The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) live animal crib closed on Thursday 22 December following a two-week run at St Stephen’s Green, Dublin.

After significant public backlash when it was removed from its traditional home at the Mansion House, the live crib welcomed thousands of visitors at its new home in the city centre park.

Wicklow farmer and mart auctioneer Fionn Sherlock ran the crib this year with his parents Denis and Jackie and twin sister Aoife.

It was Jackie’s father, Johnny Gallagher, who’d run the crib before this, up until 2017 and he, in turn, had taken it on from his brother, Fionn’s granduncle Joe in 2004.

Joe Gallagher first had his animals in the crib and facilitated it in 1998. The family involvement, which almost didn’t continue this year, has gone on for almost 25 years.

New home

Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal, 26-year-old Fionn Sherlock said: “I’ve been going in [for the crib] since I was seven or eight.

“I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked when I heard it wasn’t going ahead. I knew there would be uproar.”

He said that thankfully the IFA and Office of Public Works (OPW) “pulled out all the stops” to find the crib a new home.

“There’s a lot of children that wouldn’t get the exposure. They’d be thinking the donkey is a horse.

“The animals are well looked after. The only difference from them being at home in the shed is that they have people looking at them,” he said.

Visitor views

The Irish Farmers Journal spoke to some of those in the crowds who visited the live animal crib in the build-up to Christmas. Here’s what they had to say.

Mary Leech at the IFA live animal crib in St Stephen's Green.

Mary Leech, Meath

“It’s lovely to see live animals in an open area like this. It’s lovely for children to see.

“I assume they’re very well cared for and that’s the important thing. It’s particularly lovely to see the donkey.

“It is lovely and it’s very traditional. Sure, what’s not to love about it really.”

Gerry Leech, Meath

“There’s probably kids here who’ve never seen a sheep or a goat.”

Rosemary Kearney with sons Luke and Eoin.

Rosemary Kearney, Wicklow

“We’re just in Dublin for the day. When I saw it, I thought ‘well we didn’t want to miss it’.

“It’s just nice for them to have the experience of coming. We’re not of a religious faith but it’s nice to have the traditions around them and to learn a bit about the Christian side of Christmas and the role that the animals played.

“I think for them it’s really good that they get to see the animals as well. The animals look very contented and happy. It’s a lovely donkey.”

Yvonne Coyle with daughters Ellie and Abbie Quinn.

Yvonne Coyne, Mayo

“We’re up from Mayo Christmas shopping so there’d be plenty of donkeys and sheep out where we live.

“We’re delighted it’s here because we heard that they weren’t having it this year and we’d come to it before when it was in the Mansion House so it’s lovely it’s here.

“They seem happy the animals. They’re happy out.”

Joan Cooke and John Ellis at the crib.

Joan Cooke, Wexford + John Ellis

“It’s the correct thing. I think it’s a travesty what has happened in the other place. It’s like Funderland. Everything about it is cheap and cheerful. This is some place you can walk by or have a little reflection and it’s lovely. It was an inspired choice, very simple.

“Lots of kids would never have seen donkey up this close or a sheep or a goat. I hope it’s here forever.”

Anne Hautin (far right) with Holly McGarry (far left) and their children.

Anne Hautin, Dublin

“Just to have a look, it’s a day out. I just heard it on the radio it was here so we said we’d come in. It’s not on in the other place.

“[The animals are] so nice and cosy.”