TRADERS in Skibbereen are planning to respond to Cork County Council’s proposal to introduce new market by-laws by submitting a flood of submissions.
But they are also raising funds and forming a limited company with a view to legally challenging the introduction of the by-laws.
Representatives from Skibbereen Farmers’ Market spoke in defence of the town’s existing and historic market rights at a public meeting held at the West Cork Hotel on Wednesday, December 14th. By a show of hands, 40 of the 50 people present said they were opposed to the introduction of the by-laws.
Market trader, Gerald Kelleher, gave a brief summary of the proposed by-laws, which the Council says it is obliged to roll out under the Casual Trading Act, and said traders had a number of concerns, especially in relation to location and cost.
He said the traditional market rights – which go back hundreds of years – safeguard a producer’s right to trade on market day in any part of the town.
However, following a lengthy legal battle about market rights in Bantry, the Council is now seeking to regularise the farmers’ markets throughout the county.
In this regard, Bantry is regarded as a pilot project. There, traders are required to pay an annual licence fee of €10, plus €5 per car parking space, or stall, per week. At present, the traders in Skibbereen collect a nominal amount amongst themselves and engage their own manager.
Mr Kelleher said the Council claimed their proposed laws would be ‘a reasonable sum,’ but it did not say how much. There is also an assertion that the cost of running the market should be borne by the traders.
Mr Kelleher questioned the fairness of this, considering that towns like Bantry and Skibbereen have around 100 stalls, but markets in Clonakilty and Bandon have between 30 and 40.
Solicitor Conor Murphy, from Kenmare, said: ‘The Council is obliged to request submissions, but there is no obligation on the Council to apply the submissions. And a person aggrieved can appeal the by-laws to the district court.’
There were some people at the meeting who advocated the use of ‘civil disobedience.’ Jacinta French said: ‘If we allow the Council control us, we are at the whim and mercy of every County Council for the next 100 years.’
Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) maintained: ‘It is not an “us and them” situation. The Council recognises the importance of the markets and is trying to improve the situation.
‘They are draft by-laws. They are not set in stone. You must make submissions,’ said the councillor.
‘We will be looking at every submission carefully and your ideas will be incorporated into the by-laws.’
Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) also attended the meeting. He said he would ask Council officials to meet with ‘the top table’ representatives because he believes dialogue is the way to work it out.