Smithfield in Dublin

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Smithfield 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. The area used to have a seasonal ice rink from early November to early January each year since 2003, but in 2010 the venue was not set up due to unknown reasons.

Historically, Smithfield was a suburb of Oxmantown and lay within the civil parish of St. Paul's. There is no general agreement on the extent of the area known as Smithfield, but it might be said to incorporate 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 recently 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 "played a role" of Checkpoint Charlie in the movie.

Smithfield was recently rejuvenated under the HARP (Historic Area Rejuvenation Plan) . 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. Following each monthly horse fair at the plaza, despite the best efforts of city council cleaning staff, the cobbles remain stained and grubby, with animal waste to be found permanently staining the plaza.

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 are regularly to 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.

The square was used to hold several concerts after its renovation but these were discontinued following complaints from local residents. Today, 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), many people are to be found at Smithfield Market at many times, with the plaza providing a convenient through route for local residents, as well as for a significant 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

The area is known for the historical Horse market which is held on every first Sunday of the month.

However, the city council is continuing with its efforts of trying to move the centuries-old horse market out of the area, with many new residents to the area, including those from the facing Smithfield Market apartments, especially uncomfortable with its atmosphere, noise, perceptions of animal abuse and neglect, and occasional bouts of violence amongst a minority of animal traders, although a discreet police (Garda) presence helps to maintain order. Although the Smithfield Horse Fair continues to draw heavy and sustained criticism from a wide range of sources, including An Garda Siochana, and the Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) , legal difficulties in closing down and/or moving away the market , coupled with its centuries-old heritage, have left the city council and the horse fair defenders locked in an ongoing battle without any clear resolution ahead .

6 March 2011 shooting

Around 11:30 am on the morning of horse fair on 6 March 2011 shooting occurred as a result of a feud between two traveller families. Three people were wounded. An explosive device was recovered and examined by Irish Army experts. Two men were arrested by Gardaí.

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Dublin City Council and the DSPCA called for the immediate closure of the fair.

3 April 2011 incident

3 people were arrested over a seizure when a horse galloped through the area.


The Smithfield area is also home to the Dublin City Fruit Vegetable and Flower Market. The Fish Market adjacent to it was torn down by the City Council who plan to redevelop the rest of the site.

Smithfield's iconic 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. Today, the tower's exterior - which is loosely clad in sagging, protective green safety nets - acts as a highly-visible marker for the area's continuing and unexpected decline in fortunes.

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 . It closed at this location in April 2011 due to difficulties in paying the rent.


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 . 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.

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