Sunday 17 December 2017

Further arrests at troubled horse fair

Ailish O'Hora

Ailish O'Hora

THREE men in their 20s were arrested during the return of the country's most infamous horse fair in Dublin yesterday.

But there was no repeat of the violent incidents that marred last month's Smithfield fair when two men were shot and a third was seriously injured with a slash-hook.

Those attacks led to calls for the event in Dublin's city centre to be shut down completely.

It returned yesterday although with a markedly lower attendance than usual. One horse trader joked that there were more gardai in attendance than traders.

However, the gardai, who had asked people to stay away from this month's fair, were again called in to action.

One man was detained just before 11am on suspicion of stealing a horse. Another was arrested a short time later for allegedly failing to control a horse after an animal was galloped through the square, while a third was arrested for alleged public order offences.

The men were taken to the Bridewell garda station where they were charged and then released.

Following the arrest of the man who had ridden the horse through the square, a large crowd gathered and followed as the gardai guided the man and his horse to the nearby Bridewell garda station. The crowd later dispersed quietly.

The garda who were present included mounted police with cameras on their helmets, as well as some with guard dogs.

But the future of the fair remains in doubt. One trader said that while there would normally be more than 100 people buying and selling horses in Smithfield, there were only about 20 yesterday.

Luke Connors, from Newbridge, Co Kildare, has been coming to the fair for more than 45 years.

"I have been coming here for years, as did my father and his father before him, and I'm here with my grandchildren, and it is very quiet today," he told the Irish Independent. "It is a bit tense but I suppose you'll get that at any big public event."

The Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) said it was a "miracle" no one was killed at the last staging of the horse fair, when shots were fired and hundreds of terrified people and frightened horses ran from the plaza.

Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton has sought legal advice from the Attorney General over the closure of the market, and the move has been welcomed by both the DSPCA and local businesses.

Irish Independent

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