TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has condemned "petty and mean-spirited" protesters who snapped up tickets for Pope Francis' upcoming Ireland visit with no intention of attending.
Hundreds of people joined the 'Say Nope to the Pope' Facebook campaign to book free tickets as a form of “peaceful protest" after they went up for grabs on Monday.
The Pontiff's Irish visit takes place on August 25 and 26 and the public were allowed to apply for tickets to events such as his closing Mass at Phoenix Park, as well as his trip to the Knock shrine in Co. Mayo.
One protester claimed to have snapped up over 1,000 tickets to the events online, including several under the name “Jesus Christ".
Concerns over the campaign were raised this afternoon in the Dáil, where the Irish PM said the stunt was not a legitimate form of protest.
“Some people have been applying for tickets that they don’t intend to use as some sort of protest and I want to say that I firmly believe that such actions – if they are happening – are wrong and petty and mean-spirited,” he said.
“Protest is legitimate; protest is OK but denying other people the opportunity to attend a mass or attend an event is not legitimate protest in my view and is very unfair.
“It really should be condemned.”
'Petty and intolerant'
Fianna Fáil Leader Mícheál Martin echoed the Taoiseach's condemnation.
"I hope reports of people trying to get hold of hundreds of tickets in order to block people from going to the main events are untrue," he said.
"If such actions did occur, they would be petty, intolerant and certainly the opposite of progressive."
All 45,000 tickets for Pope Francis’ visit to Knock shrine were snapped within a matter of hours after they went online two days ago.
Tickets for his Phoenix Park appearance are still available – with some 500,000 understood to be on offer in total.
Both events take place on August 26.