Councillors to demand detailed breakdown of horse trading costs

TWO members of Moyle District Council will demand a detailed breakdown of costs relating to horse trading at the Oul Lammas Fair.

Councillors David McAllister and Seamus Blaney, who sit on the Lammas Fair Working committee, say they are dismayed by the financial commitment by the council to this year’s event and feel the ratepayers are entitled to know exactly where and how the money is being spent.

Controversy had raged over a council ban on horses ending years of tradition at the Fair, but in the face of a concerted campaign by traders and some councillors, the ban was subsequently overturned.

Questions were then raised in relation to the cost of accommodating the horses under the Animal Welfare Act in addition to other aspects such as security and veterinary charges.

Esther Mulholland, Head of Development Services, said the money had to be spent on clearing the old council yard with a digger, concreting some areas, surfacing work, stewards, toilets and overnight security.

Speaking after last week’s meeting in which the majority members rejected a motion by Councillor Paudie McShane that the council have “absolutely nothing to do with the facilitation of trading” with only Sinn Fein members showing support, Cllrs. Blaney and McAllister said;

“We are not calling into question the integrity of any of the officers who came up with the costs, but as public representatives we feel an obligation to question aspects of the spend.” For example where did the figure of £20,000 in Councillor McShane’s motion come from and how was it arrived at when, beforehand, it was stated as costing £15,000?” said Cllr. Blaney.

The two councillors will also ask for a detailed breakdown of costs for the previous two years horse trading.

“We want complete transparency and clarity on the issues,” they said.

Councillor Paude McShane’s motion also stated that the council “only fulfils its statutory requirements and does not take on the organisation of the horse trading thererfore saving the ratepayer over £20,000.”

Councillor, Cara McShane, expressed her disappointment at the reversal of the decision.

The Sinn Fein member who had earlier proosed that the ban on horse-trading at Fairhill in the town should remain, said in a statement:

“The Council originally took a decision a number of months ago to ban horse-trading because of past experiences of animal cruelty and because the facilities at the Fairhill do not lend themselves to ensuring that animal welfare is protected and to ensure crowd safety. This also came on the back of new legislation which now sees local Councils being responsible for animal welfare as of April this year.

“The Council had took a decision to replace this tradition with a much more attractive event on Fairhill, in the form of horse shows and pony shows, as entertainment for all of the family.

“Now that this decision has been reversed in the eleventh hour, to allow horse-trading on Fairhill, the ratepayers are left to foot a staggering bill of up to £20,000, which I do not believe is good value for money for our ratepayers. This money includes the cost for the preparation of the ground in which the horses will be kept; pens for the horses; water receptacles; crowd-control and safety barriers; security; stewards and veterinary officers.

“In my view this is an unfortunate step back, taken with no thought or regard to the residents who live in this vicinity nor any consideration to the outrageous cost this will have to the ratepayers in Moyle.”

Opposition to the trading also came from Sinn Fein’s Colum Thompson who described the cost as “riduculous” while chair Sandra Hunter said she was fully behind the trading and her Unionist colleague, Joan Baird, said trading was an ancient Irish tradition and it was not for them to try and stop it.

With tongue in cheek, Cllr. Blaney wondered if next year the council might ban the sale of yellow man because of the wasps!