THE baby Jesus figure was taken from Skibbereen’s crib days after Christmas, smashed and left headless, and the manger was stolen, in what is being described as a mindless act of vandalism.
It appears that culprits prised open the crib at The Bridge on the night of Wednesday, December 27th.
Helen Dempsey, chairperson of Skibbereen and District Chamber of Commerce, said they smashed the baby Jesus and the pieces were found in a porchway next to O’Donovan’s bookshop the following morning.
The manger was also removed and is still missing and material damage was caused to the structure of the crib.
‘It is very disappointing,’ said Helen, ‘because so many people put effort into placing the crib at The Bridge and decorating it.
‘We’ve had the crib there for the last three years. The manger set was new – we only bought it last year at a cost of around €300. And, this year, more work was done on creating the fencing around it.’
Helen said: ‘We have reported the matter to the gardaí.’ Insp Fergal Foley confirmed that the matter is being investigated and that the CCTV footage from the night of December 27th is being examined.
Helen said: ‘It is not the monetary value of the loss that is upsetting, it is the fact that a religious icon was destroyed at Christmas time.’
In the lead-up to the holidays, Helen said, families would visit the crib. ‘Children loved it and their parents would take photographs of them standing in front of the manger scene. Now, I have families coming into my shop, near The Bridge, to ask me: “Where is the baby Jesus?”
People were quick to respond to The Southern Star post on the incident on Facebook, with over 70 people taking the time to add a comment.
One woman, Yvonne O’Regan, asked: ‘Where can we contribute to replace the baby Jesus and the manger?’
Another woman expressed most people’s sense of shock when she asked: ‘Who does these kinds of things? Drink is no excuse.’
Others said the desecration was ‘nasty’, ‘dreadful’ and ‘shocking’, and others called for the vandals to be identified on CCTV and banned from Skibbereen.
Bernie Connolly said: ‘These scumbags need to be named and shamed: too much money and drink no control over them thinking they can take the law into their own hands. There needs to be community service for this vandalism.’
However, it emerged on Wednesday that this was one story that was going to have a happy ending.
Local jeweller, Denis O’Leary, took possession of the fragments on Saturday and brought them to an order of Carmelite nuns who live in a commune at Corran, between Leap and Drinagh, in the hope of having it repaired.
‘I got it back last night,’ said Denis. ‘It looks quite well, but the nuns, Mother Irene and Sr Anne Marie, said the work is only partially done. There are still a couple of pieces missing, but they believe they can restore it even more.’
In the meantime, Helen Dempsey confirmed that the infant is back in the manger in time for the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th.
Helen said: ‘We are delighted to have the infant almost in one piece again. And we’d like to thank Denis and the nuns for their amazing work. It is nothing short of a miracle because it was in pieces.’