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Saturday 21 September 2019

'It's sad so many children now attend our festive dinner'

Christmas cheer: Sisters Ruth and Anne O’Connor, Shauna McGuinness and Mai Withoff help out at the annual Knights of Columbanus Christmas dinner at the RDS, Dublin.
Photo: Mark Condren
Christmas cheer: Sisters Ruth and Anne O’Connor, Shauna McGuinness and Mai Withoff help out at the annual Knights of Columbanus Christmas dinner at the RDS, Dublin. Photo: Mark Condren
Raul, Karrmin, Michael and Andreeas enjoy the Knights of Columbanus Christmas dinner. Photo: Mark Condren
Michael McCabe and his mother Marie were at the dinner. Photo: Mark Condren
Ryan Nugent

Ryan Nugent

More families turned out at the annual Christmas dinner for the homeless than ever before with more than 3,000 going out to those in need.

Some 450 people were catered for at the RDS with 2,700 dinner packages also being delivered.

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin lamented the number of children in attendance at the event, which has been going on for almost a century.

He said that it wouldn't be Christmas if he didn't attend the event, which had food, drink and live entertainment on offer for those less fortunate between noon and 2.30pm yesterday.

"There's nothing else for these people," he said. "There's a huge mixture here.

"Some of these people you know from being on the streets, some of them I know from Brother Kevin's place, but there are lots of families here and that's the sad thing that this is the only place they have on Christmas Day.

"For me it's the change, particularly when you see the young families here, women on their own. One woman said to me she just has nowhere else to go, she's not really homeless. So there's a lot of loneliness in Dublin.

"We can talk about homelessness, but that's an idea, a concept. Here homelessness is people, and you see these people and you listen to their stories. Tomorrow they'll still be on the streets.

"We have to move - at least as Christians - beyond the statistics to faces and listen to these people.

"We're a very prosperous society, we spent more on Christmas things this year than in previous years and yet there are children here who have very little," he added.

More than 300 volunteers turned up to help.

Newly crowned world boxing champion Kellie Harrington was among those meeting some of the families. The boxer said it was the first time she had been to the RDS event but has been involved in a number of events to help the homeless in the past.

"I didn't actually realise the amount of volunteers that were going to be here. It's amazing the people that are here to help out and I didn't actually realise the amount of people who are going to be here, so this is a massive eye opener," she said.

Spirit

"The spirit of them all, they're as happy as anything here, it's just amazing. I think everyone should give back; no matter who you are you should do something good on Christmas morning, it only takes an hour of your time.

"It's not always about presents. Christmas is about love, happiness, community and joy. If I can give a bit of joy to people here, I'm happy."

Lord Mayor Nial Ring also said the growing number of families in attendance was worrying.

"What I've discovered here is there's a significant rise in the number of children," he said.

"[The dinner] is part of Dublin, it's part of the Christmas tradition, it's an unfortunate part that we have to have it, but that's the way it is."

He praised the dedication of the volunteers.

Irish Independent

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