Taoiseach urges council to 'have a heart' and save Piper's wagon in Kinsale

Event to demand return of showman's wagon to Short Quay to take place at 3pm on Sunday
Taoiseach urges council to 'have a heart' and save Piper's wagon in Kinsale

Bill Piper (standing) and his son, Brendan Piper, (in the jeep) removing their landmark showman's wagon from Kinsale's Short Quay two weeks ago.

The Taoiseach has asked Cork County Council to “have a heart” and allow the Piper’s showman’s wagon to remain in its traditional parking spot in Kinsale.

Micheál Martin made his comments in the Dáil on Wednesday after West Cork TD Christopher O’Sullivan raised the issue with him directly.

“This may seem like a small matter but for the people of Kinsale, Piper’s show wagon is a big deal,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

“And despite over 2,000 people signing a petition for the show wagon to be replaced on Short Quay, Cork County Council is refusing despite the fact that it’s been there since 1932.” 

He spoke of the sentiment, memories and 90-years of tradition associated with the showman's wagon and Piper’s funfair in the town.

“I can’t believe it’s come to this but I’m asking the leader of our government to intervene here,” he said.

Mr Martin said Mr O’Sullivan had made “an eloquent case” for the retention of the Piper’s showman’s wagon in its traditional parking spot.

“And I would ask Cork County Council to have a heart in relation to this. We must always in our community have a community-based response, and if 2,000 people have signed a petition for something that’s 90-years there, that merits a warm-hearted response.” 

It comes as people are set to take to the streets of this weekend to save their town’s traditional funfair and showman’s wagon.

The solidarity rally in Kinsale, Cork, is designed to show support for the Piper family, who have run a traditional funfair in the tourist town since the late 1930s.

Speakers are also set to call publicly on Cork County Council to row back on its stance, which forced Piper’s landmark showman’s wagon off its traditional parking spot, and which has also threatened the family’s ability to stage the funfair in its traditional quayside location.

The Irish Examiner first reported last week how the local authority had threatened to impound Piper’s showman’s wagon unless it was removed from the town’s Short Quay area, where it has been parked for almost 90-years, and had also set rent hikes for the traditional funfair site for the summer season.

Brendan Piper, the fourth generation of his family involved in the business, said the increases were in the order of €1,000 extra for next summer, an additional €2,500 in 2024 and a staggering €5,000 extra for 2025, and made the venture commercially unviable.

But this week, Cork County Council defended its stance, describing the rents as “exceptionally modest” and as “significantly below market levels”.

Nominal charge

It said Piper’s funfair is exempt from commercial rates and the rent proposed for 2022 was a nominal charge in the context of commercial rents incurred by ratepayers in the town.

It said the proposed increase in rental charges reflected a contribution to council services provided in the town and which would be enjoyed by visitors to the funfair.

The council also defended its position which forced the removal of Piper’s famous showman’s wagon from its traditional parking spot on the Short Quay plaza.

“It is normal and appropriate for the council to refute unestablished claims to permanently occupy public areas or unsubstantiated claims of ownership,” it said.

Local Green Party representative Marc O’Riain, and former Piper’s employee, Helen Hickey, who have organised a petition to support the Pipers, now signed by some 2,000 people, have now invited people to attend this weekend’s rally to demand the return of Piper's to Short Quay. The event will take place at 3pm on Sunday.

They said the community is “shocked and appalled” by the unilateral actions of the council, without any community engagement, with councillors Sean O’Donovan and Alan Coleman the only public representatives to have fought Piper’s corner in council.

“The showman’s wagon and the ‘merries’ have been a part of Kinsale since 1932 and it is an integral part of the community and children’s memories for almost a century and part of our intangible cultural heritage,” Mr O’Riain said.

We do not want to see a family effectively run out of town, and we, as a community, are going to stand by them.

“Whilst the council has tried to defend the increased rents and the action to eject Piper’s wagon from Short Quay, the community is likely to turn out in force on Sunday in solidarity with the Piper family.”

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