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Planning can go ahead for the 400th Spancilhill Horse Fair now the issue of insurance has been sorted. Photograph by Arthur Ellis.

Spancillhill plans for 400th Fair now insurance is covered

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ORGANISERS of the Spancilhill Fair have expressed their relief now that a threat to the future of the world-famous event has been lifted.

Despite having no claims for more than three decades running, the committee had been unable to secure insurance for the horse fair, which attracts thousands of visitors and traders annually.

It seemed that the 400-year-old festival would have to be mothballed permanently, after a two-year pandemic hiatus. On Monday last (April 11) however, the County Council intervened with CEO Pat Dowling announcing that cover had been secured. 

The fair’s PRO Paddy Hassett said the breakthrough was “the best news” and a huge relief to the committee and the thousands for whom the fair is an important social and business outing.

“We just couldn’t get a quote for this year’s event and we were very worried for months,” he said.

“We’ve had no claim for 35 years, but without cover, we were looking at calling the fair off altogether. We are very grateful to the Council and to the councillors that we can now keep going.”

At Monday’s local authority meeting, the Councils CEO, Pat Dowling, confirmed – to a round of applause from the chamber – that insurance cover had been secured.

The announcement followed a cross-party motion tabled by Councillors Clare Colleran Molloy, PJ Kelly, Pat Hayes, Pat Burke and Joe Cooney, calling on the authority to address the issue. 

Councillor Colleran Molloy asked that the situation be looked at, after receiving representations from members of the Fairs organising committee. Its a very, very important part of our heritage,” she said.

Councillor Kelly noted that the name and reputation of the Fair had put Clare on the map worldwide, while Councillors Hayes, Burke and Cooney agreed that it would be a huge blow to rural Ireland if it were to be lost.

Councillor Alan OCallaghan added that in light of the status of the Fair on the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage, sponsored by UNESCO, it was crucial to maintain the tradition.

Councillor Joe Killeen noted that the Fair is quite unique, while Councillor Pat Daly commended the dedicated organising committee.

Support also came from Councillor Gerry Flynn, John Crowe and Cathaoirleach PJ Ryan.

Councillor Colleran Molloy thanked Mr Dowling for his positive and can-do” approach to the issue, and welcomed his work to secure insurance cover.

Mr Dowling said that good relationships with insurers needs to be cultivated. We need them for a range of outdoor events,” he said. For the last couple of years, there has been a reduction in pay outs and the fact that more players are likely to come into the market gives hope for the future.”

Following the announcement, Mr Hassett, a local vet, said the Spancilhill Fair committee is now looking forward to planning this year’s event, which will take place under long-established tradition on June 23. 

“The 400th anniversary, which fell last year, will form part of our considerations,” he confirmed.

“A man called Kieran Sheedy wrote a play about the fair. He was in touch with us lately and we’re thinking of reviving that as a pageant. It was about the High Court case in the 1920s where the urban council tried to take over the running of the horse fair. It’s ironic that in 2022 it’s the Council who has come to our aid and helped the fair to continue. That’s how the pendulum swings.”

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