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Crowds left in the dark at bungled Christmas tree lights switch-on in Co Armagh village

By Cate McCurry

A festive blunder left a Co Armagh village in darkness after council officials failed to deliver the lights for the Christmas tree switch-on event.

Organisers and spectators at the Scotch Street festivities were left scratching their heads after discovering the large festive tree was bare.

Members of the Richmount Rural Community Association (RRCA) - who helped organise the event - were forced to abandon the big switch-on last Thursday.

Billed as the 'Scotch Street Christmas Tree' event, Lord Mayor Garath Keating had been scheduled to join children from Richmount Playgroup and Richmount Primary School to do the honours.

The evening was set in motion by RRCA chairman Joe Garvey, followed by carols from the primary school choir.

While it appears the error was due to a communication breakdown, Mr Garvey posted on Facebook the following day: "Council staff apologise for the lights not being on the Christmas tree last night. We have no wish to cause trouble for these staff. It is supposed to be the season of goodwill. I would be grateful if people would let the matter rest.

"We all have made mistakes and sometimes forget to do things."

A council spokeswoman said no formal request had been received from the RRCA. She added there was a casual phone call to a council staff member as far back as September, when he was in the fields tending to his cattle.

"We provide the installation and lighting of trees for 49 areas throughout the borough. This is in addition to providing the funding for local community associations to organise their switch-ons," the spokeswoman added.

"In this instance, our operations department was not given adequate notice for the lights to be installed and tested prior to the switch-on.

"According to local feedback, the community event proved to be a great success."

Businessman Don Woolsey, owner of Woolsey Mace, one of the sponsors of the event, said: "It's a complete lack of communication between Richmount association and the local council. Everyone was a bit surprised and a bit disappointed, as it was the main event. There were loads of children there, it was all for them. It was sad for them."

The Sinn Fein Lord Mayor said: "It wasn't a huge deal, there was some sort of mix-up and the lights weren't on the tree.

"The event included a lovely carol service and people were gathered, and then Santa arrived and it was more than a capable distraction, and the kids were far more concerned about getting sweets from Santa.

"It was barely noticed by the kids that there were no lights."

The lights, however, arrived last Friday morning when two electricians placed them on the bare tree and switched them on.

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