Smithfield Horse Fair: A tradition which is part of the Smithfield culture

Horse owners, traders, and equestrians have once again gathered at Smithfield Square for their monthly horse fair, which is attended by people from across Dublin and well beyond.

The event took place last Sunday, April 7th, at Smithfield Plaza, more locally known as Smithfield Square and had quite an array of horses, and a heavy Garda presence.

“The horse fair has always been part of the culture,” Sinn Féin Councillor Janice Boylan said. “In the old days when there were horse fairs, there was also a live market where people could sell goods, products, and even puppies. This horse fair has been going on for a long time. There is an extensive history behind it.”

Smithfield Horse Fair happens on the 1st Sunday of every month, and is organised by the Smithfield Horse Fair Committee. Horse fairs are part of Irish culture and have been a celebrated tradition in Smithfield since the 17th century.

However, at present, the horse fairs in Smithfield are protesting against the Dublin City Council (DCC) bye-laws that were approved more than 10 years ago.

The bye-laws that DCC approved in 2013 had stopped horse owners and traders from holding horse fairs every month, and now only allows them to take place twice a year, March and September, funded by DCC. Horse owners are also not happy at having to present their Personal Public Service (PPS) number to take part in the fair.

“Things changed when there was a regeneration of Smithfield. A lot of changes happened, the positive thing is that Smithfield was made more modern and one of the negatives is that the horse fair tradition was pushed aside, and the fair wasn’t given the space it used to have,” Cllr Boylan said.

In an act of defiance, horse owners and traders have decided to go against the bye-laws and continue their monthly tradition. The monthly fair is now described as a protest.

“Because there is no middle ground being made with DCC and Smithfield Horse Fair committee, the horse fairs are being classed as illegal and the horse fair committee are getting a bad name within the community,” Boylan said.

In interviews from previous horse fair protests, the Smithfield Horse Fair Committee has made it clear that the horse fairs should not be restricted, as it has long been part of Smithfield culture and is something that has been part of their life for as long as they can remember.

During the horse fair, Paddy, from Finglas, a 10th generation horse owner who has been attending the Smithfield Horse fair since he was 3 years old has said, “There is no need for the bye-laws, because the horses have been here even ever before these buildings were, so I don’t know why they are trying to stop it.”

Another horse owner at the event was Jordan Ryan, from Ballymun, a third generation horse owner who has said that the horse fair “is a good tradition, and we must not let it die in Smithfield.”

Ryan also added, “I think the bye-laws for the horse fair is a joke because horses in the city have been here for a long time, before cars. I think we should have a fair once a month without any hassle.”

There will most likely be another horse fair protest taking place next month on the first Sunday of May but no announcements have been made from the committee.

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