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Three arrested at tense but quiet Smithfield

The mood was "tense" at Dublin's Smithfield Horse Fair at the weekend.

A large number of gardai were present as the event -- which was marred with bloodshed last month -- returned to the city centre.

Law enforcers made a determined effort to avoid a repeat of scenes from March 6, when two men were shot and a third was injured with a slash hook.

The day passed without major incident.

But three men in their 20s were arrested.

One man was detained just before 11am on suspicion of stealing a horse.

Two other men were arrested a short time later for alleged public order offences and failing to control a horse, after an animal galloped through the square.

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

A regular at the fair told how numbers were well down on previous events.

Luke Connors, from Newbridge, Co Kildare, has been coming to the fair for over 45 years and said there would normally be over 100 people buying and selling horses.

Yesterday, the figure was closer to 20.

Mr Connors, who said the fair has historical significance, was accompanied by his younger assistants and grandchildren -- Luke (11) and Jim (12).

"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 here today," he said.

"It is a bit tense but I suppose you'll get that at any big public event, even a football match."

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.

Gardai had asked people to stay away from this month's fair as a result and it was obvious the request did not fall on deaf ears.

Horse trader Thomas Clarke, from Cabra, said he would prefer if the fair stayed in Smithfield but he understands there are safety concerns, especially with children under 16 trying to control horses.

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.