Monday 5 December 2016

Festive cheer as 3,000 dinners dished up for poor and homeless

Published 26/12/2015 | 02:30

Helpers at the Order of the Knights of St Columbanus Christmas dinner in the RDS yesterday. Pic:Mark Condren
Helpers at the Order of the Knights of St Columbanus Christmas dinner in the RDS yesterday. Pic:Mark Condren
Lord Mayor of Dublin Críona Ní Dhálaigh and former Lord Mayor Christy Burke at the event. Pic:Mark Condren
Gareth Brooks with his aunt, Marie McKay. Pic:Mark Condren
Mary McDonagh and her daughter Erin. Pic:Mark Condren

More than 3,000 hot dinners were dished up to some of Dublin's most vulnerable residents at the annual Christmas Day dinner at the RDS - more than double the demand just four years ago.

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There was also a marked increase in the number of families living in temporary accommodation such as hotels and B&Bs attending the event.

But there was a festive atmosphere in the RDS as the capital's homeless and needy celebrated Christmas.

Each person received a hot three-course Christmas dinner, provided by the Order of the Knights of St Columbanus. Free buses ran from a number of locations, including the Mansion House, Clerys and the Four Courts.

The dinner has been a festive tradition for nearly a century.

Some 500 sit-down dinners were laid on this year, with another 2,500 takeaway meals provided - each one handed out with a back-pack that included a fleece, gloves, warm hat and hygiene items.

Volunteers from various charities and homeless organisations - such as St Vincent de Paul, ALONE and Simon - were on hand to help distribute meals to some of the most vulnerable.

Any surplus food was ferried to Brother Kevin's Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin's city centre for distribution among the homeless.

Brother Kevin said around 700 to 800 people availed of its services yesterday.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Lord Mayor of Dublin, Críona Ní Dhálaigh, said she was overwhelmed by the number of volunteers who gave up their Christmas Day to help others.

"It is really unacceptable that so many people find themselves homeless at this time of year," the Sinn Féin councillor said. "We should pay tribute to the people who give up their time to help the most needy among us.

"The biggest indictment of our society at the moment is that there are 1,500 children in Dublin in emergency accommodation on Christmas morning. That is unacceptable. We know what caused it, but I'm sick of the blame game - I just want us to fix it now. We need to start building, and we need to bring in temporary measures that will keep people in their homes so that they don't present as homeless."

Adrian King, chairman of the Christmas Day dinner committee, said: "There were a lot of families from emergency accommodation, living in hotel rooms, looking for a meal this Christmas.

"We reached full capacity for sit-down dinners this year. Last year we had 420 people, but this year we reached 500."

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said the way to tackle the homeless crisis was to build more social housing.

"More could be done to ensure that the services that are provided are humane. If you have no address, you're nobody. You can't even get a job. The bottom line is people need some kind of a home they can live in," he added.

Irish Independent

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