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Dublin City Council accused of being 'Scrooge-like' for not holding Christmas lights ceremony

Fine Gael’s Jerry Buttimer said the event should be moved to Smithfield.

Over the last two years overcrowding issues have hampered the event.
Over the last two years overcrowding issues have hampered the event.
Image: Leah Farrell

DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL has been accused of being “Scrooge-like” for not holding a Christmas lights ceremony in Dublin this year. 

The Oireachtas Petitions Committee said today that it would keep open one petition it received calling for the event to go ahead. A number of senators said council officials should appear before the committee.

The committee, which processes petitions from members of the public, was told the petitioner made the case that the turning on of the Christmas lights is a “long-held tradition” which is loved by many. 

The petition goes on to state the event has become “part of Christmas for many people” and called for it to go ahead.

Dublin City Council is understood not to be going ahead with the event this year due to there being trouble in managing large crowds in previous years. The committee was also told that the Luas cross-city would be disrupted if the event was held in the usual location.

Many people who attended the Christmas lights being turned on in Dublin city centre last year were left disappointed.

Up to 40,000 people made their way into the city centre for the Christmas Procession of Light but there were overcrowding issues.

In 2016, the lighting ceremony ended early for health and safety reasons after a larger than expected number of people turned up to watch.

Appearances by a number of musical acts had to be cancelled and people reported not being able to see or hear the entertainment. 

‘Unprecedented’

However, Fine Gael’s Jerry Buttimer said the decision not to having a lighting ceremony in the capital is “unprecedented”. He attended a similar event in Cork last weekend, he told the committee, where about 20,000 people were in attendance.

Buttimer said it was well-organised, and everyone was able to move-freely.

“Are Dublin City Council really telling us they can’t manage a crowd coming into the capital city?” he asked, citing a number of other events that have been held in Dublin in the past, such as the St Patrick’s Day parade and matches at Croke Park and the Aviva Stadium.

“I think they are having a laugh at the expense of people,” he said, adding that if the usual locations of O’Connell Street and Grafton Street are an issue, then a new location should be found. 

Buttimer said the Pride Parade and the Dublin team homecoming were both held in Smithfield and said it would be a “wonderful space” to hold the turning on of the Christmas lights.

He said the excuse used to cancel the event from the council was “lame”, stating that every town, village and city in Ireland have a ceremony to turn on the Christmas lights. 

“Are we really saying that as a capital city we cannot manage the turning on of a Christmas tree event?” he said.

Fianna Fáil’s Eugene Murphy said that while he is not from Dublin, he was disappointed with the council for cancelling the event this year. Many rural people come to the capital specially for the event, he said. 

Murphy added that it is a “huge occasion, particularly for young people”. 

If the problem is the usual venue, “well, you move the venue”, he told the committee. 

“Hopefully there will be a change of heart,” he said.

TheJournal.ie attempted to contact Dublin City Council for comment.

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