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Controversial cockfight plans were a publicity stunt that got out of hand

The PSNI met with a man after people called for a boycott of a festival he’s organising.

shutterstock_622652690 Source: Shutterstock/XudozhNik

THERE HAS BEEN a lot of criticism in recent days about a cockfight supposedly being held in Fermanagh.

The controversial event was reportedly due to take place at the Lady of the Lake Festival in Irvinestown later this month.

Festival organiser and local hotelier Joe Mahon seemed to defend the event in an interview with the Impartial Reporter last week.

“This year we’ve decided to have a cockfight; two cocks from the street will be fighting. It will be one of the highlights of the festival. We are hoping to have plenty of cocks there to take part.

“We have carried out a full risk assessment and have spoken to various people about this. I’ve already met the police regarding the whole festival and there have been no issues raised,” Mahon said.


Since then there has been an angry reaction from animal rights groups, politicians and members of the public. Alliance leader Naomi Long described the plan as “vile”.

However, speaking to TheJournal.ie yesterday, Mahon confirmed his comments were indeed a publicity stunt.

He said organisers always arrange for “something different” to take place at the festival’s Fair Day.

Last year we had a sheep dung spitting competition, we had wolf whistling, we had a leprechaun parade, we had a frog race. This year we are having a cockfight with two people dressed up as cocks.

Mahon said he “cannot believe” some people took his remarks seriously, adding that most locals knew it was a joke.

A local person told TheJournal.ie Mahon is known for pulling off “outlandish” stunts, but is also “very charitable” and has raised a lot of money for charity over the years through the festival.

After a number of people raised concerns, the PSNI met Mahon.

Chief Inspector Clive Beatty said: “Police have met with the festival organiser who confirmed that there is to be no illegal cockfighting as part of this event.”

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‘Barbaric act of cruelty’ 

Cockfighting is illegal and deemed a form of animal cruelty, but the events are still known to take place.

In 2013, a number of birds were seized in Fermanagh as part of an investigation into cockfighting. People convicted of engaging in the practice face a prison sentence and/or a fine.

On foot of Mahon’s original comments, the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) called for the festival, which has been running for 39 years, to be boycotted.

LACS spokeswoman Janice Watt described cockfighting as “a barbaric act of cruelty” and said Mahon should still apologise over the comments.

It’s not something that should be joked about. Would he have found it acceptable to say he was holding an illegal dog fight?

“I fail to see the humour. How does proposing a barbaric, cruel spectacle in public attract people to attend? He really should issue an apology, people are very upset,” Watt added.

She noted that the fact illegal cockfighting has been known to take place in Fermanagh makes “makes it all the more unsavory”.

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Órla Ryan

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