It was a scene of shame for the Gardaí in Banagher this past weekend, as on the the Saturday, en force they arrived, with Revenue men and Dept. of Agriculture personnel and turned away visiting people from Banagher, telling them that there was no horse fair. A Facebook campaign is one of a few initiatives (including my poem to keep the fair) to keep the fair, and we examine the issues, separate the legitimate concerns and offer suggestions as to solutions, from the pure bigoted attitudes towards fairs being the preserve of the common folk or horsey classes (delete as appropriate) depending on the prejudice of the objector.
Locals however prevailed, under the strange situation of that they could show horses, but not sell them, or they would be committing an offence. Well, there are ways around all those things too… and it proved it was all about the money, money, money as Revenue were dipping cars of visitors to the town, catching very few bar a few locals, which had nothing to do with the welfare of horses, controlling illegal horse sales, and left the locals and visitors feeling intimidated in a way not seen for many many years…
Visitors to the town to the fair were shocked and appalled. The contempt people felt they were dealt with was palpable, one couple reporting on the Horse Fairs of Ireland page that they were only treated that way “because they are from Limerick”.
Banagher Horse Fair is one of the few areas where settled people, Irish Travellers and the old Anglo classes mix on equal terms with a shared interest, and some bigots have incited the Dept. of Agriculture, spearheaded by Cllr John Leahy (we will not forget next election time) to get the council to close down the fair, that has been going since the 1600’s, one of the last and one of the better traditions that was started by the English in the area, and flies in the face of parity of esteem, not alone between the Anglo Irish and the Gaelic Irish, but between the settled Irish and the Traveller Irish, at a time when more tolerance and respect is needed, not less.
There are issues with the fair, whose stopping was the subject of my protest poem “Long May Horses Shit the Street’s, but these can be dealt with, when implemented in a gradual format. I do a quick address of some of them below:
State of the Streets in the Aftermath:
A committee from the Fair supporters, in co-operation with the council and tidy towns, can do an immediate clean up in the wake of the fair.
Some claim there is an issue with brawling during the fair. With most it is a cloak for getting a swipe at the participants. For anyone who causes trouble during the fair, an ASBO style order can be made keeping them away from the town – or the counties of Offaly and Galway – in the weeks before and after the fair.
Some claim, as with concerts, Gardaí should be funded for overtime for members for policing it. In the long term, that issue can be addressed, but there was no issue with it when they want to STOP people from attending the fair. How much did that all cost, with no revenue gain to the exchequer?
No Responsible Committee and Address:
We lost our town councils to the county council, and here is a source of proof of need for more local representation, not less. Not too many will put their heads and hands up to take responsibility for the fair when there is a witch-hunt to shut it down, fear of being held responsible if it goes wrong.
Being incorporated under charter of King Charles on its foundation, the County Council itself is the successor title as a body under common law, as the pocket borough gave way to central government under the UK, which devolved it to the Regional District Councils, which were abolished before independence in 1922, then coming under Kings County Council, which in 1922 became Offaly County Council.
It is the council which has failed to organise the fair, and its their address that is needed for it. And they want to shut it down, at the behest of a few bigots, more spoilsports, against the wishes of the majority of the townspeople, and the visitors to the fair, from all backgrounds.
Campaign to Save the Fair
Concerned Banagher people, and Banagher ex-pats are campaigning to keep the fair. We will be watching in wonder at what will happen in Ballinasloe, or is the only fair to close being Banaghers, as we dont see problems with other fairs around the country.
A facebook campaign has been started, and a page launched. Check it out and share it!