Horse traders threaten to block city over clampdown
TRADERS at the controversial Smithfield horse fair have threatened to cause traffic chaos if gardai continue to clamp down on the event.
The Dublin Horse Owners' Association last night claimed strict new garda checks are affecting attendance and making it harder to sell animals.
And it has vowed to march horses through busy Dublin areas such as O'Connell Street next month in protest at attempts to shut down the fair.
The threat came as gardai yesterday mounted a massive security operation to police the event -- traditionally held on the first Sunday of every month.
Gardai refused entry to any trader who did not have an ID microchip inserted into their horse and a valid horse passport issued from an approved studbook or agency.
As a result, just six horses were allowed into the normally crowded Smithfield plaza.
An appeal had been made by gardai and Dublin City Council urging organisers not to go ahead with the event in the interests of public safety.
It was the second month in a row that a plea had been made after shots were fired and a man was injured in a bloody machete attack in March.
Dublin City Council is currently powerless to close down the fair because of the Casual Trading Act 1995, which allows traders to congregate there.
The council recently asked the Government to amend this law so it could shut down the event.
However, the Dublin Horse Owners' Association last night insisted traders would do "everything they could" to keep the fair alive.
"This fair can't close. It is written into law that it can't close and we will do everything we can to keep it alive," spokesman Patrick Harris told the Irish Independent.
"We will block the whole city off with horses from next month if this attempt to close the horse fair down is not stopped.
"Gardai are being too strict with horse passports and microchipping and this is putting traders out of business.
"We will march our horses in a single line all around the city and block any traffic that comes our way. If the gardai block Smithfield, then we will block the city," he said.
Mr Harris said the association would meet tomorrow to draw up plans to put the proposal into action.
However, Dublin Lord Mayor Gerry Breen promised to face down the threats.
"How dare they make such a threat? This will not stop the horse fair from being closed down. If they want to up the stakes, the gardai, Government and Dublin City Council will not be found wanting and will face down this challenge," he said.
Jimmy Cahill, CEO of the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA), insisted gardai were not clamping down on the event but simply enforcing the law.
"Under law all traders must have a passport and microchip for their horse. The gardai are merely enforcing this law and there is nothing draconian about it," he said.
"I don't think this threat is warranted as gardai are letting people into the fair if they have the correct documentation."