New York City Councilmember Tony Avella, who is running for mayor in 2009, told reporters that the horse drawn carriage industry had threatened an Irish bar when they discovered that an event to raise funds for the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages was to take place there on October 14.
Avella made his charges at a press conference held outside O'Flaherty's Ale House on 46th Street in Manhattan on Friday, September 19. He bashed the horse drawn carriage industry, blaming them for the cancellation of a fundraiser for the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages at the bar in October.
Avella, who has proposed a bill to shut down the carriages in New York, said he wants to put an end of the "inhumane treatment and risk of serious injury or death" to both horses and people.
Tadhg Healy, manager at O'Flaherty's, told the Irish Voice on Tuesday that the bar received a worrying call from an elderly woman saying she was upset about the fundraiser being held at the bar saying, "There might be a riot outside the place."
However, Healy added there was nothing set in stone regarding the fundraiser and he didn't feel the call was threatening. "It might have been more like some friendly advice," said Healy.
Upon discovering that the event was in fact to raise funds for the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, Healy said he cancelled the fundraiser. "When they booked it at the beginning I thought it was a fundraiser in the traditional sense. I was kind of blindsided," he said, adding if he had initially know who the organization were when booking the event, he wouldn't have taken the booking.
"Some of (the horse drawn carriage drivers) are just from down the road from where I grew up and the majority of them are of Irish descent," he said.
Upset that he has been misquoted by the media and the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, Healy said when he called up the woman who booked the event to tell her it was cancelled she said to him, "I don't blame you. I don't want my windows broken either.'
"Those were her words and I got misquoted on it," said Healy.
Carolyn Daly, spokesperson for the horse drawn carriage industry, said it's the people from the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages that are "harassing, intimidating and stalking" the carriage drivers, and not the carriage drivers threatening the bar. "The animal activists have unacceptable behavior," she said.
Ian McKeever, horse owner and carriage driver said he was very upset that Avello brandished them "despicable thugs." Said McKeever, "We are just working class families trying to raise our families and have a job. There is no foundation for this."
McKeever feels articles written by the Irish Voice and the Irish Echo in times past relating to the horse drawn carriage industry being primarily Irish was the reason they chose an Irish bar for the setting of their fundraiser. "They were using the bar as if to say that even the Irish are against the Irish. They were just going after the Irish angle," said McKeever, inviting people to come and see for themselves how well the horses are treated by the horse and carriage drivers.
Fiona Walsh, comedian and volunteer with the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, said she was upset to hear about the fundraiser being cancelled.
"I understand that this is a contentious issue. It's gotten very heated on both sides of the divide. Obviously no one wants to feel they are being put under threat for simply raising funds to print posters and badges, and that was all it was about. It's a little upsetting but hopefully we will find another venue," said Walsh, who was organizing the entertainment side of the event in October.
She added it was her understanding that there was no motivation behind choosing an Irish bar as the venue for the fundraiser.
Walsh said long before she was ever associated with the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages she felt it was inhumane to have carriage horses in New York City. "I've no doubt that some of them (horse owners) do treat the horses well but as it stands having horses in city traffic doesn't seem right to me."