Priest forced to insert clause into Santa story after visit to school

Fri, Dec 14, 2012, 00:00

Children at a north Co Kerry school who became upset after a visiting priest implied there was no Santa have been reassured by parents and staff that the priest was making it all up and Santa does exist.

The priest made the blunder while visiting Scoil Mhuire gan Smal in Lixnaw last week. He believed he was speaking to mainly sixth-class pupils.

Fr Martin Hegarty, a retired priest who was filling in for the parish priest, was visiting the school to explain the message of Christmas. During an exchange with children in the fourth, fifth and sixth classes, he implied that Santa did not exist. A number of children got upset, and at least one began crying.

The board of management is to discuss the matter.

Fr Hegarty, who is understood to be deeply embarrassed, told the Kerry’s Eye newspaper on Wednesday he did not realise the children were upset .

He also told the newspaper that Irish children got more presents than other nationalities at Christmas. “So they needn’t worry, the presents will come whether Santa comes or not,” the priest told the newspaper.

A spokesperson for the diocese of Kerry said the school principal had reassured them the children had recovered. Some parents told their children “the priest was making it all up”, according to one parent, who did not wish to be named.

In a statement Fr Hegarty conceded that “Santa Claus is not my area of expertise”.