Northern Ireland news

Santa touches down in west Belfast to surprise primary school children

Santa and helpers out and about in West Belfast with the help of Divis Community Centre during a visit to St Peters PS Picture by Hugh Russell.

WITH grottos closed and reindeer resting their hooves ahead of their big night, Santa has had to get a bit more creative this year.

In west Belfast, he has called on the Falls Partnership Initiative to help him fulfil the favourite part of his Christmas duties - meeting children that his elves are making gifts for back in the North Pole.

The group, which covers the Falls Resident's Association, the Divis Youth Project, Frank Gillen Centre, Saint Peters Immaculata Youth club, Grosvenor Recreation Centre, Communities in Transition and the Clan Mor Sure Start programme, organised a more modern mode of transport.

They also helped contact primary schools to arrange a Covid-compliant visit with principals and teachers, with Santa having been given assurances by the executive that he is exempt from quarantine restrictions.

And so, his sleigh hitched to a white van, Santa was pulled along Falls Road to his first stop at St Peter's PS at 10am just minutes after he and Mrs Claus touched down in Northern Ireland.

Robert McClenaghan of the Falls Partnership Initiative said when they got the call from the big man in red they immediately sprang into action, knowing it would bring some joy during a difficult time for many.

"The children have been through so much this year and so many of them will not be able to visit Santa like they usually do, so we know how much it will mean so much to them," he said.

"It's not only the children, it will lift the whole community's spirits to most importantly truly believe.

"Santa can transform even the direst of times and bring some much-needed happiness into all our lives in this season of goodwill to all.

"Normally Divis Community Centre hosts a three-day Winter wonderland which can't happen due to current Covid restrictions. We were delighted when Santa asked us to help him go mobile with his sleigh and helpers."

Santa will be out and about in the area today, visiting Cathedral and St Peter's nursery schools, and next Tuesday and Wednesday for pre-arranged visits to the appropriately named St Mary's and St Joseph's primary schools.

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Northern Ireland news