Prior to last week’s budget announcement, I received a response from Fine Gael to questions on government support for the sport horse industry which I posed to them and other major political parties several weeks ago. These responses emphasised the commitment of former Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed and current Minister of State Martin Hayden to the sector. It is disappointing that this did not fully translate into action in Budget 2022, but it still holds hope for the future.

1. Does Fine Gael agree that the Government should give financial support to the Irish sport horse industry?

Yes, the Irish sport horse indusry plays a vital role in Irish and rural life, and Fine Gael recognises the significant potential of the industry to grow and develop. With that in mind, support has been provided financially and with policy initiatives to maximise this potential.

2. Could the industry’s current support be increased?

Fine Gael has always placed importance on supporting the sector. As a result, the Department of Agriculture funding for Horse Sport Ireland and its breeding programmes has been steadily increased under successive Governments that Fine Gael has been a part of. As Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed increased the budget between 2018 and 2019 and this was further increased last year with the support of Minister of State Martin Heydon. Deliberations around Budget 2022 are ongoing, but Fine Gael remains committed to ensuring the sector is adequately resourced.

3. What role do you envisage the Irish sport horse industry can play in sustainable Irish agriculture under the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and post-Brexit?

All sectors, including agriculture and the sport horse industry, will have a part to play in the wider societal effort to ensure sustainability is at the heart of everything we do. The CAP reform and the fallout from the UK’s decision to leave the EU are significant changes the industry must face. However, Fine Gael is certain that the Irish sport horse industry will meet these challenges and continue to play a central role in parishes the length and breadth of the country.

4. Can the sport horse industry encourage more women to participate in agriculture, and could it also help keep younger people in Irish agriculture?

The sport horse sector has done exceptional work to date in ensuring all those who wish to get involved, including women, can do so on an equal footing. It has also long been an area that has attracted young people passionate about the equine industry. These two elements, vital to the long-term sustainability of any sector, are closely monitored and further enhanced.