Pictured above: Walkers on Sandymount Strand.
Photo by Kim Flood.

The inaugural Pieta House Darkness into Light Ringsend event was attended by over 2,200 people on the morning of May 6th. It was one of 150 such events to take place all over Ireland and over four continents with a record-breaking 150,000 combined participants this year. The money raised helps keep Pieta House vital counselling services free.

Crowds began to gather at Clanna Gael Fontenoy GAA Club, Sean Moore Park well before the 4.15am starting time. The atmosphere of camaraderie was catching, as troops of volunteers directed participants to gather around the stage where Chris Andrews was leading the welcome speeches.

The bright yellow of the official Darkness into Light t-shirts certainly did away with the early morning gloom as Chris thanked members of the organising committee, Kathy Gleeson, David Nolan, Mary Dent, Jennifer Betts and Sueann Moore for all their hard work to make the event come to life. He also thanked the over 100 volunteers who had been hard at work since 1am, local sponsors and the residents surrounding Clanna Gael for their support despite all the noise! Special thanks also to Garda Hugh Shovlin and the local Gardaí.

Jennifer Betts then read an uplifting poem she composed to commemorate the beginning of hopefully a Darkness into Light tradition in Ringsend and said she was proud to see so many people had turned up.

The event was the first duty of the newly-elected Lord Mayor, Deke Rivers and he gave a heartening speech to the crowd. Kathy Gleeson and Mary Dent sang some songs and personal trainer Thomas Nolan got the crowd limbered up with some warm-ups. Groups lit up with glow sticks and pets wrapped in fairy lights all joined in by jumping up and down, stretching out muscles and even the Lord Mayor was seen trying to touch his toes, gold chain and all.

Phena O’Boyle told NewsFour why she was attending “We’re here to support all the poor people who have lost somebody through suicide. I don’t know anyone personally who hasn’t been affected by it in some way.” Her friend Elizabeth Laffan added: “It’s so great to have it local, with so many people coming from everywhere. If all the restaurants were open wouldn’t it be wonderful, though? I’m thinking of the fry-up after this!”

There was no time for breakfast as the first whistle sounded for the people who wanted to run the loop route, followed shortly by a countdown and the second whistle at 4.15am when the majority of the crowd set off. The Sandymount Gospel choir was positioned outside Bennetts Auctioneers at Sandymount Green to keep spirits high as the walkers passed.

The dawn breaking over Sandymount strand and Dublin bay was an inspiring sight for those marching for loved ones affected by suicide and self-harm, symbolising that there is always hope in a new day.

Back at Clanna Gael, first runner over the line, Ray Brady, had this to say: “I’ve done the Pieta House run a number of times, I did it locally here for the first time. I think it’s a wonderful event, really worthwhile doing and to give your support to and I hope to do it here from now on.”

Above: Some of the participants at the Darkness into Light event.

Volunteers were congratulating, cheering and clapping others returning and handing out bottles of water and protein bars. A Banner of Hope was also available for people to sign on behalf of a loved one whom they have lost from suicide.

Artwork by children from St. Patrick’s Girls National School and St.Patrick’s Boys National School and Ringsend College was also displayed along the route, with sentiments such as ‘don’t give up’, ‘reach out’ and ‘you can do it’.

Ronan O’Flaherty, primary school teacher who teaches in Clonskeagh also ran the loop. “I came today to support a good cause. A few of the lads were getting involved, so I said why not, might as well show a bit of support and see what it’s all about.”

Moira Killoran added: “I’ve never run in the middle of the night before! This is my first Darkness Into Light event. I came to the Ringsend one because, honestly, the one in Phoenix Park was booked out!” A testament to how popular the fundraising event has become.

Also handing out bottles of water and greeting those returning was Lord Mayor of Ringsend, Deke Rivers and he tells his story about dealing with depression: “I came through it, but not everybody does. I was suffering from depression back 25 years ago. There was no one to talk to back then. You either dealt with it or went over the line. I was strong enough to get over it. I’m delighted that there is somewhere to turn to for people now, because at that time you couldn’t just turn to a friend in a pub and say, ‘I have a bit of depression going on’. They wouldn’t talk to you, they’d think something was wrong with you. But that is all changed, everyone is more open about everything these days and it is great. There was a stigma attached to depression. If you were around dockside workers and boxers and hard men, I was a bit of a hard man myself, you didn’t share things with people, everyone bottled things up. That’s why there were a lot of suicides back then. So Pieta is a fantastic organisation for people in need, people are starting to recognise that now which is great. The crowd here is fantastic, every age group you can imagine, even people as old as me trying to dance!”

If you or a loved one are feeling suicidal or self-harming, reach out to someone you trust, visit or call 1800 247 247 to find your nearest Pieta House.

If you missed out on the walk and would still like to donate text PIETA to 50300 to donate two euro and help support the cause.

By Jessica Ellis