'Have a heart': Taoiseach weighs in on Piper's wagon controversy 

The organisers of a public rally planned for Sunday afternoon say they are demanding that Cork County Council reverse its controversial decision to instruct the Piper family to remove their showman’s wagon from its traditional parking spot on Kinsale’s Short Quay.
'Have a heart': Taoiseach weighs in on Piper's wagon controversy 

Brendan Piper, Piper's Fun Fair Kinsale and Cllr Sean O'Donovan with the showman's wagon currently being kept at Brendan's home near Glandore, Co. Cork. Photograph: David Forsythe

A weekend show of support is being planned for a traditional funfair instructed to leave its home of 90 years in a Cork town.

The organisers of a public rally planned for Sunday afternoon say they are demanding that Cork County Council reverse its controversial decision to instruct the Piper family to remove their showman’s wagon from its traditional parking spot on Kinsale’s Short Quay.

They say they want Pipers’ wagon returned to Short Quay and they also want to see the return of Pipers funfair to Kinsale Town Park without increased rents.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has also weighed in on the issue, calling on the council to 'have a heart'. He made the comments in the Dáil on Wednesday after the issue was raised by West Cork TD Christopher O’Sullivan. 

"I would ask Cork County Council to have a heart in relation to this," Mr Martin said. "We must always in our community have a community-based response, and if 2,000 people have signed a petition for something that’s 90-years there, that merits a warm-hearted response.”

The protest, which is scheduled for 3pm on Sunday, comes after Cork County Council issued a statement defending its part in the controversy, noting that it had traditionally charged Pipers funfair “an exceptionally modest rent” for its occupation of the town centre carpark on Kinsale’s Short Quay.

The council said that in 2019 it had engaged in discussions with the Piper family “to update and regularise the annual arrangement for the funfair and the formal proposals included specific increases to the charge starting in 2019”.

The Covid-19 pandemic meant the Piper Funfair was unable to occupy the Short Quay site in 2020 or 2021, and when Brendan Piper enquired earlier this year about the funfair resuming this summer, he said the council had sought a rent increase for this summer, and had alerted him to an additional rent increase of €1,000 next year, a further increase of €2,500 in 2024 and yet a further increase of €5,000 in 2025.

In its statement, Cork County Council said the rents quoted are “significantly below market levels” but reflect a contribution for services provided by the council in Kinsale, noting that those services are in part paid for by rates, and pointing out that the funfair does not pay rates.

“The funfair is traditional to the site and a unique offering for the town residents and visitors and it is in this context that the rent payment has been, and continues to be, heavily subsidised,” the council said.

“The rent proposed for 2022 is a nominal charge in the context of commercial rents incurred by ratepayers in the town.” 

One of the organisers of Sunday’s planned show of support claimed the planned rent increases would make the running of the funfair economically unviable, and said the local community was appalled by “unilateral actions by the council, without any community engagement”.

Local Green Party representative Marc Ó Riain said that Piper's wagon and the ‘Merries’ had been an integral part of Kinsale since 1932.

“We do not want to see a family effectively run out of town, and we, as a community, are going to stand by them,” Mr Ó Riain said.

“Brendan Piper and his family just want to run a funfair for the kids of Kinsale and into a fourth generation.” 

Councillor Sean O’Donovan told The Echo he was urging local people to stand together against “the eradication of a traditional family business in the town for over 90 years”.

A change.org petition calling on the council to reverse its decision had by Wednesday reached almost 2,000 signatures.

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