Dozens of carol singing bus users donned Santa suits and hats before boarding Cork City’s 214 bus service yesterday in a bid to persuade the company to scrap its ‘grinch-like’ ban.
Campaign organiser and regular 214 user, Togher woman, Anna Marie O’Shea, said they wanted to show support for the route’s long-serving driver, Michael Howick, and others like him, who, before the ban was introduced, used to don a Santa suit and dish out free lollipops to kids using the bus in the run up to Christmas.
Mr Howick, who has been with the company since the early 70s, and on the 214 route since 1975, as known across the city for his festive style.
But the company has ordered its drivers not to wear the red suit or Santa hats for health and safety reasons.
Ms O’Shea said. “We understand there are health and safety reasons but surely the company could compromise. Maybe they could let their drivers wear Christmas jumpers.”
Bus Éireann spokeswoman Nicola Cooke defended the ban and insisted it won’t be lifted.
“This is simply a safety matter. We cannot encourage anything that would distract drivers from the safe transport of passengers,” she said. “Children can get excited at the sight of Santa, and this may cause them to run out on a road, or towards the front of the bus, which could put them in danger.
“This is in no way about dampening the Christmas spirt — we had carol singers in Parnell Place bus station yesterday and have Christmas trees, lights and decorations at all our bus stations.”
Local city councillors, Thomas Moloney and Fergal Dennehy, joined the protest yesterday. Mr Dennehy, who was wearing a Santa hat, said the ban was a “little over the top”.
But Ms O’Shea, who was joined on the protest by people like Aideen Delaney and her mother, Joan Goggin, both dressed in Santa suits, said their campaign will continue.