Tight security for Smithfield fair

 

Horse traders ignored appeals from Dublin City Council not to attend the Smithfield horse fair today, with large crowds gathered from early morning for the event.

The March fair, the busiest of the monthly horse markets held in Smithfield plaza, was last year marked by violence during which two men were shot and another was injured with a slash hook.

A very strong Garda presence this morning, along with inspectors from the Revenue Commissioners and the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) ensured that the fair was very strictly controlled.

Horses could only be brought into the plaza from a checkpoint at the junction of North King Street and Church Street, and only if the animals were microchipped and owners had the correct paper work. All other entrances to the square were accessible to pedestrians only.

Gardaí reported no significant incidents today. There was a stampede shortly after 11am, when a horse bolted in the centre of the square and several dozen people ran to the surrounding streets, but there were no injuries and no violence associated with the incident.

The March fair, also known as the stallion fair, is attended by large numbers of foreign traders some of whom said the atmosphere was significantly different from previously years.

“Everyone running like that when a horse got spooked, that wouldn’t have happened two years ago, but everyone’s on edge after last year,” one man who had travelled from the Bolton area said.

Another English-based trader said the animals where more skittish than usual.

“Horses will pick up on how the people are, and they’re not at their ease. At the same time there are people who are going over the top running away because they would like the see a bit of trouble getting going.”

DSPCA inspector Liam Kinsella said very few horses were not microchipped and the animals were mostly in “excellent condition”.

The city council had urged people not to attend the fair because of on-going improvement works to the plaza which meant more than two thirds of the space previously occupied by the fair would not be available – even less than last year when around half the plaza was cut off due to the work.