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Carl Kinsella/The Journal
live crib

'There's an attempt to sanitise what we're celebrating': Dublin's live crib launches amid controversy

After much political wrangling, Dublin’s live animal crib was relaunched this morning.

DUBLIN’S LIVE CRIB, a nativity scene featuring live animals, was officially launched at St Stephen’s Green this morning. 

The festive display had been the root of political wrangling between Dublin’s Lord Mayor Caroline Conroy and Minister for the Office of Public Works (OPW) Patrick O’Donovan, after Conroy announced the 27-year-old tradition would not go ahead in the Mansion House this year.

Despite the Lord Mayor’s decision to cancel the live animal crib at her residence, the OPW partnered with the Irish Farmers’ Association to establish crib in Summer House on the east side of Stephen’s Green.

Throughout the the crib’s run, the animals will be in the crib from 10.30am to 3.30pm each day before being brought home to their farm in Bray, Co Wicklow. 

“The live animal crib has been in my family for 27 years, since it originally started,” said Fionn Sherlock, owner and caretaker of the animals – a goat (Daisy), a donkey (Lily) and two sheep (named Peter and Paul).

Asked by The Journal about animal welfare concerns, Sherlock, who is also a livestock auctioneer and assistant mart manager, said: “People are entitled to their opinion. The animals are well looked after.

“My dad is a blacksmith, he does the donkey’s feet every three weeks. They’re checked by vets every year, they get their worm dose, so they animals are well looked after.”

When asked if the current cold snap was of any additional concern, Sherlock said “No, they’re well fed and they’d be in and out of the home so they’re well used to the conditions.”

The opening of the crib featured readings by two priests: Fr Gary Chamberland of Newman University Church, and Reverend Dermot Dunne, the Dean of Christchurch. 

Speaking to The Journal, Reverend Dunne said that Christchurch was offered as a venue for the live crib, but that he believed St Stephen’s Green was the “perfect” location. 

In his opening remarks at the event, Fine Gael TD O’Donovan said the crib was important “for the children of Dublin, the children who will visit Dublin, and the not-so-young as well who’ll want to come and actually visit a Christmas crib, with the word ‘Christmas’ being really important for us.”

Asked about the remarks by The Journal, O’Donovan said, “I think in recent times there’s been an attempt to sanitise what it is we’re celebrating at this time of the year and unfortunately, the word ‘Christmas’ has been pushed to the corner and it’s almost like ‘winter’ festivals and ‘winter’ events but, in actual fact, it’s Christmas that’s at the heart of it.”

O’Donovan also said that speaking about whether the matter was “personal” to him.

“It was important to me, and it was important to an awful lot of people, that it continued,” he said.

IFA President Tim Cullinan added: “It gives me great heart to see the children of Dublin in here interacting with farm animals, because I think we have lost some of the tradition of people knowing where their food comes from and I think having that interaction between rural and urban is very important.”

Speaking last week, Lord Mayor Caroline Conroy said she had “no regrets” about her decision.

“They do what they felt they need to do. I can only take responsibility for the Mansion House and I felt we needed to do something different, and I think this is better,” Conroy told The Journal.

The Christmas lights at the Mansion House are all powered by low-wattage LED lights, while the decorations have been custom made using reusable materials. The display also includes a postbox for letters to Santa, and a sleigh where families can take photos.

Entertainment will be provided from 3 December up to Christmas by a number of community and school choirs from throughout Dublin, musicians and performers and Christmas character animations, with Conroy saying it would bring “a lot more activity” to the city.

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