Christmas miracle as £230,000 is raised
The Church of Ireland Dean of Belfast, Dr Houston McKelvey, has again experienced his Christmas "miracle" with donations of more than £230,000 during the Black Santa collection at St Anne's Cathedral.
Prior to the start of this year's 30th annual sit-out, the Dean had expressed his "amazement" at the generosity of the public and other donors, and appealed once again for the annual Christmas "miracle" .
This year's total is one of the best in recent times and is thought to exceed last year's figure - though the final sum will not be known until all the late donations and other gifts are added up.
Dean McKelvey expressed his thanks to the great generosity of all those who gave. The money is being handed out to a wide range of local charities as well as to Christian Aid, which received a significant amount on Christmas Eve for work with its partners overseas.
The Dean said that this year's collection had got off to a positive start last Monday and the relatively good weather had helped.
Donations were given by individuals who placed money in the Black Santa's famous barrel outside the cathedral and significant amounts were also given by the business community and through collections from schools, offices and factories. The barrel will be available for donations inside the cathedral until the end of January.
The money will be handed over to representatives from local charities at a service in St Anne's next month. The sit-out was started in 1976 by Dean Samuel Crooks, continued by his successor Dean Jack Shearer and now by Dr McKelvey.
The Dean said last night: "The current total is £230,000 and we are still counting. It looks like the final figure could reach £250,000."