Irish Examiner

WED, 01 APR, 2020 – 07:30SEAN O’RIORDAN

English monarchs have ’’come back’’ to haunt plans by the largest local authority in the country to designate where casual traders can set out their stalls.

Cork County Council had been planning to become the first local authority in the country to drawn up comprehensive plans to regulate casual trading, including creating defined trading spaces which mobile businesses would be confined to.

However, the plans have been put on hold because it has emerged that a number of towns and villages in the county were given royal decrees over the centuries, which basically allowed traders to hold markets wherever they liked within them.

Even though the monarchs are long in the grave, their decrees were not declared invalid when the Irish State was founded and are therefore considered by many to be binding legal documents.

Some of the royal decrees are believed to date back to the 14th century. Also, some traders believe that as markets have been going in some towns for centuries they have the right of custom to continue the practice without being corralled into certain locations.

A test case has been mounted against the council plans by a group in Bantry which is to be heard by the High Court. A county council spokeswoman said they are awaiting the result of that case.

In the meantime, the Council was forced to take its own legal advice and employ an archivist to research ancient market rights across the county. This report has been completed and handed to council officials.

A Council spokeswoman said: “The report needs further examination before being made public.”

In recent days, the ’’spectre’’ of having casual traders pop up wherever they like has been criticised by councillors.

They feel this is creating a public health issue, especially where people are not observing correct distancing while queuing at food stalls. Councillors wanted them banned but the British monarchs’’ decrees have hampered this.

Some markets are held in car parks which are owned by the Council. It was suggested by some councillors that these could be closed off to traders temporarily.

However, while Government has clamped down on such gatherings, regulating the casual traders will become problematic yet again once the Covid-19 pandemic is over.

Cllr Declan Hurley is calling on the Government to implement emergency new legislation, which will immediately declare old market rights null and void so as to overcome the ancient decrees.

He said this will give the necessary powers to local authorities to implement new casual trading by-laws to deal with the serious lack of social distancing where trading in public spaces is being carried out: “National legislation is the only and quickest way to get over these decrees, which are preventing local authorities from introducing proper, workable and controlled casual trading.”