The schoolgirl who managed to take a ‘pope selfie’ with Pope Francis has told how she hid her mobile phone up her sleeve just as she was going on stage.
Alison Nevin (12) from Swords sent the crowd at the World Meeting of Families concert in Croke Park into a frenzy as she took the photo with the pontiff.
She revealed: “I asked a crew member and they said no, I wasn’t allowed to take one, and then I snuck it up my arm and I took it out when I got up there and asked.”
Her mother, Brigid, told Dublin Gazette: “She keeps telling me: ‘Mammy, I’m famous’ and I can’t argue with her because she is – she’s all over the internet!”
Alison is now more recognisable than her brother, Patrick, who has just turned pro as a boxer.
The viral selfie moment has been hailed online as the highlight of the Pope’s visit and proud mum Brigid said she was still gobsmacked at Alison’s bold move.
She said: “To me, she comes across as a shy person but when she gets something into her head she won’t let it go. She’s shown that in her short life.
“She’s been in and out of Temple Street Hospital from a young age, and while I’d be falling apart she’d be sitting up on the bed telling the other kids not to worry.
“She’d say, ‘It’s only a little pinch’ though she might have spent hours going through painful treatment just beforehand. She’s great like that.
“On Saturday, I was trying to take a close-up photo of her with the Pope and just heard the crowd going mad and I thought something bad had happened.
“When I saw her taking the selfie I nearly had a heart attack. I couldn’t believe it!
“I’ve asked her how it made her feel doing that in front of a crowd of 80,000 people live on TV and she just shrugged and said: ‘It’s great for Travellers; I can be a leader for them’. She really has her head on her shoulders.”
One of the biggest cheers on the night was for activist Missy Collins talking about Traveller families, their faith and their exclusion in Irish society – with Alison by her side.
Brigid said: “It’s very important for us to have members of the Traveller community represented for young people. With Alison being so young, she’s set a trend for her peers to have confidence in themselves.”
Alison’s cousin, Kathleen Lawrence – another inspirational Traveller woman who left school at 15 and is now studying for her Masters degree in Maynooth – shared the selfie on Twitter.
The image is now with a professional photographer for framing and will go alongside another one taken when Alison first got to meet Pope Francis in Rome three years ago.
On that occasion, she was the first Traveller child to greet him and came down off the podium to receive a gift she had brought for him.