The number of European horse buyers in Ballinasloe for the annual October Fair has exceeded all expectations – in fact, there were very few horses left unsold at close of business on Monday evening.
There were record crowds in Ballinasloe over the weekend for the horse fair although the numbers on the Monday were slightly down on previous years.
The fair kicked off on Sunday when there was ‘unofficial’ sulky racing on a track beside the Green. Gardai have reported very little trouble although a number of slash hooks were produced over the weekend.
It was thought that there would be major trouble in Ballinasloe following the decision by Galway County Council to ban the tradition of sulky racing which is an opportunity for the Travelling community to ‘flash’ their horses.
But despite the ban, the sulky racing took place and it attracted quite an amount of interest and so, too, did the lunging event – in which horse owners display their animals over jumps on a long rein – as this, too, was under threat of not taking place.
But the intervention of Cllr Michael Finnerty of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail’s Cllr Donal Burke resulted in many of the events going ahead when the future of the fair was under threat.
However, while there were a number of skirmishes among Traveller factions at the fair it was generally quieter than normal with the business community – and particularly the publicans – relishing the additional trade.
It is estimated that there were around 80,000 visitors to Ballinasloe over the weekend but the number of horse buyers from continental Europe took the town by surprise. They were lined up from as early as 5am on Sunday morning.
There were lorries and trailers from Denmark, France and Germany in Ballinasloe with the owners willing to fork out thousands of euros for the horses on display. Most of the horses sold would either be used for breeding purposes or showjumping.
Cllr Michael Finnerty said that despite the supposed ban on sulky racing, this was one of the best festivals ever. “The sulky racing took place despite a ban by Galway County Council and there was very little trouble in the town,” he said.
The FG councillor said that while there was no official opening to the October Fair, there was a huge crowd in Ballinasloe for the horse fair and he was delighted at this. The official opening was abandoned because of the ban on the sulky racing and the possibility of trouble as a result.
The October Fail will continue into next week with showjumping events, tug of war and a country fair day in prospect.
Gardaí bid to identify body recovered near Mutton Island
Gardai have launched an investigation following the discovery of a body in Galway Bay yesterday afternoon.
A member of the public raised the alarm after spotting the body in the water while walking on the causeway to Mutton Island.
Galway Fire Service, Gardai and the RNLI attended the scene and recovered the body at around 4pm, before it was taken to University Hospital Galway for a post mortem.
It is understood that the body may have been in the water for some time.
Gardaí are currently examining a list of missing people in the city.
Gardaí investigate fatal Carraroe crash
A man in his 30s has died following a road crash in Carraroe in the early hours of this morning.
At 3.50am, Gardaí and emergency services attended at a single car collision on a minor road.
The driver of the car, a man in his 30s, was pronounced dead at the scene a short time later. A passenger in the car, a male in his 30s, was taken by ambulance to Galway University Hospital. His injuries are not thought to be life threatening.
The road is currently closed and local diversions are in place. Garda forensic collision investigators will examine the crash site this morning.
Land Development Agency rules out Merlin ‘land grab’
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Campaigners have warned the Land Development Agency (LDA) to keep its hands off Merlin Woods.
Local community group Friends of Merlin Woods said that the amenity on the east side of the city is not suitable for residential development.
It has sought clarification on whether the LDA has earmarked part of the recreational and amenity lands for housing, after it appeared on its online database of publicly-owned lands.
In a statement to the Galway City Tribune, the LDA said its database compiles a list of all State lands, not just land for development.
In relation to Merlin Woods, the LDA said: “Those lands aren’t included in the LDA developments in Galway. The lands database is a map-based tool which compiles all State lands and has no reflection on development potential.”
It came after Caroline Stanley of Friends of Merlin Woods raised concern that land within Merlin Woods had been earmarked for development.
“I’d be concerned that it’s marked as residential when it’s in RA (Recreational and Amenity) land. Some is marked ‘open space’ but some is marked as ‘new proposed residential’ on its [LDA’s] database. It makes us wonder why. We’d like clarity and to clear it up.
“The message we’d like to get out there is we need clarification, whether it’s a mistake on the Land Development Agency’s part, or whether it is an area that they consider as a residential area, which the community would be opposed to. We need clarity. It could be something that is in line for development later on, we don’t know, and we need clarity.”
Councillor Owen Hanley explained that the fears around Merlin Woods stem from legislation currently making its way through the Oireachtas that would strip councillors of powers to veto the transfer of land to the LDA for housing projects.
The Bill would also allow Government to direct what public lands – including those owned by local authorities – can be transferred to the LDA for development of social and affordable housing.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.