Two Saturdays ago my heart leaped for joy when I read a headline in the The Irish Field which stated: ‘€300,000 boost for the sport horse industry.’
For a fleeting moment I thought this bit of good news referred to further Government backing for the industry. However it referred to support from sponsors and the industry itself for revived competitions at the RDS, Millstreet and Barnadown.
Welcome as this development is, I still longed for word that the industry was once more in line for a budgetary boost in funding.
This brings me back to my current project of assessing political party attitudes toward supporting further development of the sport horse industry within the farming sector.
Over the past couple of months I have sent four basic questions on this subject to the agricultural spokespersons within the main parties. So far I have received two replies and one promise.
The first reply, from Green Party agricultural spokesperson Pippa Hackett, is reproduced in full below. Next week I will reveal Sinn Fein’s response.
Q: Does the Green Party agree that the Government should give financial support to the Irish sport horse industry?
Pippa Hackett (PH): The Green [Party] doesn’t have a specific policy on the sport horse sector, but I’m sure many of our members enjoy horse riding, and enjoy watching competition. I myself show jumped for many years as a youngster, so I appreciate the value of it as an activity for young people, as well as the benefits further up the performance chain.
Q: Could the current Government support for the industry be increased?
PH: That is a question for the Minister for Public Expenditure, and something we will all be looking at for the budget in October.
The sector did receive a significant increase in funding this year.
Q: What role do you envisage the Irish sport horse industry playing in sustainable Irish agriculture post the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and post-Brexit?
PH: Besides the important role the sector already plays for our economy and society, I think the sector could play a significant role in relation to our environment.
The Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association recently hosted a webinar on the role it can play in climate action and biodiversity, and I think that is an area the sport horse sector could equally apply itself to also.
Q: Can the sport horse industry encourage more women to take part in agriculture and could it also help keep younger people in Irish agriculture?
PH: I think we need more women in all aspects of agriculture, and I’d be keen to see how the upcoming CAP could support more women in agriculture.