BUS Eireann has been accused of adopting a Grinch-like approach to Christmas by banning drivers from dressing as Santa.
The move, taken under health and safety grounds, has triggered a storm of protest in Cork where locals claimed drivers dressing up as Santa Claus has become a charitable festive tradition.
Now, locals on the 214 route, which runs from the city centre past Cork University Hospital to Wilton, Bishopstown and Togher, are to mount a special Yuletide protest today in solidarity with drivers.
The bus firm stressed, in a December circular to drivers, that health and safety considerations rule out the use of Santa Claus, Snowman, Elf or other outfits.
"There is a uniform protocol in place for all Bus Eireann drivers and one of the key reasons for this is in the interests of health and safety," it read.
"All bus drivers must be recognisable as the official driver of the vehicle and be dressed appropriately to deal with any issues that may arise in the course of the journey."
"Therefore the company cannot allow for any significant deviation from the standard uniform issued to all our drivers."
However, Togher woman, Anna Marie O'Shea, admitted she was aghast at the decision.
Anna Marie said drivers such as Michael Howick, who dressed as Santa Claus each Christmas, had become part and parcel of the festive tradition in Cork.
"If anything this must bring in even more money for Bus Eireann as every child in Cork wanted to get on the bus when they saw that Santa was driving," she said.
Passengers and off-duty Bus Eireann staff are being encouraged to board the 214 service at Cork University Hospital (CUH) at 12.30pm today dressed as Santa, elves and snowmen to show their solidarity.