‘A decision the Grinch would be proud of’
Cork City Council’s decision to pull the plug on the official switch-on of the Christmas lights has been described as “a decision the Grinch would be proud of” by Cork's newest councillor, Sinn Féin's Cllr Orla O’Leary.
The council has said that the switching on of the lights is unable to go ahead this year due to concerns over public safety and spiraling costs.
The event, which usually kicks off the festive season in the city, has not taken place since 2019, as there are risks over crowd control along with the soaring expense of staging the event.
However, newly co-opted Cllr O’Leary refuted the claims, saying that that the city council are hiding “behind budget and safety concerns rather than put more thought into the planning of the event”.
The news came as a disappointment to many, since the switching on of the Christmas lights ceremony had been a decade-long tradition, drawing families to the city to watch the streets light up with a festive glow.
However, a spokesperson for the City Council told the Cork Independent that in 2019 “a tipping point was reached in terms of the ability to run the event safely”.
Advice was given to the Council by the Gardaí and event management against proceeding with the hugely popular event. Issues noted included crowd crushing on access streets due to high crowd density, challenges in facilitating emergency access if needed, and the unsuitability of the site location for the event, said the spokesperson.
Lord Mayor Cllr Kieran McCarthy said that the expense associated with hosting the event was another contributing factor in the decision to forgo the Christmas lights switch-on this year. “In the past, it’s been great to put it on, but the cost have skyrocketed. It can be between €60,000 and €100,000 for one evening. You have think about whether that’s a good use of taxpayers money,” he said.
“It’s not the case that the council is cancelling Christmas, far from it. But it’s not just one evening, it’s several weeks, and I think it’s important that we put the focus on that instead of that there’s no launch of the Christmas lights,” he continued.
However, Cllr O’Leary claims that there were other options available to the council.
“It doesn’t have to be in one location. The Council should draw inspiration from similar events such as the Dragon of Shandon and have the festivities weave through the city centre,” she added.
Discussing the significance of the event, especially for children, she remarked: "This is my daughter’s first Christmas, and to go into the city centre for the turning on of the lights would have been a lovely occasion.”"
Independent Cllr Kenneth O’Flynn said that he was disappointed that the event didn’t get the green light and believes that the council could have put measures in place to ensure it went ahead.
“I don’t understand how we didn’t get this right, something could have been done,” he said.
“It could have been a ticketed event, and there could have limited access if health and safety and crowd control was an issue,” he added.
He also emphasised that the event provided a significant financial boost for local traders and was a reminder to people of Cork to spend locally while “enjoying and using the city centre”.
“Sometimes I think that management in the council doesn’t take into consideration what is actually needed in the city. Health and safety is all well and good but there is a need to re-imagine the event which could be done if suggestions were taken on board,” he said.