The Green Party Lord Mayor of Dublin has been accused of playing politics with Christmas tradition by a Fine Gael councillor.
Councillor James Geoghegan, who represents the Pembroke district, said he was “delighted” that the event which was “taken away” from children has been restored. “There was never any credible justification to take away the live crib in the first place,” he said.
“The Lord Mayor should never have used a Christmas tradition to make a political statement”
It was confirmed on Tuesday that the Christmas tradition will continue after a new home has been found in St Stephen’s Green.
The live crib - featuring a donkey, two sheep and a goat, gathered around a scene which depicts the nativity - will be hosted the Summer House in the Dublin city centre park from December 8th.
The decision to abandon the tradition at the Mansion House, which had been in place since 1995, was made by Lord Mayor of Dublin Caroline Conroy, a Green Party councillor. Several Green Party councillors did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. Speaking privately, one party source conceded that Fine Gael had comprehensively maximised the situation to its benefit - saying it was “top notch trolling”.
Following discussions with the Irish Farmers’ Association, the Office of Public Works announced that it would return in a new location. The shelter will be installed in line with the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Council’s Guidelines and animals will be tended to onsite every day by their owner and will return to their farm in Wicklow each afternoon.
Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan welcomed the announcement. He said on RTE’s Claire Byrne programme that he believed he was “standing up for tradition”.
Mr O’Donovan said that he anticipated “bumper numbers in attendance” due to the response from ordinary Dubliners and from people around the country who were “horrified when the concept of the crib was being reduced in the fashion that it was”.
“This is about me standing up for my way of life, the people I represent, rural Ireland, farmers and as well as that the children of Dublin who want to see a live crib and when the IFA reached out to us, the vast majority of people value tradition and value the Christmas message and they value the crib,” he said.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the Government had paid “particularly acute attention” to “the methodology” of the campaign to have the live animal crib back in Dublin for Christmas.
He was responding to Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell who raised the case of the controversy about the crib when he highlighted concerns about the importance of the “provision of information to the general public” on decisions that affect them.
Mr Farrell highlighted in the Dáil the “importance of campaigns which led to the very important decision by Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan to bring the live crib back to Dublin” following the decision to abandon the tradition, by Lord Mayor of Dublin Green Party councillor Caroline Conroy.
The Fine Gael TD asked the Taoiseach would he bring a memo to Government about an annual review by all Government departments of “their campaign methodology in terms of getting information out to the public through the media”.
Mr Martin said that “all campaigns are kept under constant review”.
He added that “the live animals being back in Stephen’s Green - we paid particularly acute attention to the methodologies of that campaign”.