MORE than 300 homeless people gathered for Christmas dinner with all the trimmings laid on by volunteers in Dublin's RDS.
As hundreds of servings of turkey and ham were dished out, another 2,100 meals were prepared to be delivered to needy people around the capital, almost twice as many meals as two years go.
The dinner was attended by Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, Lord Mayor Oisin Quinn, with entertainment provided by Eamonn Campbell of the Dubliners and a troupe of Irish dancers.
Chairman of the Christmas dinner committee Adrian King, of Catholic lay organisation the Knights of Columbanus, said they had seen a huge increase in demand at the event. "All I can say is there is more need," he said.
The organisation has been holding the dinner for 89 years.
At the event, he accepted a donation from Sinead Crean (15), from Templeogue, who decided that instead of getting Christmas presents, she would give the money, €200, to the homeless. Archbishop Martin greeted the guests and said: "It's a great event. It's really part of Christmas in Dublin.
"These are the people that very often are on the street every day. Some have very sad stories. They've had rough lives.
"They're very grateful for this kind of support.
"The Christmas message isn't about a day -- it's about a way of life. Christmas can produce generosity. The country is going to need that generosity for the rest of the year," the archbishop added.
Cllr Quinn meanwhile, said that it had become clear that the number of people sleeping rough and homeless was rising. "I was out at the rough sleeper count in March when we hit 97 but the one in November was 137," he said.
"It's Christmas Day and people are going to enjoy themselves." More than 300 people volunteered to prepare the food, packed food parcels and serve the guests.
One such volunteer was 'Britain and Ireland's Next Top Model' star Holly Carpenter (22), who helped out along with her dad, Karl. She said it was her first year at the dinner but that she'd be back again next year. She said she volunteered after feeling guilty when she saw homeless people on the street.
"We're making over 2,000 sandwiches today," she said.
Retired chef Patsy McGuirk -- the former owner of Bon Appetit restaurant in Malahide -- co-ordinated the preparation of the hot meals.
Meanwhile, another volunteer Sr June Doran told the Irish Independent: "You couldn't bottle what's going on here. It's an incredible operation."