Coronavirus: Call for historic Cahirmee Horse Fair to be cancelled

Cork County mayor says July 12th event in Buttevant poses too great a risk to public health

A file photograph from Cahirmee Horse Fair in Buttevant, Co Cork

One of the country's oldest horse fairs should be cancelled this year to help curb the spread of Covid-19, according to the County Cork mayor.

Cllr Ian Doyle said the annual Cahirmee Horse Fair in Buttevant, which takes place on July 12th and attracts thousands, is part of the cultural life of north Cork but that allowing it to go ahead this year would pose a serious risk to public health.

According to Cllr Doyle, a unique aspect of Cahirmee is that it has no organising committee – potentially posing a problem in tr ying to get the message out to the public that this year's events should not go ahead.

“This is primarily a horse fair, and I think that those involved in the equine and agricultural sectors will understand the concerns surrounding the coronavirus and already have it in their minds this year’s fair will not be going ahead.

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“I think when people sit down and look at this logically they will understand why the fair cannot go ahead, but I do know there is concern in Buttevant and in north Cork generally that some people may ignore advice and still turn up.”

According to the Buttevant Heritage website, Cahirmee Fair is believed to have roots back in Ireland's prehistoric past, when Mee was a High King of Munster, and his royal seat was located just to the east of Buttevant.

The fair originally took place in the townland of Cahirmee, some three miles east of Buttevant, which is considered to be in the centre of Munster, and Napoleon’s famous charger Marengo is reputed to have been bought there.

But the fair moved into Buttevant town at the beginning of the 1920s as buyers and sellers felt threatened by the political turmoil of the time during both the War of Independence and the Civil War.

According to the Buttevant Heritage website, Irish Travellers are ardent supporters of the horse fair and crowds gathered to buy and sell horses, meet family and friends and have weddings around the fair.

Cllr Doyle said that he has already been in touch with gardaí, and he plans to make contact with the IFA, various horse organisations and Pavee Point in the coming days to try and dissuade people coming to Buttevant in July.

“There is no question people are concerned as social distancing will be impossible if large numbers of people do turn up for the fair. Locals do enjoy the fair but this year the circumstances are different.

“Hopefully, everyone involved will take the sensible option and stay away,” said Cllr Doyle, adding that if necessary gardaí may have to block all roads leading into the town on fair day.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times