Christmas seems to start earlier every year. Toy ads in October is just another aspect of the commercial age we live in, but no one was expecting a row over a crib before Halloween.

Step forward Dublin Lord Mayor, Caroline Conroy. Her decision to end the tradition of a live crib outside her official residence, the Mansion House on Dawson Street, has divided the capital city and the nation.

The majority of people seem opposed to the decision.

A poll conducted by one national newspaper was overwhelmingly in favour of the crib’s retention.

Everyone has an opinion. Fine Gael Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan called the decision “Scrooge-like”. Fianna Fáil’s Mary Hanafin, now chair of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown council, offered to host the crib instead. Fine Gael and Sinn Féin Dublin City councillors are reportedly joining forces with a motion calling for a reversal of the Lord Mayor’s decision.

Everyone, that is, except an Taoiseach. He carefully side-stepped this particular political pothole, saying it was “above his pay grade”.

The IFA, which supplies the animals, was deeply unhappy, particularly in view of the fact that it was not contacted in any way about the decision before it was made public.

The fact that the animals are brought home every evening to their north Wicklow farm suggests their care is at the top of their owners’ agenda.

The Lord Mayor seemed to infer that she was motivated by the inability of children to directly interact with the animals due to COVID-19 restrictions

Of course, in one sense, it’s a storm in an eggcup. Last week’s front-page story, of a Brussels policy paper proposing a 100% cut in pesticides for nitrates sensitive areas, when the entire country is currently so classified, would be a profound change in farming.

This, in comparison, is one person’s opinion on what works best as a Christmas celebration. And the Lord Mayor seemed to infer that she was motivated by the inability of children to directly interact with the animals due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Is this the prime motivation, or is the perspex Covid-19 barrier the most transparent cloak of convenience since Harry Potter? Who knows.

But farmers feel that there is a concerted effort to portray the herding of animals for meat and milk as barbaric and unacceptable. And that this is another rocket launched in that particular offensive.

Some of the language seems designed to escalate the row. The Lord Mayor’s Green Party colleague Claire Byrne tweeted that, next year, the Fianna Fáil mayor could “bring back dancing monkeys & put a real baby in the live crib or whatever they and Fine Gael think defines Christmas”.

It all feels like the script of a Christmas movie, and the controversy sure to feature in every panto across the country.

Peace and goodwill, everybody.