Dublin City Council new plans to stop traditional Horse Fair in Smithfield
The Irish language name for Smithfield Square in Dublin is Margadh na Feirme, which reflects the fact that the area has been a market for a very long time. Cattle were once driven in from Meath and sold on the square, as well as poultry and other livestock. Horses have always been traded here.
The regular horse fair, held just after dawn on the first Sunday in every month, has been going on since at least the latter half of the nineteenth century. Dublin Corporation never had anything to do with the horse fair, but in the 1990's the City Council tried to involve itself in supervision of the fair, and encouraged the Gardaí and the DSPCA to monitor activities there. A few years ago, the Council gave up trying to run the fair, since some local residents, business owners and developers who have moved into the area, were making a lot of complaints about it.
Since the market has been going on for so long, it's proved impossible to simply close it down, but recently the Council has come up with a plan to offer an alternative site on the outskirts of the North Side of Dublin, in the hope that this will allow them to ban horse trading in the City Centre. Mr Charlie Lowe, Dublin Central Area Manager for DCC, has said that a place, believed to be somewhere around Finglas and Ballymun, will be made available by the Council as the site for the new horse fair. It is not clear if residents and business owners in the vicinity of the new location have been informed.
It's also not obvious exactly how DCC will enforce a ban on horse trading. No one actually runs the fair or is responsible for it. There is no advertising or publicity, nor is there any group profiting from the trades. The last time the Council tried to stop the fair , in 2002, the traders and their customers simply ignored the ban and continued to show up every first Sunday.
It's been reported that legal advice has indicated to DCC that any court order to close the traditional fair would be unsuccessful. Charlie Lowe was quoted in the Irish Times last month saying :
"We cannot extinguish the 'market right' at Smithfield under the particular legislation unless we find alternative facilities which are reasonably proximate to those already there."
But no one has made an announcement about how an order to cease trading at a particular location can be served, since the trading of a horse between one owner and another could in theory be carried out anywhere.
People sell cars to each other from their driveways, and all sorts of things are traded by individuals using ads in shop windows, magazines and the internet. How DCC expects to stop traders from simply attending at Smithfield, just after dawn on the first Sunday of the month, as they have been doing for many years, is not clear.