THE historic Spancil Hill Fair is under threat due to a lack of available insurance but strong support was voiced for the 400-year-old fair by Dáil politicians this week.

Clare TD Michael McNamara (Ind) described the historic fair, set for June 23rd, as ‘a cultural institution’ of national and international importance. Highlighting the lack of insurance cover as a threat to the holding of the 2022 event, the TD called on the Government to take action to protect it.

“Insurance is a significant obstacle for any event. The fair did not take place in 2020 or 2021 because of Covid. It faces an even bigger threat from the state of the insurance industry in Ireland right now. The inability to get insurance is threatening it,” said Deputy McNamara.

“Another famous horse fair in Ireland, at Ballinasloe, is in a position to proceed because it is held in the fair green, which is owned by Galway County Council and is covered by its insurance policy. The Spancil Hill fair is held on a farm, which is private property, and has been since the royal charter was granted in 1621. It cannot be held because of insurance,” added the Clare TD.

Minister for State, Laois-Offaly Deputy Sean Fleming (FF) replied: “It is part of our national inventory of intangible cultural heritage and plays a key role in the local community, not only from an economic perspective but also, more importantly, because it enriches the social dimension of life in the area and wider region.

“Accordingly, I do not take the challenges regarding the accessibility affordability of insurance for such community-based events lightly. In this case, it seems to me that it is not the price that is at issue but that the fair cannot get insurance.

“My understanding - and I stress the word “understanding” - is that although Clare County Council oversees the fair and supports it with financial assistance, the fair itself falls out outside the scope of the Casual Trading Act 1995 due to its historical charter status. As a result, it cannot avail of group insurance schemes operated by the market, active support teams and the Irish Organisation of Market and Street Traders, IOMST, and, therefore, its organisers must seek insurance on a stand-alone event. In that context, it is similar to other such events as the Smithfield Horse Fair and Ballinasloe Fair.

“On a related industry, point-to-point pony clubs and hunts could not get insurance last Christmas. We got that matter sorted, again by a large group of hunts, pony clubs and point-to-point races coming together. There is scope to do that here, although I am not making any commitment whatever.

“It is not my role to get involve in that. However, I ask the Deputy to contact my office and we will talk to Insurance Ireland and Brokers Ireland to see if they can help. I stress again that this a market issue. We will not have a role but if we can point people in a helpful direction, we will be happy to do so,” concluded Minister Fleming.