THE TOWN of Killmallock, County Limerick, looks like something out of the "Wild West", a local Councillor has said.
According to The Limerick Leader, Cllr PJ Carey has called on parents and Gardaí to clamp down on children as young as six years old who are racing sulkies up and down the main street of the town.
“It is a big problem," Cllr Carey said. "I have seen national school children as young as six and seven in sulkies. They are tiny little guys sitting behind Shetland ponies. It is going on seven days a week in Kilmallock. It is dangerous and it is illegal."
The Councillor was speaking at a local Joint Policing Sub-Committee when he described the town looking like something out of the 'Wild West'. He said that horses are tied up in public green areas while some are left to roam the local parks, which, as a result, are left covered in horse excrement.
"They are getting more and more emboldened because there is no enforcement," he said.
“One day I was driving up town. There was a young lad, probably 12 or 13, on a bike pulling a fair big, powerful pony with a rope. I don’t know how many laws he was breaking. Traffic was held up. A [Garda] squad car passed by and kept driving."
He cited Ireland's law o the Control of Horses Act 1996 which states that horses must be chipped and have official identification and license, any horses on public roads must be fitted with a bridle, and the rider must be over the age of 16.
He called on Gardaí to take responsibility in ensuring the law was being followed, but Superintendent John Ryan argued that it was not straightforward as the Gardaí had to liaise with the council or Department of Agriculture and the costs of removing horses were "huge".
Martin Collins, member of Traveller Rights organisation Pavee Point, spoke to the Limerick leader in defense of the children riding the sulkies across the town.
"If there is no threat to health and safety of people directly involved, or the animals or members of the public, then I honestly can’t see what the issue is.
"If there is a threat to public safety then that is a different matter altogether."
Mr Collins admitted he did not know the "local context" of the issue in Killmallock but argued that for young children sulky racing could be "a deterrent".
“I mean if these young children didn’t have their ponies and their sulkies then God knows what other sort of anti-social behaviour they might get involved in in a few years time such as crime or drug addiction, and then, of course, you have mental health issues.
“It could potentially be a very positive healthy hobby,”