Tuesday 19 March 2019

Meet the people who'll be working on Christmas day

Anna-Marie O'Sullivan, Assistant Manager, The Park Hotel, Kenmare
Anna-Marie O'Sullivan, Assistant Manager, The Park Hotel, Kenmare
Broadcast journalist with Newstalk, Aisling O'Rourke
Mandy Curley
Declan Murray, Continuing Care Coordinator, at Rutland Centre
Bernie Carroll
Katie Byrne

Katie Byrne

As you tuck into your turkey dinner this year, spare a thought for those who didn't get the day off work. Up and down the country, people will be reporting for shifts in the industries that never sleep.

It's business as usual for doctors, nurses and paramedics; gardai will be responding to the call of duty (and diffusing all manner of family rows) and let's not forget the clergy, many of whom like to joke that Christmas is their busiest day of the year.

Christmas is a day of rest, but not for everybody. Here we meet five people who'll be clocking in on Christmas day.

‘I feel like a fraud saying I work at Christmas’

Anna-Marie O'Sullivan, Assistant Manager, The Park Hotel, Kenmare

Anna-Marie O'Sullivan is Assistant Manager of the Park Hotel Kenmare, where she has been working since 1994. She and husband Jerry have one daughter (9).

"The deal when I started working at the Park was that we worked Christmas. There have been a few years when we were closed but, for the most part, I've been here on Christmas Day.

"I almost feel like a fraud saying I work at Christmas, though. We come into a magical atmosphere - very different, say, to people working in emergency services. It's a happy environment and I'm lucky this year in that I don't come into work until 3pm.

"The guests that come here for Christmas have been coming for years so we know what they like and what they don't like. Usually children are up at the crack of dawn unwrapping their presents. Otherwise it's a leisurely breakfast after which a lot of people attend mass.

"We serve lunch at about 1pm and that's followed by treasure hunts, storytelling and splash games in the pool. Our role is to make sure that people are engaging and having fun.

"We serve afternoon tea at about 4pm and then Santa arrives at 5.30pm.

"He'll have presents for the children staying in the hotel and the children of the staff too. My husband will bring our daughter in for that and she'll have the kiddies' afternoon tea and watch a Christmas movie in the in-house cinema.

"It's like a home from home at this stage."

‘We keep it as relaxed and chilled as possible’

Declan Murray, Continuing Care Coordinator, at Rutland Centre

Declan Murray is the Continuing Care Coordinator at the Rutland Centre, a private addiction rehabilitation centre in Dublin. He and his wife are parents to four adult daughters.

"Within the Rutland Centre it is important that we have somebody on call and available for both current residents in the house and clients that have moved through the house in the last year or so. There is a constant presence during the Christmas period.

"I'm on the on-call service. Between Christmas Day and Stephen's Day we could receive anything up to 20 calls. If one of the residents in the house is struggling, it's a matter of leaving the house and heading into work. Sometimes you can settle them over the phone; other times it requires a face-to-face.

"For the current residents, being in a rehabilitation centre on Christmas Day is going to be a whole new experience for them, but we make it special. We put on a Christmas dinner and we have two visiting sessions. There's also television, board games and table tennis. We keep it as relaxed and chilled as possible. We encourage couples with young children to be as open as possible. At the same time, it's about being able to communicate with the children in a language they can understand.

"If they're struggling to grasp the idea of addiction, they might say that Daddy or Mammy are in here on a training course.

"It's important that anybody facing into their first drug-free or alcohol-free Christmas knows they have support.

"We put the message out very early to ex-clients. They know they are going to be presented with various challenges and that they can pick up the phone and have access to a voice and a listening ear.

"I don't mind working on Christmas Day. I find this work extremely satisfying. And I know what they're going through."

‘Some guests might ask you to have a drink with them’

Mandy Curley

Mandy Curley is a travel representative with Sunway. She was born in Dublin but has been based in the Canaries for almost 30 years. She is married to Miguel and they are parents to three boys (29, 25, 22) and one girl (18).

"I've worked Christmas Day since I started with Sunway. My husband and some of my children work in tourism as well so working during celebration days is something we are all used to. I visit the hotels [that Sunway represents] and if guests want to see me, they do. It's rare that people want to see you on Christmas day, though. And those that do generally just want to say 'Happy Christmas'.

"Some guests might ask you to have a drink with them and regular guests might invite you to dinner with them at some point during the week. It's all very friendly. Clients that travel at this time of year want to get away from the hectic festive season. There was one year when some guests were a little too full of the festive spirit, though. I had to ask them to calm it down a little bit... otherwise, they just want to be left on their own and they don't bother you too much.

"Most of the restaurants here offer traditional Christmas menus and I also like to have a turkey alongside the Canarian fare.

"We always have 25-30 people for Christmas. Having said that, I don't do the cooking. I married into a family full of chefs so when I come back from work in the afternoon, everything is done."

‘I’ll bring in a Tupperware box of my mother’s Christmas cake’

Broadcast journalist with Newstalk, Aisling O'Rourke

Aisling O'Rourke is a broadcast journalist for Newstalk. She was born in Tullamore, Co Offaly and is based in Dublin.

"I put myself forward to work on Christmas Day. Somebody needed to do it so I said 'let's just fill the spot and save any potential upset'.

"My shift starts at 2pm and finishes at about 10pm. I'd say it might just be myself and possibly one other journalist.

"This is my first Christmas working as a broadcast journalist but I hear it's very quiet. However, the problem is that you can't really phone people on Christmas Day to ask for an interview - unless of course something huge breaks.

"I'll probably do Christmas dinner with my family on Christmas Eve and then we'll have a Christmas breakfast before I hit the road at 12pm.

"I'll bring in a couple of Tupperware boxes of my Mum's Christmas cake and some turkey from the night before. That and several cups of coffee.

"I don't know if I'll go back to Tullamore that night. I'm off for the rest of Christmas so it might be easier to stay in Dublin. I have a family member who works on-call in St James [Hospital] so I might pop into him that night.

"I really don't mind working on Christmas Day. Christmas is a time for family, so as long as I make the time for the family, then it doesn't matter if it's the day before.

"Besides, there tends to be great banter around the Christmas period and it's nice to bring the news to people on a day that everyone tends to be in good form."

‘It’s a privilege to let people know they are not alone’

Bernie Carroll

Bernie Carroll has been working with suicide prevention service Console since 2009. She will man the helpline for eight hours on Christmas Day.

Bernie and husband Larry have two adult boys (20, 28) and two grandchildren.

"Christmas Day can be quiet on the helpline and hopefully it will be this year because that will mean people are doing okay. The busiest time tends to be the weeks after Christmas.

"The calls we get on Christmas Day are usually from people who are isolated or lonely - rural farmers or older people. They simply appreciate a voice or a connection. They just want to hear somebody on the other end of the phone.

"My shift is from 2.30pm to 10.30pm. It's a privilege for me to let people know they are not alone. Without the support of my family, it would be difficult to tell them I'm working on Christmas Day.

"We might celebrate the day before instead. The other suggestion is that I might spend time with the family on Christmas morning preparing the dinner and then let them go ahead with the understanding I'm making a difference to someone's life."

Console operates a 24/7 Suicide Helpline. Call 1800 247 247 or text HELP to 51444.

Irish Independent

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