The introduction of controversial casual trading bye-laws is on hold in Cork county after a senior counsel advised the local authority to conduct comprehensive research into ancient market rights.
Cork County Council executive said, as a result of the legal advice, they have stopped a public consultation process on the draft bylaws.
It plans to employ a professional researcher to delve into market rights, some of which were bestowed on towns by English kings as far back as the 14th century.
Three weeks ago, a council source informed the Irish Examiner that nearly a dozen submissions had been received from individuals and groups signalling that they would object in the district courts to the draft byelaws which essentially will designate specific areas for trading in a number of towns and villages.
But a decision to go back to the drawing board came as a bombshell to councillors.
“This is devastating news,” Cllr Kay Dawson said, “but we don’t want to end up in the High Court. It’s hugely disappointing.”
Council officials estimated they would have to employ the professional researcher for six months, although some councillors have privately questioned if such a potentially huge archive-trawling exercise could be done in such a short time.
Some casual traders have also expressed concern about charges, as yet to be defined, which the council intends to impose on using designated market spaces.
Cllr June Murphy said she had spoken to very concerned market traders in Mitchelstown. “They said it wouldn’t be worth their while to trade if they [charges] were imposed,” she said. “The message from traders is that it would be the death of the market.”
Horse breeders also claimed many aspects of the byelaws governing horse fairs were unworkable. Implementing them would spell the death knell for famous horse fairs such as Cahirmee in Buttevant and Ballabuidhe in west Cork, breeders warned.
The draft byelaws state horses must be corralled in certain area and cannot be ‘trotted’ to be shown off to prospective buyers. They are also objecting to a ban on ponies being ridden by children under the age of 16, but some ponies are so small they can only be shown trotting by child riders.
Younger members of horse breeding families have traditionally ridden small animals in front of prospective buyers. “You need to parade animals to sell them. The horse traders are naturally upset by this,” Cllr Frank O’Flynn said.
Cllr Noel McCarthy welcomed the fact that a researcher was to be employed because the council couldn’t afford to make mistakes which could be legally challenged.
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