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Friday 22 September 2017

'Luas works hurt Black Santa appeal but Shane Ross never replied to letter' - Archbishop of Dublin

Archbishop Michael Jackson outside Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin. Photo: Colin O’Riordan
Archbishop Michael Jackson outside Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin. Photo: Colin O’Riordan

Sarah MacDonald

The Archbishop of Dublin and Glendalough says he is disappointed at Transport Minister Shane Ross - who failed to respond to a personal appeal for help in rescuing a fundraiser impacted by ongoing Luas works.

This year's Black Santa appeal has seen contributions halved. This is being blamed on Luas works barriers which make crossing Dawson Street to St Ann's Church in the heart of the capital nearly impossible.

Organisers of the appeal, who are based at St Ann's Church, have said the footfall is significantly lower this year.

Church of Ireland Archbishop Michael Jackson wrote to Mr Ross, but he received no response.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Archbishop Jackson said: "It is a full week since I, on behalf of the Black Santa Appeal at St Ann's Church, Dawson Street, delivered to Leinster House and for the attention of the Minister for Transport, a letter requesting that he intervene in the issues around access to the forecourt of the church.

"There has been no response from the minster or from the minister's office to my request.

"Trying to cross the road is like an obstacle course - the problem is you actually can't see how you can get to the front of St Ann's if you are coming from Grafton Street.

"The people of Dublin have over successive years been extremely generous. They see joy on the streets and they want to respond. The problem for us is that the appeal is a once-a-year opportunity to enable people give and distribute money to a range of charities."

Admitting that at this stage, it seems that there will be no response from the minister or his department, Archbishop Jackson appealed to those who will be in Dublin city centre today and in the vicinity of Dawson Street to "make a little extra effort and to avail of the opportunity to give to a wide range of charitable causes by crossing the road to St Ann's Church and supporting the Black Santa Appeal".

"Last year, we raised a record-breaking €40,000 and as things stand this year, we are at no more than 50pc of this figure. Any donation, small or large, will greatly be welcomed and appreciated," the archbishop said.

He said the Church of Ireland was not "at loggerheads with anybody", and he paid tribute to Luas authorities who had been tremendously helpful to St Ann's in facilitating access to funerals at other times.

However, it is understood that St Ann's vicar, Canon David Gillespie, was assured last October the Luas barriers would be gone in time for Christmas week.

Meanwhile, the head of the Anglican Church in Ireland hit out at the absence of "creative and compassionate joined-up thinking" on homelessness.

Dr Jackson said people realised that the Apollo House initiative would not continue for the long term and it would be closed down.

"But for those who are recipients of warmth and care and some kind of holistic thinking around their needs for a short period, it is at least a start and it offers a challenge," he said.

Being homeless is "terrifying and degrading", he said - as he stressed Irish society was seeing types of homelessness it never thought it would see.

The father of one expressed concern for families who will have to spend Christmas in a hotel room, describing it as a "waking nightmare" from which parents "get no rest".

"These parents are wondering, can it be any different next year or will it be more of this? All of that is painful. I would have thought that in the regular expectation of life in Ireland - this is not sufficient," he said.

Irish Independent

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