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Santa's annual copter ride to bring toys to sick kiddies cops it because of cuts at the Air Corps.

Byline: DARREN BOYLE

EXCLUSIVE DARREN BOYLE irishsundaymirror@mgn.ie SCROOGE Government spending cuts cancelled a special Santa mercy flight to bring toys to sick kids spending Christmas in hospital.

The grinches grounded the much-anticipated annual flight to help Santa arrive at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin because of cuts.

Santa is traditionally given a lift each year to the hospital by an Air Corps helicopter to bring some cheer to the children before Christmas and before his annual sleigh ride on Christmas Eve.

A hospital source said: "The Air Corps always used to fly Santa into the hospital every year. It was always very exciting and magical for the children to see Santa arrive on the helicopter.

"Many of those same children have to spend Christmas in the hospital so we try and do everything possible to make the time special for them.

"We rang the Air Corps as usual but this year they said the flight wouldn't be possible because they'd been ordered to make cutbacks.

"Luckily for the children, the Dublin Fire Brigade were able to collect Santa and bring him to the hospital."

Last year, Santa was flown in from Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel on the Air Corps' AW139 while in 2007 he arrived on the smaller EC135. But this year, the Air Corps have been ordered by their political masters to reduce expenditure.

Santa arrived at the hospital on Thursday morning on a bright red Dublin Fire Brigade engine.

The entire day is organised by the Play Department.

Many of the staff arrived at the hospital in fancy dress, while spot prizes were on offer for children. The staff choir entertained the children and their families, while there was face painting, stilt walking and clown doctors.

The source added: "You would think that the happiness of children should be the last thing that gets axed, but not this year.

"It is like the Government are trying to cancel Christmas. I guess if an off-licence needed opening or if a minister needed to get back to his constituency for a match, there would be no bother in supplying the helicopter."

Defence Forces Press officer Comdt Gavin Young said that "no official request" had been lodged by the hospital.

He added: "The Air Corps has been pleased to work with Crumlin in the past and looks forward to working with them in the future.

"The pilots enjoy their trip to the hospital and in the past the delivery of Santa has been combined with a training mission. Many members of the Air Corps fundraise for the hospital in a professional capacity and as private individuals."

When asked if officials from the hospital rang the Air Corps requesting a helicopter to transport Santa, Suzanne Downey, Press Officer for the Hospital replied: "Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin can confirm that it made a decision to invite the Dublin Fire Brigade to assist with the event at the hospital."

CAPTION(S):

Santa stop. Our Lady's Hospital for sick Children First Christmas... Anna Weszka and baby son Adrian meet up with Santa A Fair City welcome for Santa as he flies in Santa arrives aboard the Air Corps EC135 Grounded...Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive via a Dublin fire engine
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 20, 2009
Words:541
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