Gardaí are planning to put “a ring of steel” around a Cork town to prevent a well-known horse fair taking place amid fears it would be a hotbed for the transmission of Covid-19 if it went ahead.
Gardaí and council officials have held discussions to prevent the Cahirmee Horse Fair from taking place in Buttevant, County Cork on July 12.
Mayor of County Cork, Cllr Ian Doyle. said he and council officials have already held discussions with gardaí in North Cork about how they will close off the town in advance of the fair which attracts thousands of visitors every year.
Mr Doyle said that checkpoints will have to be put on roads leading to the town days before the fair is scheduled to take place as many of the visitors and stall-holders arrive in the area a couple of days in advance of it. Several horse traders come from as far away as the North and Britain.
Mr Doyle said there is a unique problem with Cahirmee, which would be celebrating its 99th year this year, because it doesn't have an organising committee and is not licensed by the council.
Cllr John Paul O'Shea said that some “hawkers” would arrive in the town up to three days in advance to get prime positions for their stalls.
Mr Doyle said to prevent this it is likely the council will have to put up barriers: “We will be contacting the (local) community about this. We will also be writing to the various horse bodies around the country asking them not to support this year's event. We will be writing to the Minister for Agriculture as well to get his views on this."
He said that by July 12 it is envisaged people will be restricted to travelling no more than 20kms and the vast majority of those who normally attend the horse fair would come from much further away than that.
Mr Doyle pointed out that the Charleville Agricultural Show and the Mallow Garden Festival have been cancelled on safety grounds.
“It would potentially be a huge health hazard if Cahirmee went ahead. The gardaí are going to have to implement the travel restrictions and this will mean they'll have to throw up cordons all around Buttevant. It will have to be a ring of steel. We have to put out the message that under the current circumstances can it take place. It would be an unsafe event to hold,” he added.
Cllr Ian Madden said the local community is very concerned about the potential influx of thousands of people from all over the country and further afield.
Mr O'Shea said it would take a huge amount of garda and council resources to prevent people coming into Buttevant.
“This horse fair simply can't go ahead simply because of public health issues. We must protect our citizens,” Cllr Bernard Moynihan said.