Last Tuesday evening (13 July) saw Kildare North TD James Lawless (FF) raise questions in the Dáil on the decision by Horse Sport Ireland to not enter a dressage team for this year’s Tokyo Olympic Games which are due to kick off on Friday 23 July.
“Rather than sending a replacement team, Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) and the coach decided to send no team at all. It is not that the team did not want or was not able to go but it was prevented from going, which is a real travesty,” Lawless said.
Lawless also mentioned that the decision was announced on the day of the deadline for Olympic entries, making it too late to turn it around. He added: “I am told that the coach is based in California and has been selecting participants by Zoom calls. A standard had been set of 68% criteria, but 66% is the international normal metric. There are many questions that surround that process. The bottom line is that there are three empty seats in the Tokyo Olympics. When the eyes of the world turn to the dressage arena during those games there will be no Irish flag in the arena.
“That is a crying shame for Irish participants, for dressage riders and for Ireland.
In his response, Junior Minister for Sport Jack Chambers explained that he does not have a role in the operational matters of bodies such as Horse Sport Ireland.
“The selection process for all Olympic athletes and teams is managed through the national governing bodies of sport and the Olympic Federation of Ireland. As part of the process, the national governing bodies agree a comprehensive selection policy with the Olympic Federation of Ireland in advance of the games,” Chambers responded.
“It would be inappropriate for me to intervene in any individual dispute regarding team selection or to comment on whether any individual sport is or is not represented at the games. The Minister with responsibility for sport, of the day, coming in and picking a team for a sporting event more broadly could be problematic for obvious reasons. Nor would it be appropriate for the Minister to intervene in controversial rule changes that may take place from time to time.” Chambers said.
Deputy Lawless responded: “I appreciate that the Minister of State cannot pick the teams, but perhaps the Minister of State could have mandated that a team be sent, provided that the team met certain criteria, which I am told they had. I would not expect any Government Minister or official to get involved in the who or what within that. Not sending a team at all, however, is outrageous and is a national scandal. There were a couple of appeals, one of which was given only partial information.”
Chambers finished by reiterating: “As the Deputy has acknowledged, it would be inappropriate for me to intervene in any individual dispute regarding team selection or to decide who should and should not be represented specifically at the games.”