Three hurt in shootout at Smithfield horse fair
Crowds scatter as family feud causes chaos at historic event
Published 07/03/2011 | 05:00
A MAN was arrested last night after three men were hospitalised when a bitter feud between two Traveller families erupted at the internationally famous horse fair in Smithfield in the centre of Dublin.
Gardai believe the incidents are linked to previous feuding in Co Waterford.
The suspect, who is in his early 40s and from the north inner city, was arrested at Bridgefoot Street shortly before 9pm.
He was being held last night at the Bridewell garda station under section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act. He can be detained without charge for up to three days.
Two of the victims, who are members of a Co Offaly-based family, were shot in the hip and leg with an improvised shotgun but were not seriously injured. They were undergoing treatment last night at the Mater hospital.
The third man sustained serious wounds to his arm after being struck with a slash-hook and he was undergoing surgery last night.
Gardai later recovered a homemade shotgun, which was thought to have been used in the shooting.
The device, which comprised two cylinders bound together, was initially thought to be two pipe bombs when it was discovered in a bag.
Army ordnance officers made the device safe and it was later handed back to gardai for a technical examination.
In a follow-up search gardai discovered a handgun, which they believe some of the feuding Travellers had abandoned in the Oliver Bond flats complex in Rialto on the other side of the River Liffey.
Gardai said between 4,000 and 5,000 Travellers had come from all over the country and the UK to attend the fair.
Officers said last night they were experiencing difficulties in finding witnesses to the incidents.
Onlookers reported hearing a loud bang near the Queen Street entrance of the Smithfield market in Dublin's north inner city.
A second gunshot caused panic when hundreds of people fled in all directions as spooked horses reared up and bolted.
No one was seriously injured in the crush that ensued, although it's understood some people -- including children -- were knocked to the ground.
The incident was reportedly sparked by a violent row between a group of men, using sticks and iron bars and then escalated when one sustained a serious injury to his arm from a slash-hook.
The injured man was bleeding profusely as he ran through the crowd towards King Street, where gardai came to his assistance.
Seconds later, a loud bang, followed by gunshots, rang out in the square narrowly missing some bystanders. The injured were then rushed to hospital.
Meanwhile, the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) said the incident highlights the urgent need to shut down the monthly fair for good. The DSPCA has been urging Dublin City Council to close down the fair for a variety of animal welfare and health and safety reasons.
Last night, DSPCA general manager Jimmy Cahill -- who was at the scene of the shooting -- said: "Watching people literally running for their lives this morning as frightened horses reared up following gun shots should make the new Government realise that the time for talking is over.
"If injured and neglected horses being traded in a city centre does not motivate our legislators to action then today's outrageous scenes where children were injured in the stampede and people removed to hospital with gunshot injuries should. Emergency legislation is now required to shut the fair down completely."
"This is not some quaint tradition that celebrates Ireland's love for horses. This is a major health and safety issue that today moved into criminality."
The fair was particularly crowded yesterday after Dublin City Council (DCC) cordoned off a large section of the site for construction work.
Yet despite the council's plea to the public last week to stay away for health and safety reasons, it drew a larger than normal number of traders, likely due to the cancellation of the January fair because of adverse weather.
A DCC spokesman said the council was "powerless" to close it down unless there were legislative changes to the Casual Trading Act 1995 which allowed traders to congregate there.