Smithfield Horse Fair Shootings And Tradition

So you’ve been doing it for four hundred years? Maybe it’s time you stopped.

So now we have to put up with gunfights in the street, because some crowd of gobshites claim they’ve been selling horses in Smithfield for four hundred  years?  Isn’t that great?

The cops don’t want the horse fair in Smithfield because they know what kind of hooligans it’s attracting.  Dublin City Council don’t want it because they can see it’s arranged by   — sorry about this — cowboys with no management plan, no safety arrangements, no insurance, no stewarding and no animal welfare.  The DSPCA don’t want it because they know how cruel it is to treat horses this way.  The general public don’t want it because they’re city people and most city people don’t ride around the pavement on horses.

That leaves a small group who think it’s acceptable to take over a public space in Dublin once a month  and subject the residents to sporadic outbreaks of violence or, in the latest case, gunfire.

If you want to hold a music event, you have to get planning permission and you have to enter into a very tight arrangement regarding security, traffic management, public liability and consideration for the neighbours.  But not, it seems, if you have a tradition that involves horses.

Anyway, why does tradition trump civilisation?  Since when did tradition justify anything?  In certain African countries, people practise female genital mutilation but you won’t hear anyone in Ireland defending it on the grounds of tradition.  Nobody defends the tradition among some Indians of burning brides who don’t provide a large-enough dowry.

We’ve abandoned all sorts of traditions in this country.

At one time, we had a tradition of torturing people we thought were possessed.  We had a tradition of locking up women who became pregnant outside marriage.  Until relatively recently, we had a horrible tradition of churching women who had given birth.

Those things are gone, and nobody but a madman would try to defend them on the grounds of tradition.

As DSPCA general manager, Jimmy Cahill, said about the Smithfield fair,

This is not some quaint tradition that celebrates Ireland’s love for horses. This is a major health and safety issue that today moved firmly into criminality.  The Smithfield market is unlicensed, unregulated and completely unsuitable for horses. We have regularly come across neglected and injured horses here which flies in the face of Ireland’s reputation as a nation of horse lovers.

In other words, the people who organise this sale, and those who attend, couldn’t care less about the welfare of the animals they traffic.  They’re in it for the money, they haven’t the slightest interest in their duties to their fellow citizens and invoking tradition is only a means of protecting their profits.

Meanwhile, the PC bandwagon rolls on.

Although the violence seems to be coming from feuds among Traveller families, the Smithfield horse fair is attended by people from all sorts of background.  Some of them are Travellers and some are not.  Despite that, if you stick your neck out and criticise what’s going on, the usual gang will emerge to accuse you of being racist, which is why the majority of commentators have been silenced.

It isn’t about whether people are Travellers.  It’s about whether people have any respect for those with whom they share our streets.

One way or another, it’s about time we started to confront those who use their supposed traditions to — sorry — ride roughshod over the rest of us.  I don’t have a tradition of selling horses on the street or riding sulkies on the open road.  Do you?

I have a tradition of keeping myself to myself and not interfering with anyone else, and I suspect you do too.

Maybe it’s about time our traditions started to count for something.  So what if they’ve been doing it for four hundred years?  Maybe it’s time they stopped.


44 thoughts on “Smithfield Horse Fair Shootings And Tradition

  1. Im new to many roads actually have a ‘No Sulkie’ sign on them?..theres one on the road after Bunratty..

  2. are you allowed to set up a fair and start selling cars? i would have thought that the tax man would be on top of you pretty lively if you did.

  3. Totally agree, other traditions which they should stop include :-

    Leaving all their shit and mess behind them at the side fo the road.

    Stopping by the side of the road overnight, or longer to enable easier access to leave their shit and mess.

    Dragging their children, up, and along with them while they live by the side of the road.

    Stealing anything, anywhere which is not nailed down, while staying in a new area.

    Blocking off roads in order to have sulkie races, to the exclusion of the road tax paying public.

    Hiring pubs /hotel function rooms under assumed names, with the main intention of getting hammered, fighting and trashing the place, while other members of the tradition get married or have a communion, or some other excuse..

    and so on in an endless list of misdemeanors which should exclude them from living beside or near other normal considerate people.

  4. I don’t think the things you describe are traditions. They look more like bad behaviour by some people. Please stay on topic.

  5. No non travellers think they are traditions but under a general heading of defence of their lifestyle, they get misrepresented as tradiitons.

    It’s along time since the Horse Fair fell under the heading of a tradition, and has been for a long time just more bad behaviour and criminality.

  6. The fact that this deplorable so called marketplace for horses has survived for so long is serious testament to the inability to enforce the Legislation that supposedly governs the movement and sale of horses.
    The absolute bullshit perpetrated as tradition and entitlement when the cruelty, neglect and blatant disregard for life and property is displayed there every month is beyond belief.

    In this current climate the vast majority of horses have no monetary value, I could’nt even hazard a guess at what the type of horses being traded at Smithfield is even worth but presumably within that so called tradition the sellers create their own value, It has, as you said nothing to do with the product as in the Horse who has now become a very cheap product, Its about maintaining a belief in a non existant entitlement and a certain display of prowess.

    The line being used by those who are hell bent on continuation of this marketplace is based on an idealistic notion that we are a nation of horse lovers, Well we are’nt and the proof of that has been seen by anyone looking out of a car window on any road in Ireland at the result of a massive increase in the horse population now left to die of starvation, abuse and neglect all over the Country, The continued lack of enforcement of Legislation and the tolerance of places like Smithfield serves no purpose only to provide further means of criminality and cruelty.

    Not only should Smithfield be closed but there should be a National cull, The ISPCA would be providing a better service for the horses they rescue if they ethanised 99% of them because at least then their suffering would end.

    This is the only Country in Europe that tolerates sulkie racing on public roads, If any of us here take an uninsured car on a public road we are liable for criminal prosecution but its ok for people to take half a ton of animal who’s basic response is fear and flight and whip them up to 40 mph with no brakes on a public road, What does that say of our extremly politically correct society ?

  7. @Bock#4 – I am not sure I agree with you. I grew up with my father trying to run his small business in what was then almost rural Tallaght and the travellers had a tradition of breaking into his workshop and stealing stuff – yes mostly not nailed down but on the other side of a locked door, and on more than one occasion, a block wall. Does regular bad behaviour preclude it being a tradition? I don’t think so and it seems it is trans-generational happening again and again in the past fifteen years on similar small business industrial units.

  8. Could we try to keep the focus on the horse fair please. I realise the temptation is there to bring in other issues, but this post is not about the general behaviour of travellers. I don’t think anyone has tried to justify theft by calling it a tradition. To my mind, a tradition ought to be something fairly benign, although this isn’t always so.

  9. In our trafditional past, History and all, Horse Fairs served a purpose, They were held in Towns all over the Country, People sold, bartered and exchanged work horses, carriage and driving horses, riding horses etc, That diluted with the replacement of work horses with tractors and 4×4’s and Fairs became a place of sale for leisure horses, a few for driving but mostly leisure riding, Attended by horse dealers looking for a profit, So fair enough then.
    For the past 20/25 years that method of sale has been replaced by formal structured sales, Held in sales complexes and complete with facilities, responsible bodies overseeing such events where horses are auctioned to the highest bidder, These sales complexes cover most breeds of horses and describes their purpose, As far as i know one sales company provided a sale exclusivly for ” coloured ” horses to meet needs, I dont think that is still in place.

    Horse fairs as they are today are in the majority populated by Travellers, They seem now to take such an event as something that belongs exclusivly to them, This was never the ” Tradition ” of horse fairs, The market as it was over decades has completly collapsed and Horse fairs with any semblance of ” Tradition ” have no place that meets the responsible ownership of horses as it exists today.

    What really confounds me is that not one single organised and structured body or group set up and involved in the day to day running of the varied Horse businness has come out and spoken against what is happening, So many rural dwellers came out in an attempt to reverse the ban on stag hunting, But nobody to speak out regarding the travails of the unregulated horse population and the danger it poses to the general public at these events, So it looks as though everyone involved in ” Horse Trading ” from the bottom up or top down really only cares about the mighty Euro.

    I heard a lot of people on the radio yesterday proclaim the wonders of Ballinasloe horse fair, I only had the very unfortunate experience of being there once many years ago, Where toward the end of the day a group of Travellers decided to attack each other with chain saws, There was total pandemonium and a riot, It was an extremly terrifying experience, Maybe the organisers have cleaned up their act since but what i saw was horrific.
    It would be no loss if all Horse fairs were banned It is not as you said a ” benign ” tradition, It is in large a place to dispose of animals at a price with no responsibility for human or animal life No traceability or accountability regarding animal or their owners,, When there is Legislation in place that anyone found transporting a horse without proper documentation is subject to a fine of 2,000 Euro, I have never ever heard of anyone recieving such a fine and its not as if horses can be transported in secret, Beggers belief really.
    I’m going on a bit now but how was it that guns and slash hooks were brought to Smithfield if the purported purpose of being there was ” Tradition ” or their ” Love ” of horses ?

  10. ” I only had the very unfortunate experience of being there once many years ago, Where toward the end of the day a group of Travellers decided to attack each other with chain saws” Oh my god Norma. That’s freaky. The texas chainsaw massacre in Ballinasloe.

    I’m wondering who cleans up all the horseshit when the pavees are gone on their way.

  11. Well FME, Smithfield, when it is not covered in horseshit, is the fruit and veg market for all of Dublin. Early every morning the fruit & veg is unloaded from trucks that come from all over including the UK & Europe.

    There is a lot of Organic stuff also. So, i am minded to think that the Organic Farmers collect all that horseshit and take it home to spread it on their organic beds of vegetables!

    Talk about recycling!!

  12. Oh right Islandbank.. That’s nice of the farmers to collect the pavees horseshit. Just as well it has some use really.

    Must be a nice aroma up there for a few days after the pavees leave town though.

  13. FME. I seriously doubt the clean up is carried out by the people who use it to horse trade.
    Ballinasloe chainsaw massacre, funny, have laughed since, did’nt at the time !

    Islandbank. Don’t know about organic gardners travelling to centre of Dublin to collect non organic veg waste and piles of steaming horseshit and transporting it back again…………doubt it, Fruit n Veg importers most likely control their own waste and the Dublin City Council probably dispose of the horseshit at a cost to the taxpayer, Thats the most likely, The only thing being recycled there is are abused animals.

    More bollocks from Dublin City Council today ” Last night DCC called on incoming Government to introduce Legislation to shut down horse fair on Health / Safety grounds, An emergency motion was put forward calling on Officials to ban the Horse market in Smithfield temprarily but it was rejected ” Pass the buck why don’t you DCC, This motion on foot of the rejection by the High Court of a claim made by a man in ’08 who was injured by a horse / sulkie racing in Smithfield against DCC who produced documentation supporting their claim that they want the horse market closed, What hypocrisy.

  14. I blame the prussian’s and the armys of europe who stopped buying horses. no respect for tradition.
    if only the royal families around Europe hadn’t started a squabble in 1914 this would not be a problem today.

    no another note did anyone check out Pathe news, their archive is up online. the race around limerick city in1936 is worth seeing.

  15. Tradition holds no water at all when it comes to the quite obvious question of what about the health and safety angle here? Guns, horses, the public in general, surely the lost Celtic tiger has not up and ran away with common sense across your side Bock?

    Respect starts at the womb, but I doubt these ‘ traditional horse-sellers,’ regardless of minority or origin, will give a Tinkers cuss about anyone but themselves.

  16. I can’t believe you likened FGM with horse trading.

    Can you honestly tell me how you can justify equating the sheer brutality of FGM with the trading of horses, and a bit of horse shit on the ground?

    Ok, the vast majority of us do not like seeing horses being treated poorly, but to compare it to FGM is beyond the sphere of Murdoch’s Sun. Christ, it’s beyond his Fox News sensationalism.

    A bit of horse shit on the ground?
    Step over it.

    An unregulated trading fair?
    Regulate it.

    Your friendly rocket scientist,

    You’re welcome.

  17. I live just a stones throw from smithfield square and I can tell you the place is a fucking nightmare when the horsefare is on and the treatment of the animals is an absolute disgrace.
    I remember walking to work one monday morning and there was some poor donkey still tied to a bollard outside the Glimmer Man pub on manor street with four cops standing around it.
    I hope to christ it gets shut down, it’ll be good fucking riddance…

  18. Totally agree with you Bock. The appalling treatment of the animals really distresses me.

  19. Interesting you suggest traditions are benign when you wrote this…..

    “At one time, we had a tradition of torturing people we thought were possessed. We had a tradition of locking up women who became pregnant outside marriage. Until relatively recently, we had a horrible tradition of churching women who had given birth.”

    1. The passing down of elements of a culture from generation to generation, especially by oral communication.
    a. A mode of thought or behavior followed by a people continuously from generation to generation; a custom or usage.
    b. A set of such customs and usages viewed as a coherent body of precedents influencing the present: followed family tradition in dress and manners. See Synonyms at heritage.
    3. A body of unwritten religious precepts.
    4. A time-honored practice or set of such practices.
    5. Law Transfer of property to another.

  20. Well I guess I am confused at your initial response to my first comment. The Horse fair is another example illustrating the lack of regard the traveller’s have to public and private property as those malignant examples of thievery and destruction I mentioned. But perhaps we agree that their traditions suit them when they want them to and are less transient than their way of life, which seems like an internal contradiction in terms to me.

  21. Not just travellers. Everyone trying to justify bad behaviour seems to think that calling it a tradition makes it acceptable.

  22. Are the legislators , politicians, or whoever, afraid to vocally get behind any attempts to change any of the “traveller traditions” for fear of becoming a target for the pro traveller brigade ??

  23. I attend Smithfield regularly and some mates have bought and sold the odd horse.Most of the professional dealers are sound men and women.Many decent citizens are involved,mostly amateur.The trouble is generally confined to Travellers.Most of the horses are well-treated and there is little obvious cruelty.The event itself is only for a few hours ,one Sunday per month.It generates plenty of horse-shit,promptly cleaned up by Dublin Corpo.I can’t see it having much impact on the lives of local residents.
    Its unfortunate that it has been partly hi-jacked by Travellers,whose criminality,violence and disregard for others is well-known.
    The event has it’s shortcomings,but its not as disastrous as people are saying

  24. Leftwinger — I’d say there is a certain reticence on the part of politicians for fear of being called a racist.

  25. Could’nt the Guards suspend the monthly traveller get together, citing a criminal investigation ??

  26. Mad dog. Surely there should be no cruelty at all ? Do the people who buy and sell there pay anything into a fund to pay for clean up damages insurance etc ?
    I’m sure decent, knowledgeable people attend but horses are’nt pets and ” amateurs ” in my perspective have no business owning such an animal if they dont have the knowledge of whats required or a safe place to keep such an animal.
    In your opinion, What is the purpose of Smithfield ? What do the majority of people who go there to trade actually use those horses for ? I know sulkie racing is big businness in France but they have purpose built racetracks stabling, specific breeding programmes etc, Here it seems to have no regulation at all, Either with regard health / safety for human or horse and no disease control programme, Why do you think that is ?

  27. We had an expert witness on soil mechanics travel to give evidence from Malaysia in a trial this week at the Four Courts. Pity I booked him into the Ashling. He visited Smithfield as recommended in the Rough Guide!! Rough,indeed, it was difficult to persuade a decent educated man to remain in the area with his wife for the case. He thought we were all mad!!!!!!!!!!! Late post , sorry Dr.D.C. Wijeesekera helped us win the day.

  28. Norma,in a perfect world there would be no cruelty to animals or people.The level of horse experience and knowledge at Smithfield would surprise you.Certainly some horses that finish up with Travellers or urban cowboys face a tough life.My acquaintances all have an angle,a bit of stabling or a paddock,and their horses are well-cared for.We are into rural cross-country riding,parents and kids,and the horses and ponies love it.
    With regard to controls,rules,regulations etc,I feel this country is over-regulated in the wrong areas.We can’t even drop the kids to school in a commercial vehicle.
    Smithfield does also cater for trotting horses but whats so terrible about that?Does every aspect of peoples activities really have to be regulated?
    Nobody contributes anything,Dublin Corpo pays for the clean-up,thats just how it is.

  29. Mad dog. Thanks for answering my questions, I hate that term ” perfect world ” as it relates to nothing, However I do think its hardly just idealogical to aspire to the value of protecting the most vulnerable in our society, including animals.
    I agree with you on over regulation, That does not justify though a totally unregulated and dangerous businness ( and it is a businness ) to be conducted on public roads with no responsibility to the road users who pay for the right to be there, And by that i am referring to the whole world of ” Trotting / Sulkie Racing ” Which like other equine endeavours generates cash flow through ” in house ” gambling and selling of their product ( horses ), This sense of ” Entitlement ” to use public facilities for their own end and reward while placing the burden of safety and damage squarely on the public and refusing to even entertain the reinvestment of their financial rewards into facilities for their own pursuits is just sticking a finger up at the people who carry the can for such pursuit.
    The animal cruely side of this pursuit is that the continued pounding on such surfaces for the animal causes severe damage to vulnerable joints most especially in young animals who’s joints are not yet fused.
    I am very aware that animal cruelty is not confined to travellers or urban cowboys, This issue goes way beyond animal cruelty, Its about people who believe they are entitled, Who believe society owes them something and in turn they provide nothing other than abuse in all its ugly forms.
    I know exactly what it costs to the cent to keep a horse in a consistent and healthy environment, Any compromising on the care and cost is a form of neglect to the product and therefore devoid of the logic claimed by so called ” horse lovers ” .horses dont need love, they need responsibility.
    Good luck with your equine pursuits, I do believe horses are truly phenomonal creatures, deserving of our respect and care mores the pity i cant say the same for a lot of owners ! However as the world is changing at the rate of knots, I’m sure this subject will be relegated to the backseat it usually occupies.

  30. Just close the fucking thing down, confiscate the horses and rehabilitate them. this is a national embarrassment.

  31. Hayzeefantayzee,only a dictatorship can confiscate peoples private property.No horse at Smithfield needs rehabilitation.National embarrassment is a bigger question,what about the Catholic church,Magdalen laundries,Industrial schools,the banking debacle,Fianna Fail,unemployment,emigration?.Smithfield is a couple of hours one Sunday per month.It has its problems but in the big scheme of things it almost harmless.

  32. Mad dog — All the subjects you mention have been covered elsewhere on the site. However, this post is about Smithfield.

  33. Mad dog. How can you logically declare ” confiscation of private property ” when large numbers of those horses described by you as ” private property ” are entirely dependent on ” Public property ” to graze, to exercise, to be cleaned up after, to be responsible for in case of accident and / or cruelty and neglect, and in the case here to provide the point of sale where only the seller recieves benefit and contributes absolutly nothing to any of the above except to exercise the blatant lack of responsibilty and generate further cost to the people who pay for the abuse of such facilities.
    You did’nt address one single point i made, It would be interesting to know what does this cost the various Corporations and Co Councils and how does it impinge on the Animal Charities who give of their time largely voluntarily.
    I would go a step further than Hayzeefantazee and say that legislation should be introduced to euthanise all horses found on public property within 28 days of seizure unless proof of responsible ownership, ie stabling / grazing / public liability insurance / health care is provided and proof of same supplied, This applies to stray dogs, why not horses ? That would put an end to the existing revolving door, And a total ban of sulkie racing / exercise on public roads.
    If the supporters of Smithfield want to maintain a point of sale, Then form a commitee and raise the funds to provide for same, Accept that no tradition exists to provide profit for some who are unwilling to provide investment in their own criteria or their product and expect those who pay for everything to continue to pay for their Business or Hobby.
    With almost all Equine pursuit the cheapest investment is always the actual product as in the Horse, It is the continued investment that actually costs.

  34. Norma,I think it is in error to blame Smithfield for everything.I am as much against cruelty and illegality as you are.Some urban cowboys illegally keep their horses on public land ,make a mess and so on,but this has nothing to do with Smithfield.That is a matter for local authorities and perhaps RSPCA.
    You are correct about sulkie racing on public roads.It is dangerous to participants ,horses,and the general public and is mainly a Traveller business.This is a matter for the Gardai and Smithfield has no powers to address any of it.
    What happens in Smithfield for a couple of hours each month has little to do with how horses are treated overall.

  35. Mad dog. I don’t think it is an error to focus on Smithfield as a pivotal area of already explained and discussed breach of all civil and animal rights , My reason being that no other fair or market based on this tradition we refer to has the repetitive and continued access to the potential liability to the public and to public resources and the continued turnaround of horses on such a regular basis.
    All other fairs and marketplaces are held once a year, Smithfield is held 12 times a year and in an environment which is dedicated and designed for humans and is in no way equipped for the containment of large numbers of animals who’s impingement on human safety is an issue not once a year but 12 times, This places Smithfield beyond the area of tradition and squarely in the area of ” place of business ” .
    The tradition upon which Smithfield was based was when the area was one of local small farming enterprise , Where all manner of farming animals were sold , This is no longer the case as the need for housing and urban development superseded the needs for local farming, The horse market in Smithfield as it is today has been commandeered as opposed to catering for a sustainable need.
    According to statistics, 1 in 9 animals being sold there are victims of cruelty and the displays of brutality recorded there each month are above and beyond what a responsible society should have to tolerate, If some of the scenes recorded in the way they demonstrate blatant disregard for human / animal regard and safety were recored at any other human / equine event, Those people would receive the full extent of the Law and most likely be banned from future events.
    The so called transportation of the animals sold displays further intense disregard for the product and facility accorded to them as these urban cowboys are seen every month galloping the unfortunate animals they purchased for a song through the streets of Dublin to be either thrown on waste or public ground or tethered to a lamppost outside a block of flats.
    Smithfield as it is now is undeserved my many who avail of the facility and should no longer receive the support of public funding or the support of responsible horse owners.

  36. Hi Norma,
    If its that bad in Smithfield,how come no arrests or confiscations of abused horses ever happen there?I know the Guards are lazy and afraid of Travellers but if its as serious as you say,surely they would be forced to get off their arses.How come none of these horses never get impounded at Smithfield?
    Travellers and urban cowboys are uneducated, unemployed and unemployable.Little better can be expected from them.However much more should be demanded from our inept Civil servants.

  37. Mad dog. Yes, Everything you say in above comment is true, The DCC who have been active with empty rhetoric for years in the closure of Smithfield could’nt even come up with a consensus when it was put to a vote.
    Its like most things in Ireland, Always search for a soft target and stay well away from those who can make life difficult for the powers that be and that includes Bankers another version of Urban Cowboy.
    As long as people like you are trying to provide homes for some of those animals then thats something good in the larger scheme of things.
    I do though really believe that a National cull of the Horse population is badly needed but very unlikely to happen, I try to do my tuppenceworth for the animal world but i dont want to be involved with any organisation and im in no position to take on any more, So it would be a sign that we were a conscionable society if some move was made to address the entire problem.

  38. Hi this is kinda of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG editors
    or if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding expertise so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would be enormously appreciated!

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