Children at a north Kerry school who became upset after a visiting priest implied there was no Santa Claus have been reassured by parents and staff that the priest was mistaken, and Santa does indeed exist.
The priest who made the blunder while visiting the Scoil Mhuire gan Smal in Lixnaw last week 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 4th, 5th and 6th classes, Fr Hegarty implied Santa Claus did not exist. A number of children got upset and at least one 11-year-old child began crying.
A meeting of the board of management was called 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 remarked to the newspaper that Irish children got more presents than other nationalities at Christmas time. "So they needn't worry, the presents will come, whether Santy comes or not," the priest said.
In a statement last night through the diocese of Kerry Fr Hegarty said the following:
"I regret any upset that I have caused to children and parents of Scoil Mhuire gan Smál. My intention was to talk about the birth of Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas. I must admit that Santa Claus is not my area of expertise."
Some parents told their children “the priest was making it all up,” according to one parent who did not wish to be named.