Sunday 21 January 2018

Renewed calls to shut down Smithfield horse fair

The Attorney General has been asked to step in to try to shut down one of the country's oldest horse fairs.

Two men were shot and another viciously sliced open with a slash hook at the last event in Smithfield, Dublin amid claims the monthly market is rife with criminality.

Animal welfare groups also claim the fair is used to buy and sell horses in poor condition on the cheap when owners can no longer afford to keep them.

Lord Mayor Gerry Breen, an outspoken critic of the Smithfield Sunday market, said it should be shut down before someone is killed.

"For many years Dublin City Council has been trying to close down the Smithfield Market because it is a place that has attracted criminal activity and is also a wholly unsuitable location for a horse fair," he said.

"I have been and remain deeply concerned that someone will get seriously injured or killed as a result of the unsuitability of the location of the horse fair."

Mr Breen claimed horses were being bought by young children at Smithfield for as little as eight euro.

"Some of these children have no resources or knowledge about equine care. They are treating these animals like bicycles and will ride them until they die," he said.

The Dublin Society for the Protection of Animals (DSPCA) has launched a national horse amnesty to assist people struggling to care for their horses. The group has called on people who may want to adopt or foster a horse to register their details.

Jimmy Cahill, DSPCA chief executive, said thousands of horses around the country are not being properly cared for.

"The events in the so-called 'Smithfield Horse Market' last month shone a national light on what we in the Dublin SPCA deal with on a day-to-day basis," Mr Cahill said.

"Images of these fairs and of starving urban horses are being broadcast internationally - it is time that all of the agencies concerned worked together to deliver a collaborative solution to this terrible suffering."

Some 120 horses were brought to the DSPCA last year and half had to be put down.

Dublin City Council has examined options for shutting the centuries-old Smithfield market but has been told it does not have the power to legally close it.

The Lord Mayor has asked the Attorney General Marie Whelan to use her role as guardian of the public interest to ask a judge for a temporary closure order while new legislation is drawn up to shut the inner city fair for good.

"I believe that previously the Attorney General has gone to court to seek such injunctions where the rights of the public may be affected if the court does not grant the relief," Mr Breen said.

"I believe that the rights of the people of Dublin who reside and visit the area may be affected - including their right to safety and not to be exposed to violence - if this fair is allowed to continue."

The Irish Horse Welfare Trust has called on the Government to regulate and find new venue for Smithfield Horse Fair.

The DSPCA is opening a helpline to allow worried owners to try to find homes for horses.

Press Association

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