CORK County Council has defended its handling of the Piper’s funfair and showman’s wagon saga in Kinsale and said it has traditionally charged them an ‘exceptionally modest rent’ for occupation of a popular town centre carpark in Kinsale.
A feature of Kinsale since 1932, the iconic wagon was recently removed by the Piper family from its Short Quay location due to legal threats, and they now find themselves having to sign a three-year lease if they wish to hold their popular summer funfair at the town park.
Councillors at a recent meeting said the family was being ‘hounded’ out of Kinsale as they faced increasing rent hikes for the next three years and would be forced to leave the town park after that and scout for a new location for their funfair.
Cork County Council said the Piper family engaged in discussions with it in 2019 to update and regularise the annual arrangement for the funfair and the formal proposals includes specific increases to the charge starting in 2019.
However, due to the pandemic, they were not able to occupy the site in 2020 and 2021.
‘The Piper family indicated earlier this year that they wished to return to Kinsale for the summer of 2022 and their attention was drawn to the previously discussed rental charges, which contain the rent significantly below market levels but reflect a necessary contribution for services which are provided by the Council in Kinsale,’ said a spokesperson.
The Council said that because the funfair doesn’t incur commercial rates during the temporary occupation of the carpark, the rental is applied to support the services which are available for visitors to the funfair.
‘The rent proposed for 2022 is a nominal charge in the context of commercial rents incurred by ratepayers in the town.’
Cork County Council added that it engaged in a legal process, which was initiated by the owners of a caravan previously parked in the Short Quay, to address the owner’s right to occupy the public area and the owner subsequently removed the caravan on a voluntary basis.
‘It is normal and appropriate for the Council to refute unestablished claims to permanently occupy public areas or unsubstantiated claims of ownership,’ it added.
Cllr Sean O’Donovan (FF) said he isn’t happy with the Council response which he said didn’t mention the substantial yearly rent hikes that the Piper family could face.
‘I can’t understand why there is an issue with them and people in Kinsale are very angry with the Council and they want to know who made the decision. It’s giving a negative impression of the town too which isn’t helpful,’ said Cllr O’Donovan.
‘The showman’s wagon, which was on Short Quay is iconic feature in the town. The only way he could get the licence for the funfair was to also sign a licence agreement to move the wagon over to the town park.’
Meanwhile, a public gathering will take place in Short Quay in Kinsale this Sunday at 3pm calling for the wagon to be re-installed to its former location and the return of the funfair to the town park without increase rents.
An online petition, organised by Marc O’Riain, local Green Party representative and Helen Hickey – who once worked in Piper’s Funfair – has already got almost 2,000 signatures.
‘The community are shocked and appalled by these unilateral actions by the Council without any community engagement and the wagon and the merries have been a part of Kinsale since 1932,’ he said.
‘It’s an integral part of the community,’ said Marc Ó Riain, who described the situation facing the Piper family in Kinsale as ‘absolutely heartbreaking.’