It was a debate that divided the council. The motion: To introduce by-laws or measures in the borough to prevent circuses that use wild animals from performing here.
Green Party Cllr Malcolm Noonan said there was well-documented evidence of serious animal welfare issues arising from the practice.
In the end, one Fine Gael councillor broke ranks to support the motion, but ultimately it was the votes of his party colleagues, coupled with those of the Fianna Fail members that defeated it.
“We’re going from NAMA to llama here,” said Cllr Noonan, introducing the motion.
“This was passed in a number of councils around the country, and at electoral levels. The year 2012 is no place to be carting wild animals around.”
Support came from Sinn Fein’s Councillor Kathleen Funchion, who seconded the motion.
Cllr John Coonan (FF) then addressed the council.
“I love animals,” he said.
“[Animal welfare] is important, but I am not aware of any documented evidence here that serious welfare issues are the norm. In the absence of this, I’m not sure. Maybe we should enquire more into this.”
“Any circus I visited recently, I didn’t see any tigers or lions; I saw dogs and ponies. And I didn’t see any evidence of animal suffering. I am not adopting something I’m not aware of.”
Fine Gael councillor Paul Cuddihy followed suit.
“If animals are being mistreated, then we deal with it,” he said.
“If there is a bad driver on High Street, you don’t close High Street. We have had circuses here for decades, and the amount of animals in use has declined. I will vote against this motion because I don’t want to damage the circus industry any further – it is part of our heritage and culture.”
Then, his fellow Fine Gael councillor David Fitzgerald voiced his opinion on the matter.
“I will disagree with my party colleagues,” he said.
“In my reading of this, it is the use of ‘wild’ animals – not dogs and ponies – and I believe that it is unsatisfactory and not helpful in this day and age. This is not an attack on circuses; it is specifically about the use of wild animals and I would not like to see the return of wild tigers, lions or elephants.”
The division within the chamber meant the issue went to a vote. It ended 6–4, with two absent councillors.
The motion was not carried:
Cllr Martin Brett (FG): Against.
Cllr John Coonan (FF): Against.
Cllr Paul Cuddihy (FG): Against.
Cllr David Fitzgerald (FG): For.
Cllr Marie Fitzpatrick (Lab): Absent.
Cllr Kathleen Funchion (SF): For.
Cllr Jimmy Leahy (FG): Absent.
Cllr Joe Malone (FF): Against.
Cllr Andrew McGuinness (FF): Against.
Cllr Malcolm Noonan (Green): For.
Cllr Sean O’ hArgain (Lab): For.
Cllr Joe Reidy (FF): Against.