'huge mistake' | 

Fine Gael threatens emergency council motion over Dublin mayor’s cancelled Christmas crib

Animal-rights activists have lauded the move as “progressive”.

The opening of the live animal crib at the Mansion House in 2018

Eoghan MoloneyIndependent.ie

Fine Gael are seeking to overturn a decision by Dublin’s Lord Mayor to cancel this year’s nativity crib at a city council meeting tomorrow night if a resolution is not found beforehand.

Cllr James Geoghegan, Fine Gael’s group leader on Dublin City Council, is seeking a meeting with Lord Mayor Caroline Conroy ahead of Monday night’s council meeting, when an “emergency motion on the Mansion House crib” will be considered.

The live animal nativity crib was cancelled this year after 27 years and has caused widespread disappointment in some quarters, while animal-rights activists have lauded the move as “progressive”.

If a resolution cannot be found, Fine Gael will put the issue before a full meeting of Dublin City Council tomorrow.

Nine Fine Gael councillors have backed the motion and Cllr Geoghegan said former mayors of Dublin from across the political spectrum, who are currently sitting councillors, have voiced their support for the motion.

“I think this reflects the broadly held view by all elected members that cancelling the live crib was a huge mistake and that’s why we have tabled our motion for Monday’s meeting in the hope that some form of compromise can be found,” Cllr Geoghegan said.

“We hope that having listened to the weight of public opinion, including from the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) and Fionn Sherlock, the Enniskerry farmer who supplies the animals every year, that the Lord Mayor can see sense on this decision,” Cllr Geoghegan said.

In a letter to the Lord Mayor on Friday, Cllr Geoghegan said his party did not want the matter to come to a motion in council and requested a meeting on Monday.

Mr Geoghegan said the meeting would be used to see if a “compromise” can be found.

“At the very least, the general public are entitled to know the actual reasons for why schoolchildren will not get the opportunity to see live animals like they have every other year,” Mr Geoghegan said.

“The Lord Mayor has never stated that animal welfare is the motivation for her decision and yet other councillors from the Green Party are saying that is exactly why the ban has been put in place.

“The National Animal Rights Association (NARA), a group which believes wool should be banned, advocate for a boycott of Dublin Zoo and campaign to ban all forms of fishing, have expressed support for the Lord Mayor’s decision. The DSPCA, however, who are responsible for the animals’ care, view the live-animal crib as an event which promotes animal welfare amongst city children.”

The councillor added: “The Green Party seem to be listening only to those who are a fringe-element of this debate, rather than acting in the interests of all the citizens of Dublin, and across the country, who come and enjoy this tradition every year.”

NARA welcomed the move and in a statement said that the cancellation of the live-animal crib was a “progressive step for animal rights” in Ireland.

They said it was “unacceptable to use live animals for entertainment”.

"These are farm animals, brought to Dublin City Centre, put in an enclosure and forced to endure noise, lights and the endless gaze of people. How could this possibly be a valid way to celebrate Christmas?” NARA said.

Last week, Green councillor Claire Byrne shared NARA’s statement on Twitter and suggested that next year when there is a Fianna Fáil mayor they can “bring back dancing monkeys and put a real baby in the live crib or whatever they and Fine Gael think defines Christmas”.

In a statement immediately following the mayor’s decision, a council spokesperson said Perspex screens would have been needed at the crib this year under Covid protocols.

“The effects of Covid on how we approach events mean that the scene must now be viewed from behind a Perspex barrier. The Lord Mayor wants to create a new experience that will allow children to be part of the scene rather than just looking at it,” a council spokeswoman said. “The sole reason behind this decision is to attempt to create a new option for families and children in the heart of the city that they can physically interact with,” said a spokeswoman for Dublin City Council.

“The details of this are to be finalised and will be announced later, it will include a Nativity scene and allow everyone to feel like they are part of a Christmas in 1715 when the Mansion House was first purchased.”

Independent.ie has contacted Lord Mayor Conroy for comment.

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