Last week we published the Green Party’s responses to my questions regarding their views on the Irish sport horse industry. This week it’s the turn of Sinn Féin.

Their spokesperson on agriculture, Matt Carthy TD, prefaced his answers by stating: “At the outset I would say that I agree with your own recent comments that the sector needs to be taken more seriously.”

Q: Does Sinn Féin agree that the Government should give financial support to the Irish sport horse industry?

Matt Carthy (MC): My own office, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Sport Chris Andrews TD, and other party representatives have had a number of constructive engagements with the sector over the past year, and believe that the Government should support horse racing in Ireland, subject to strict conditions relating to transparency and accountability of all monies received and robust enforcement of animal welfare standards.

Q: Could its current support to the sport horse industry be increased?

MC: If necessary, but it must be on the basis of independent economic and value-for-money analysis.

In the case of horse sport this means assisting to develop the economic value of the sector; supporting the full breadth of the sector, in particular breeders; supporting and creating jobs in rural Ireland; include a social obligation to increase participation across society; and ensure animal welfare.

It is also imperative that state funds deliver the maximum benefit to the sector and to the rural economy. I have been critical that Horse Racing Ireland redistributes the majority of their funding through prize money.

Q: What role do you envisage the Irish sport horse industry playing in sustainable Irish agriculture under the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and post-Brexit?

MC: Family farm incomes in Ireland remain too low and, in many instances, based upon a single agricultural activity. Encouraging farmers involved in other areas of agriculture to diversify into breeding could be an avenue to both providing additional income to farmers, as well as protecting incomes against pricing shocks in any one individual sector.

The next CAP could present an opportunity to supporting breeders, and consideration should be given as to how equine farmers can be best supported across both pillars.

Horse Sport Ireland (HSI), operating on an all-island basis, reflects the integrated nature of agriculture more generally across Ireland, with the ability to interact as seamlessly as possible with Britain also being of importance

Q: Can the Irish sport horse industry encourage more women to take part in agriculture and could it also help keep younger people in Irish agriculture?

MC: Absolutely. Given the sport’s gender parity as well as HSI’s own focus on social inclusion, I expect this would be welcomed by the sector.

Ireland is one of the worst performers in the EU for female participation in farming. This should be a source of embarrassment.