Smithfield, Dublin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Coordinates: 53°20′55″N 6°16′42″W / 53.34861°N 6.27833°W / 53.34861; -6.27833

Chimney with observation decks in Smithfield

Smithfield (Irish: Margadh na Feirme, meaning "Farm Market") is an area on the Northside of Dublin. Its focal point is a public square, formerly an open market, now officially called Smithfield Plaza, but known locally as Smithfield Square or Smithfield Market.

Notable landmarks include the Old Jameson Whiskey Distillery and the Observation Tower.

Historically, Smithfield was a suburb of Oxmantown and lay within the civil parish of St. Paul's.[1] There is no general agreement on the extent of the area known as Smithfield, but it roughly incorporates the area bounded by the River Liffey to the south, Bow Street to the east, Queen Street to the west, and North Brunswick street in the suburb of Grangegorman to the north.


Smithfield Market was laid out in the mid 17th century as a marketplace. Until its renovation in the early 21st Century, the square was lined with inner city 'farm yards' housing livestock. In 1964 Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor spent time here, as Burton worked on the film set in Smithfield for the film adaptation of John le Carré's novel The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Smithfield featured as Checkpoint Charlie in the movie.[2]

Smithfield was rejuvenated under the HARP (Historic Area Rejuvenation Plan).[3] An architectural competition was held and won by McGarry NiEanaigh Architects in 1997. The restoration involved lifting more than 400,000 one hundred and twenty-year-old cobblestones, cleaning them by hand and re-laying them.

Contemporary architecture and twelve 26.5 metre gas lighting masts, each with a 2-metre flame, now flank the square. Although the flames are rarely lit, the lighting mast shades can at times be seen in different colours, reflecting cultural events throughout the year. For example, they change to a vivid green shade as part of St Patrick's Day celebrations, and were changed to rainbow colours for the opening night of the 2015 GAZE International LGBT Film Festival at Smithfield's Light House Cinema.

Smithfield square, Dublin.
Smithfield Square evening.

The square was used to hold several concerts after its renovation but these were discontinued following complaints from local residents[citation needed]. Although the site has not developed as a 'Western IFSC' as had been originally anticipated (in reference to the city's main financial hub to the east and its related significant 'white-collar professional' residential zones), the plaza is providing a convenient through route for local residents as well as for a number of professionals and users of a range of court and legal-related services and buildings in the area. These range from the Prison Probation Services through to the Family Court and the Law Society of Ireland, amongst others, with Smithfield and Smithfield Market situated in convenient proximity to Dublin's legal/prosecution hub of The Four Courts.

Horse fair[edit]

Smithfield horse fair, Dublin.
The Smithfield horse market. March 2008.

The area is known for the historical Horse market which is held on the first Sunday of March and September.[4]

The Horse Fair used to take place every month. A Bye-law passed on 14 January 2013 reduced it to twice a year and this also established some new rules and regulations.[5] The main causes for the change were some violent incidents and objections of nearby residents who are uncomfortable with its atmosphere, noise, perceptions of animal abuse and neglect. The Smithfield Horse Fair continues to draw heavy and sustained criticism from a wide range of sources, including An Garda Síochána, and the Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA),.[6][7]

6 March 2011 shooting[edit]

On 6 March 2011 a shooting occurred as a result of a feud between two traveller families.[8][9] Three people were wounded. An explosive device was recovered and examined by Irish Army experts. Two men were arrested by Gardaí.[10][11]

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Dublin City Council and the DSPCA called for the immediate closure of the fair.[12][13][14]

3 April 2011 incident[edit]

3 people were arrested when gardaí attempted to seize a horse from a man who had ridden the horse at a gallop through the area.[15]


The old Jameson Distillery Chimney tower, and its observation deck, is no longer accessible to the public as it has long-since been closed due to health and safety concerns.

The Light House Cinema was resurrected in May 2008 in the Smithfield Square, after it had been forced to close its doors on Abbey Street on 27 September 1996.[16]


Smithfield may include the satellite, and developing "Museum district" to the west, and the Four Courts district to the east. These districts are largely residential and combined with the area around Smithfield square they comprise the main Liffey river frontage of Dublin 7.

Recent commercial, residential and cultural developments led to the area becoming newly fashionable in the first decade of the 21st century.[17] However, most notably in the period 2008 to 2010, stagnation set in as developments stalled and the Irish economy/property market nose-dived once the post-Celtic Tiger economic recession struck. The significant issues of variable apartment occupancy rates, coupled with closed retail spaces and a near-absolute majority of unfinished and unoccupied commercial units at Smithfield Market have created a highly visible reminder of the economic and community challenges still to be addressed in this historic part of Dublin.

The Red Luas Line skirts the square to the south, providing a convenient link to the nearby city centre, or to the far south of the city, to Tallaght or Saggart.

Preceding station   Luas   Following station
The Four Courts
towards Connolly or The Point
  Red Line   Museum
towards Tallaght or Saggart


  1. ^ Twomey, Brendan (2005). Smithfield and the parish of St Paul, Dublin, 1698 - 1750. Dublin: Four Courts Press. p. 7. ISBN 1-85182-895-8. 
  2. ^ Frank, McNally (2 July 2010). "An Irishman's Diary". The Irish Times. 
  3. ^ "'There used to be winos lying in Smithfield... now you see barristers stepping over them'". Sunday Tribune. 5 July 2009. 
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ "'Miracle nobody killed' at Smithfield horse fair: DSPCA". Irish Examiner. 6 March 2011. Retrieved 6 March 2011. 
  7. ^ "'There used to be winos lying in Smithfield... now you see barristers stepping over them'". Sunday Tribune. 5 July 2009. 
  8. ^ Kelly, Olivia (6 March 2011). "Two shot at Smithfield horse fair". The Irish Times. Retrieved 7 March 2011. 
  9. ^ Kelly, Olivia (7 March 2011). "Violence should not harm event's future, say traders". The Irish Times. Retrieved 7 March 2011. 
  10. ^ Alison Bray; Tom Brady (7 March 2011). "Three hurt in shootout at Smithfield horse fair". Irish Independent. Retrieved 7 March 2011. 
  11. ^ Kelly, Olivia (7 March 2011). "One man arrested after two injured in shooting at Smithfield horse fair". The Irish Times. 
  13. ^ Bray, Alison (7 March 2011). "Calls for closure of market where discount horses, ponies and donkeys have been traded since 1665". Irish Independent. Retrieved 7 March 2011. 
  14. ^ Aoife Carr; Olivia Kelly. "Dublin mayor to seek horse fair ban". The Irish Times. Retrieved 7 March 2011. 
  15. ^ "Three arrested at Smithfield Horse Fair". RTÉ. 3 April 2011.
  16. ^ Neil Connolly, Maretta Dillon (May 2008). "History of the Light House Cinema". Light House Cinema. 
  17. ^ "'There used to be winos lying in Smithfield... now you see barristers stepping over them'". Sunday Tribune. 5 July 2009. 

Smithfield is also mentioned in Sinead O'Conners song "Black boys on mopeds"