archbishop Martin said: “It is interesting that many of the key events in the life of Jesus took place on hills or mountains – His temptations; His most memorable teachings; His agony, crucifixion and resurrection. In Old Testament times also, the people of God experienced the Transcendent God on mountains like Sinai, Horeb, Moriah.

“We have our own holy mountains and hills here in Ireland: like Slemish in County Antrim; Croagh Patrick in County Mayo and, of course, here on this historic hill of Slane in County Meath where Patrick lit the Paschal fire to proclaim the Risen Lord and the coming of Christianity to this land.”

Pilgrims said that the ceremony of the lighting of the fire at Slane was a powerful and evocative moment in the ceremony.

Dana said that the day “was a joyful celebration of our Catholic faith. To watch the successor of St Patrick light the fire again on the Hill of Slane was deeply moving. So many people said how much this day has lifted their hearts. Men, women and children of all ages were praying and praising God together.”

The Eurovision star paid tribute to her husband Damien Scallon for the idea of organising the Light the Fire event at Slane. “We lit the fire! Our faith is alive and we will pass it on,” she said.

The ‘Light the Fire’ event also heard from Sr Briege McKenna, the renowned healing nun, who asked those present to pray for priests and for a renewal of faith in Ireland.

The front section of the packed ceremonies were reserved for people with disabilities and those with difficulties with mobility.

Dana, who first shot to fame as Ireland’s first Eurovision winner back in 1970 as a 17-year old schoolgirl, has always placed her strong religious faith at the centre of her life and career.

Light The Fire (St Patrick’s Song) was launched earlier this year at the Saint Patrick Centre in Downpatrick, the country’s only permanent exhibition to Ireland’s patron saint, where St Patrick began his mission.

Speaking before the launch, Dana said that the message of St Patrick was “for today and for the whole world” and that the song aimed to spread his message and light of faith.

The centre also welcomed the news that Dana will walk with pilgrims on the Downpatrick part of Saint Patrick’s Way – a pilgrimage that includes the site of Patrick’s first church and Inch Abbey, a 12th century site where the legend of St Patrick banishing the snakes was written.

“We are hoping many pilgrims will book a place on the pilgrimage to walk and talk with Dana who has a great passion for the story of Patrick and the impact he had both here and across the globe,” they told the Derry Journal.

“The pilgrimage is a great opportunity to follow in the footsteps of St Patrick and learn about his journey from a poor slave with no faith to a man of faith and a great missionary.”

Dana said she felt drawn to walk in St Patrick’s footsteps on the pilgrim way on September 23.

“I feel it would be a way to get to know him better,” said Dana, “a way to deepen my faith and increase my courage, so that like him, I can stand for and share the faith, hope and love I believe in.

The walking pilgrimage experience is approximately six miles and includes lunch, a pilgrim passport, and guided tours of key sites. The cost is £45 including lunch and transfers and more information is available by contacting the Centre on 02844 619000 or

Former Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte, who led his county to three all-Ireland senior titles, formally launched the pilgrimage route with guides Martina Purdy and Elaine Kelly in June, 2021.

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