A THRIVING mart is proof of the power of community spirit, regardless of economic pressures.
Sixmilebridge Mart, in Co Clare, lay idle for over 18 months after its owners, GVM, shut its doors in 2009.
However, it was re-opened last August after 600 locals bought shareholdings of €500 each in the venture.
And on the back of a booming livestock trade, the mart has made a profit of over €100,000 during its first five months in business.
In addition, it employs over 20 full-time and part-time staff and provides a vibrant marketplace for hundreds of farmers and locals every Saturday.
Everybody from local publicans and farmers to the parish priest got behind the initiative to re-open the business.
"We had Fr Harry Bohan encouraging parishioners from the pulpit every Saturday night and Sunday morning to get involved," said local auctioneer and Clare hurling All-Star Niall Gilligan.
"Even the local GAA club has a shareholding because everybody realised that it would be good for the whole area," he said.
The new Limerick tunnel has seen the mart attract stock from surrounding counties as well as the local area.
"Farmers and dealers come here because they know they'll get a fair price, whether they're buying or selling," said mart secretary Eddie Punch.
"Some thought we were mad but look at us now," he said.
The success of the venture can also be gauged from local caterer Don Murphy's experience. "The farmers have great appetites, but they seem to have a particular soft spot for the apple pie. We can go through over 100 portions on a special sale day," he said.
Local farmers like Pat Reilly were glad to stump up €500 to get the mart going again.
"Having a mart so close not only saves me time transporting animals, it also reduces the stress on the animals themselves because they are not being transported along bumpy roads for an extra 20 or 30 miles."
There were over 300 head of stock sold at the venue last Saturday.
"We had Belgian Blue weanling bulls selling for up to €1,700 each last Saturday which would be a phenomenal price," said Sean Ryan, the mart's full-time manager.
"But there's no doubt that we're benefiting from the strength in the trade in general at the moment. I'd say the trade is at least €200 a head up on this time last year."
The big test for the mart will come when numbers of stock traditionally fall off during the summer period.
"I'd be confident that the strong prices will continue for this year at least, so that will be a help but we're still reliant on the farmers continuing to support us and bring the stock each week," said Mr Punch.