The colour and frenzy associated with the traditional, centuries-old fair was somewhat lacking as the number of horses on display was a fraction of the cavalry once associated with Smithfield.
Humans overwhelmingly outnumbered animals of a four-legged variety in the famous square yesterday as the new rules were widely seen has having an adverse effect on the number of horses on display. It is estimated that less than 50 horses attended yesterday’s fair.
The once monthly fair, which is now restricted to being held twice a year in March and September, attracted around 1,000 visitors who weren’t deterred by a strong presence of gardaí and council officials with crash barriers in place at all access points to Smithfield.
However, former Green Party TD Ciaran Cuffe said there was “an overkill” on security which had impacted negatively on the fair.
Under the new rules governing the market, horse traders are obliged to purchase a casual trading licence at €10 per horse in order to attend Smithfield.
Animals which are infirm, diseased, ill, injured or fatigued are not permitted to attend the fair, while owners must ensure they are adequately fed and watered.
In addition, anyone in charge of a horse must be aged 16 or over.
Dublin City Council passed the new laws governing the Smithfield Horse Fair in January after repeated calls for its closure from bodies including the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals amid concern about animal welfare as well as antisocial activity and public safety.
Previous efforts to shut the fair down were blocked by an ancient market right of horse traders to hold a fair in Smithfield.
Determined moves by the council to place restrictions on the operation of the horse fair followed on from violent incidents in Mar 2011 during which two men were shot and another man suffered slash-hook injuries in the middle of a crowded plaza.
Councillor Gerry Breen, chairman of the council’s Smithfield Horse Fair Committee, described yesterday’s event under the new byelaws regime as “a promising start”.
However, Mr Breen admitted more work was required to increase the number of horses on show.
The Fine Gael councillor said the event had not been helped by being staged in the middle of the ongoing controversy over horsemeat.