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Sunday 25 March 2018

Bare-knuckle fight sparked bitter feud that ended in chaos

Tom Brady and Patricia McDonagh

Street clashes broke out as rival gangs fought with sticks and iron bars

THE violence that erupted at a horse fair in Dublin city centre was the result of a bitter feud between two Traveller families that began over a bare-knuckle fight.

The garda investigation into the chaotic scenes at Smithfield Horse Fair has now been extended outside the capital.

Officers were carrying out inquiries in the south-east and the midlands last night following the incidents that were linked to a bitter feud that had been ongoing between the families since the summer of 2008.

In Dublin, a man in his early 40s from the south inner city was questioned by gardai about disposing of a handgun, which was fired twice during the row at the fair.

The man is suspected of hiding the handgun on behalf of one of the gangs at the centre of the conflict.

It was found by gardai during a search of the Oliver Bond flats complex in Rialto and shortly afterwards detectives detained the suspect at Bridgefoot Street.

Last night, he was still being held for questioning at the Bridewell garda station. Gardai can hold him without charge for three days.

Gardai have also been in contact with the PSNI as part of the search for suspects involved in Sunday's violence. Some of those involved in the feud have links with groups in the North.

Nobody was hurt when the gun was fired on Sunday. But seconds earlier, one member of the warring factions had opened fire with an improvised homemade shotgun.

Two men from the other side of the feud were hit by pellets in the hip and leg and taken to the Mater Hospital.

Street clashes then broke out as rival gangs fought with sticks and iron bars. One man produced a slash hook and almost severed another's arm.

The injured man was rushed to the Mater, where he underwent emergency surgery.

Gardai recovered the homemade shotgun at the scene of the shooting. It consisted of two cylinders, bound with tape and filled with pellets, and a firing mechanism.

The two men who were shot were both from Co Offaly and were linked to one of the groups involved in the row.

The man injured with the slash hook belonged to the opposing group.

Gardai last night appealed to witnesses to contact them and said they were particularly interested in hearing from anybody who might have photographs or video footage of the incidents.

Meanwhile, Dublin's Lord Mayor Gerry Breen said yesterday he would write to the new Justice Minister about the need for legislation to abolish the Smithfield Horse Fair.


And he will ask the Agriculture Minister to adopt an EU regulation into law, which could curtail attendance. The regulation requires all horses to have an ID microchip inserted and a valid passport issued from an approved studbook or agency.

"God forbid if the horses panicked because of the gun shots. We've a Luas line running through there," Mr Breen said.

Two Independent Dublin councillors, Nial Ring and Cieran Perry last night submitted an emergency motion to Dublin City Council's monthly meeting, calling on the city manager to close the horse fair on health and safety grounds.

But the council insisted it was blocked from doing anything as those who attended the fair had a right under the Casual Trading Act 1995 to congregate there.

Irish Independent

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