Shots were fired and three men hospitalized at the oldest horse fair in Dublin as a feud between Traveler families turned ugly and frightened onlookers ran for their lives.
Three men were shot and another man was arrested as Irish police struggled to contain the mayhem at the world renowned Smithfield Horse Fair on Sunday.
Officers had to deploy mounted police and helicopter surveillance after the outbreak of violence, believed to be the result of a long term feud between members of the travelling community in Waterford.
Animal Rights campaigners have since called for the monthly Smithfield Horse Fair to be suspended with immediate effect after stunned onlookers fled in panic on Sunday afternoon as horses bolted in the wake of the gunfire.
Two of the victims were shot in the hip and the leg with an improvised shotgun while a third sustained serious wounds to his arm after he was attacked with a slash hook.
All three are undergoing treatment at Dublin’s Mater Hospital while a 40-year-old is being questioned at the Bridewell Police Station in relation to the violent scenes.
Local police also recovered a handgun in a search of the Smithfield site, venue for the fair since the 1600s.
This year’s event had attracted between 4,000 and 5,000 Travelers from all over Ireland and the UK.
The Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has said the incidents only highlight the urgent need to shut the monthly fair down for good.
DSPCA general manager Jimmy Cahill, who witnessed the mayhem on Sunday, said: “Watching people literally running for their lives as frightened horses reared up following gun shots should make the new Government realize that the time for talking is over.
“If injured and neglected horses being traded in a city centre does not motivate our legislators to action then these outrageous scenes where children were injured in the stampede and people removed to hospital with gunshot injuries should.
“Emergency legislation is now required to shut the fair down completely. This is not some quaint tradition that celebrates Ireland’s love for horses. This is a major health and safety issue that today moved into criminality.”
Dublin City Council has since said it is powerless to close down the Fair without legislative changes to the Casual Trading Act 1995.