One of the most iconic images of the Eamon De Valera era was his 1933 inspection of 5,000 troops in the Phoenix Park while mounted on an Irish Sport Horse. The internationally-publicised event is in a way symbolic of Fianna Fáil’s support for the sport horse industry. Fast forward some 37 years and we had them marshalling the 1970 Horse Industry Act through the Dail and Seanad.
It was a joy last week to first get contact from one of the party’s Seanad spokespersons, Paul Daly and then from Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue’s office, with answers to questions I had posed to the party. It is also refreshing to note that the responses forwarded by Patrick Donohue are clearly focused on the sport horse industry rather than the sport. So, here are the Fianna Fáil responses as they came to us last week:
Does Fianna Fáil agree that the Government should give financial support to the Irish sport horse industry?
“Yes. As the lead party in Government, with the portfolio of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Fianna Fáil is absolutely committed to the Irish sport horse industry. Not only does it have economic benefits and supports a balanced regional economy, it also plays a very strong social aspect for many in rural Ireland.”
Could the sport horse industry’s current level of support be increased?
“This will be taken into account under the process for setting Budget 2022 which is currently ongoing. It must be acknowledged that the budget for horse sport has been increased over the last successive budgets.”
What role do the party envisage the Irish sport horse industry can play in sustainable Irish agriculture, under the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and post-Brexit?
“The programme for government commits to supporting the sector over the lifetime of the Government. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine Charlie McConalogue is currently negotiating the next CAP where all aspects of the tapestry of agriculture will be taken into account.”
Can the sport horse industry encourage more women to take part in agriculture and could it also help keep younger people in Irish agriculture?
“The sport horse sector has played a real leadership role in the space of promoting and encouraging participation by women. Agriculture and the sport horse sector are richly intertwined and Fianna Fáil, as the largest party in Government, will continue to take a leadership in this space.”
I am still awaiting responses on similar questions posed to Fine Gael, Labour, the Social Democrats and People Before Profit. As the budget looms, I still look forward to hearing from them.