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‘Not even the Grinch would ban this tradition’ – backlash over Dublin Lord Mayor’s Christmas crib ban

Growing anger at council decision as family who provide the animals tell of their ‘shock’

Sherlock
Sherlock
Dublin Lord Mayor Caroline Conroy of the Green Party. Photo: Damien Eagers
Dublin Lord Mayor Caroline Conroy of the Green Party. Photo: Damien Eagers

29th October 2022

For nearly 30 years, members of the Sherlock family have shepherded animals to the specially installed stables outside the Mansion House in Dublin for the live animal crib.

It has been a fixture outside the Lord Mayor’s offices each Christmas since 1995, part of a joint initiative between the council and the Irish Farmers’ Association.

However, the Lord Mayor, Green Party councillor Caroline Conroy, has said there will be no reversing the decision to remove live animals from the Nativity crib.

The Wicklow-based farming family who provide the animals for the crib have spoken of their shock at the decision to suddenly end the tradition only a few weeks before the festive period begins.

They received a call on Thursday, telling them the live crib would not be going ahead this year.

Fionn Sherlock said: “My grand-uncle started doing the live animal crib in 1995, and then my grandad would have started doing it from 2004 onwards.”

Mr Sherlock took over the family tradition from his grandfather of shepherding Lilly the goat, Daisy the donkey and two lambs each year to the Mansion House.

The 26-year-old has been going there every Christmas since he was a child and had recently taken over the operation because of his grandfather’s poor health.

The same donkey and goat have been used in the animal crib for the past 10 years and have become family pets in the Sherlock household.

“As soon as you put them in the trailer, they know what’s happening, they’re used to it,” Mr Sherlock said. “I know everyone has their own opinion, but the animals are well looked after. We’re not farming full-time and any animals we have here, they’re like our pets. You could bring them into the house.

“That donkey has been doing the crib for at least 10 years and he’s like a pet. He’s as quiet as a dog you would have in your house.”

When the animals are in the crib, they are fed with hay and oats and are given beds of straw. They also have plenty of water.

“The animal crib has always been a major factor,” Mr Sherlock said. “It wasn’t Christmas until the crib started in our house. It would all start two weeks prior, getting the animals ready.

“It brings great joy to smaller children and even grown-ups. It never amazes me how much people appreciate the animals. It wouldn’t be a normal year for us if the crib wouldn’t go ahead. It will be the first for our family.”

The Sherlocks are grateful for attempts being made to move the live animal crib elsewhere in the city.

However, Mr Sherlock said: “It started in the Mansion House and it would be nice to continue that tradition there.”

The search for a new location comes as junior minister Patrick O’Donovan said he is working with colleagues to “save the crib” and find an alternative venue.

He said he has had emails from people “all over Leinster volunteering places outside of Dublin”.

“Live cribs happen every-where around the county and there should be one in Dublin city centre,” he said. “It’s so important for children who would never come so close to farm animals.”

Mr O’Donovan declined to comment on where a crib might be located, but the OPW controls several sites in the city centre, including Dublin Castle, St Stephen’s Green and the Iveagh Gardens.

Some Fine Gael councillors have said they are working to reverse the ban.

James Geoghegan will put forward an emergency motion for the November 7 council meeting that the crib be put elsewhere in the city.

“Not even the Grinch would ban this tradition. We have to overturn it and look for a new location – perhaps Stephen’s Green,” he said.

However, the Lord Mayor has reaffirmed her position that there will be no live animals this year, despite protests from the public and fellow councillors.

“I thought this year that we would try something different and give the children a new experience. Something that would be more interactive and feel more included,” Ms Conroy told RTÉ’s News at One.

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