WE live in unprecedented times and, no matter what industry we are in, or the role we play, the most important thing all of us can do right now is look after ourselves, our families and our communities.
What we have sought to do in Horse Racing Ireland [HRI] is to provide a risk-assessed, safe environment for people to work in while at the same time keeping an industry that provides so much employment operating to some extent.
We have had great co-operation from our colleagues in the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board [IHRB] and the many stakeholders in the industry.
This is clearly a rapidly changing situation and HRI will continue to liaise with the relevant Government departments and with our health advisors.
Following consultation with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, we devised strict racecourse protocols which pose no risk to our participants while allowing for some level of business continuation.
Since last Friday week, six race fixtures in Ireland have been run behind closed doors. Only through the flexibility and diligence shown by stable staff, jockeys, trainers, owners and employees of the IHRB, HRI, the media and broadcasters, has this been possible. Since Wednesday we have further increased the stringency of those protocols.
Racecourses, by their nature, offer opportunities for social distancing that few other workplaces can. They are big open-air sites with only key racing personnel present, but it is absolutely essential that we maintain the diligence shown thus far. Only if we adhere to the Government’s social distancing protocols, will we be able to continue racing.
The Government has tried to strike a balance between protecting employment and the need for disease containment, with the priority always for the latter. We review our procedures daily and the situation will be reviewed by the HRI board weekly.
We are reassured that the medical services which we require are not needed elsewhere at this time but we are sensitive to the possibility of that changing. We will respond to the Government’s Chief Medical Officer immediately should the situation change.
Horse Racing Ireland is very conscious of the 28,000 jobs which our industry supports and we stand with all of you through this unprecedented time. We are also acutely aware that the horses require the same care today as they did yesterday and we urge all of you to maintain your high standards. This is a real difference for us as an industry – the horses require constant care. Trainers and breeders cannot simply tell staff to work from home.
We are also conscious that a number of people within our industry have already lost work, be they bookmakers, Tote staff, caterers, and other racecourse service providers, and we will work with Government to find ways to minimise this impact.
The decision to continue behind-closed-doors was taken following serious appraisal of the implications and we are grateful for the flexibility and cooperation shown by all. We respect that the situation is evolving and HRI will do what is best for the industry in a very challenging situation for everybody.