THE axing of a 40-year tradition of Santa Claus visiting a centre for people with special needs because the management think it is no longer appropriate has been blasted by a group representing residents.
Since the early 1970s the Air Corps has been flying Santa to residents of St John of God Kildare Services in St Raphael's in Celbridge.
But this year the management halted the annual event, saying it was no longer right that Santa should be visiting adults who were being trained to live full lives in open society.
But the axing of St Nick's annual visit has been criticised by the Parents and Friends Association of St Raphael's, saying residents have been left devastated that Santa did not come this year.
Chairman of the Parents and Friends Association Liam McNamee said they were left disappointed with the development.
"Every year since around 1971 the Air Corps would arrive from Baldonnel in a helicopter and do a few circuits of St Raphael's," Mr McNamee said.
"Santa would wave down from the helicopter and everyone, residents and staff alike, always found it exciting, and then he would land and be brought to the centre accompanied by the Air Corps pipe band," he added.
"This was all supposed to happen last Monday, but I learned just days beforehand the plan had been stopped."
The Administrative Manager of the centre, Elisa Doyle, said they support their adult services users in all festivities, but in what is age appropriate.
"We want them to be adults, to go out and enjoy a coffee and things like that. As such, we support them in the community but we also have to respect their age," said Ms Doyle.
Many of the people using the services of St Raphael's are in their 40s and 50s.
"You have grown adults getting excited that Santa is coming, and they mean that Santa is coming and not just the festivity of it," she added.
But Mr McNamee said the adults at the facility just enjoy the atmosphere, and that even if they are physically grown adults they often do not think like adults.
Ms Doyle said the move to stop the Santa visit this year was not a cost-saving exercise because the Air Corps social fund covered the cost of the visit.
This year, instead of the Santa visit, the adults who attend St Raphael's had a Fun Day in the main hall and were presented with their sports awards and selection boxes.
Liam McNamee said they have every confidence in the staff in St Raphael's.
"They always go that extra mile and its very comforting for the parents and family members to know that their family members are being looked after so well," he added.
"However we totally disagree with the decision that management have made in relation to cancelling Santa's visit."