Smithfield Horse Fair is not a popular subject at the moment but let's not be so hasty to condemn this institution.
Horses have been sold at Smithfield since 1640. Is that something to be proud of or embarrassed about? By sheer dint of persistent attendance, the early 1800s saw the exclusive right to trade in horses established in that location.
Richard Bruton recognises the complexity of the trading rights attached to this monthly gathering. Amid calls for its abolition, Mr Bruton reiterates the subtle obligations of a local authority seeking to extinguish Smithfield Horse Fair. If ever there was a catch 22, we have one here. The authority can close the horse fair only if it can satisfy all interested parties that a suitable alternative, which provides equal facilities -- has been found in the immediate vicinity.
This, of course, is the horse dealers' trump card. However, the Casual Trading Act 1995 and the Control of Horses Act 1996 allow for considerable regulation of the sale of horses at Smithfield by the local authority. In fact, it was by the exercise of this power that a massive garda presence, enforcing rigid restrictions, succeeded in virtually shutting down the market last Sunday, May 1. The result is a pointless standoff.
Is it too much to ask the local authority to use some lateral thinking at this stage? Isn't it time that the 'Historic Area Rejuvenation Project' lived up to its name? The Celtic Tiger ripped the heart out of too many inner city locations in the interests of progress. A grim testament to this is the grossly dislocated landscape of Smithfield Market. Isn't it time to make peace with the past and integrate history with the present?