The annual Dublin Christmas lighting ceremony took place last Sunday on O’Connell Street, but not everything went to plan.
Thousands of excited children, adults and grandparents lined the streets of Dublin to watch two festive parades, while hundreds more clustered around the forty-foot tree in the centre of O’Connell Street.
This is the first time DublinTown, the organisers behind the city’s Christmas lights, decided to put on Christmas parades to entertain the crowds before the grand Christmas tree was lit up.
Photo Credit: Alison Egan
However, children were left disappointed and adults frustrated when a change to the parade route meant that those who were standing south of the Spire on O’Connell Street would not get to see a thing.
The change was made while the parade was in progress, and little communication between the organisers and the crowds meant that those who had been waiting an hour to get a decent vantage point had no way of knowing that the parade was not going to pass their way at all.
Most only realised when unexpectedly the Christmas tree lit up behind them and confetti cannons went off.
Next to us, children looked up to their parents and asked: “Did we miss it?”
Two parades were due to start simultaneously at 5.30pm, one leaving from Mary Street travelling through Moore Street and Parnell Street to make its way south down O’Connell Street. The other, starting on Grafton Street, was to take a straight route heading north up O’Connell Street, the street lights turning on as the procession passed them by.
However, far larger crowds than expected forced gardaí to halt the Grafton Street procession on O’Connell Bridge due to public safety concerns.
Dublin Lord Mayor, Micheál Mac Donncha, who officially turned on the Christmas lights in the city, said: “I heard that 30,000 to 40,000 people came to the event tonight.” He said that he would be talking to officials about the event, after hearing the enormous discontent among the people who attended.
“The organisation needs to be looked at,” he said.
A chorus of disappointment from the crowd was heard as the event ended.
Shauna Doherty, who travelled into the city to watch the Christmas lights turn on with her two young daughters expressed her disappointment. “We’ve been standing here [outside Easons on O’Connell Street] since quarter to five. It’s now half six and we’ve just learnt that the whole thing’s over, and it never even went by us.
“The poor kids were looking forward to it and we were never even told the parade route changed or anything.”
James Murphy described the area around the Christmas tree as the lights went on as “a mosh pit”.
“It was absolute chaos … everyone packed in together. It was dangerous.”
A statement from DublinTown said: “Due to the numbers in the interest of the safety and comfort of those in attendance we decided to shorten the programme.
“There was always a provision in the plan that if it was ever felt there were too many people that the procession wouldn’t proceed. The (southside) procession went the entire way around the route except for the last one hundred metres.
“The decision for one procession not to come across O’Connell Bridge was made by gardaí who felt there was already enough people in O’Connell Street. For all, public safety is priority number one.”
By Alison Egan & Chris Kelly