Puck organisers put

the King’s welfare first

The Killorglin Puck Festival organisers did what any rational group of people should do when challenged about something they’ve been doing for decades.

They considered issues raised by a large number of people about the welfare of King Puck during this year’s festival, which of course coincided with an August heatwave with temperatures reaching well into the top 20s.

In fairness, the Puck festival organisers put the safety of King Puck front and centre in all they do. So it was no surprise that they removed Puck from his perch over the famous town on two occasions when there was even the remotest possibility of stress to the animal.

They’d have done that anyway irrespective of all the media commentary, particularly on Joe Duffy’s populist RTÉ radio show, Liveline.

Puck Festival makes an enormous contribution to the cultural life of Kerry – and Ireland. It says something very real about a less-organised and much more visceral past, when old pagan customs held sway before the arrival of a structured christian religion, to be followed by still more religions thereafter.

One of the great attractions of the Puck is the cultural puzzle it presents as to its precise meaning.

Clearly, Puck festival is rooted in the twin notions of fertility and celebration of harvest – both laudable human ambitions that are as old as the hills.

These concerns provide food for the soul, remind us of the light grip we all hold of life and how we should party like they did in the olden days as we prepare for winter.

It was perfectly predictable that Deputy Danny Healy-Rae would lash out at Puck Festival critics – but there needs to be a more nuanced reaction overall.

Because, in truth, there are legitimate animal welfare concerns about keeping a wild animal in a cage, fifty feet above the ground, for a number of days, irrespective of the reason. One thing is absolutely beyond doubt – this is not Puck’s natural environment.

So organisers should look at the necessity to maintain Puck’s presence in his lofty throne for the entire festival.

Could he be enthroned as King Puck at the opening, and then released into a more comfortable area, on terra firma, to be returned before his adoring subjects later for dethroning to signal the end of festivities?

What would be wrong with that as a middle-way, to satisfy welfare demands and at the same time continue a tradition we must not lose?