MONDAY’S Kilrush Horse Fair attracted less than 15 traders to the town. Those who made it to the town, which has hosted fairs for generations, huddled on both sides of Frances Street, while a few ponies could be heard whinnying around the corner in the town square. On a bitingly cold March afternoon, the stallholders did scant business.
One of the traders who did travel, John Flynn, from near Clonmel in South Tipperary, told The Clare Champion that he didn’t break even following the his days business. Under bylaws introduced by Kilrush Town Council in 2011, traders have to pay €25 per parking space. Mr Flynn, who sells men’s work wear, had to pay €100 for the use of four parking spaces, in which to park his van in Frances Street.
“It was a disaster. We didn’t cover our expenses. This has happened to me on three occasions since permits were introduced last October 12 months. What’s happening there now, and it’s sticking out a mile, is that traders are not turning up because they just can’t afford the rent. If that continues it’s just going to fall away and that’s it,” he maintained.
Kilrush Town Council bylaws resulted in the re-positioning of stalls and were introduced on September 1, 2011. Four horse fairs are held in Kilrush each year on March 25, the first Thursday in June, October 10 and on November 23.
In October 2012, Ciarán Casey, co-director of Markets Alive Support Team (MAST), claimed that trading fees in Kilrush have increased by 400%. However this was rejected at the time by Kilrush Town Clerk John Corry.
“The fee structure for casual trading was set following a review of the pricing structure in Kilrush and indeed in some other towns where casual trading takes place. I refute the fact that it represents a 400% increase as is claimed by MAST,” the town clerk said.
Another element of the by laws means that traders cannot position their stalls facing the roadway.
“That’s like asking a shop keeper to close his front door and open his back door. That’s what I feel,” John Flynn said.
The veteran trader, whose wife, Mary works with him, says that the number of traders attending the Kilrush horse fair is going to dwindle further.
“A few people that were there yesterday said they weren’t going back there again. They were lads I met when we were tidying up. It has been my livelihood for 27 years. I’m attending Kilrush with over 20 years. My stall costs me €100 a day. It’s €25 per parking bay. I need four of them because I have along van. Then I’ve diesel and other expenses on top of that. It’s disappointing because it’s bringing a lot of people into the town for the day. There was a guy behind me, he runs the Quayside Restaurant, Jim Tubridy. I was in with him on Monday evening and he told me that his turnover on fair days is decimated. Fair days are gone for him. Everyone was getting a few bob out of it in the good days,” John Flynn reflected.
He was accompanied by his wife but neither were stretched on what was a quiet fair day.
“She only comes to Kilrush because it used to be a busy spot. But she needn’t have come on Monday. She’d have managed on her own. We go to Ballinasloe, we attend the national ploughing championships, we go to Puck Fair and several fairs and weekly markets. They’re all very fair with us price wise because they know we’re bringing revenue and people into the town. I’d say Ballinasloe Fair is one hundred times bigger than Kilrush Fair because the town council promote it and look after all the traders,” John Flynn noted.
He says that trade in Kilrush is losing out and not merely the stall-holders who visit the town a few times annually.
“Most traders used to go up there the night before and they’d avail of B&B. Those people are losing out as well. There’s no one going the night before now. We’d all have a few meals and a few pints. Everybody is losing out. It’s just not us. I attended a meeting in Kilrush last August and the town council said they’d look into it. We met the town clerk, John Corry and he came across as being very fair. But there was only about 12 stands in Kilrush on Monday. I counted them. I’d say there was 50 plus traders when it was going well,” he recalled.
Only items on the licence application and approved by Kilrush Town Council can be sold from the stall.
People to who sell newspapers, religious objects, ice cream from mobile vans or periwinkles are exempt from having to buy a trading licence.
Any trader who operates without a licence could be subject to a €1,270 fine if convicted under Section 14 of the 1995 Causal Trading Act.