Violence should not harm event's future, say traders

 

PARTICIPANTS AT the Smithfield horse fair said the shooting yesterday in which two men were injured was an isolated incident and should not influence the future of the market.

Several traders and spectators at the monthly market who did not wish to be named said the shooting, and the fighting with horse crops, was related to a feud involving two families believed to be based in Co Offaly.

“Nothing like this has ever happened before. People come here to enjoy themselves and conduct business, there is never any trouble,” a long-time horse trader said.

Another horse dealer explained there were no specific organisers of the event because it was a well-established gathering that did not usually require any management.

“This fair has been going on for hundreds of years, there are people here from Scotland, everyone knows about it – it’s big business.

“It was a terrible thing that happened here today, but it never happened before, and a small group shouldn’t be allowed spoil things for everyone.”

Dublin City Council has for more than a decade sought the closure of the fair, but it has been blocked by an ancient market right to hold sales on the land, asserted by horse traders.

Smithfield was laid out as a market area in the mid-17th century, and from 1664 the site was used primarily as a cattle and hay market, but horses were also sold periodically.

Horses were sold on a regular basis in Smithfield from the late 1800s onward, but the horse fair in its current incarnation dates from the early 1960s, when the area was in a state of considerable dereliction.

The council temporarily banned the fair in 2002 after a horse bolted and hit a car on the quays which was occupied by a woman and a child.

However, the traders returned to the plaza, citing their market right. The fair also drew attention in 2009 when an injured horse was sold to an 11-year-old boy for €8.

Representations were made by the council to the outgoing Government to introduce primary legislation to extinguish the market right at Smithfield, but it said “these representations did not achieve their desired goal”.

A spokesman for the council said it would be renewing its efforts with the new government.

In addition to the very serious public safety concerns, the council would have to spend up to €3,000 cleaning up after yesterday’s event, the spokesman said. On most months the council spent €1,500-€1,800 on the clean-up, he added.