THE Irish Equine Centre marked 40 years of existence with a special event at its base in Johnstown, Co Kildare, this week.

Minister Martin Heydon, Cathal Berry TD, Senator Vincent Martin and former minister and IEC chairman Ray MacSharry were among the guests present to celebrate the anniversary, along with many prominent figures from the racing and bloodstock sectors.

Editor of The Irish Field, Leo Powell acted as MC and revealed the names of the first seven inductees to the IEC Hall of Fame. The event also marked the launch of the IEC’s Strategic Plan 2024-2030 and there were calls from several speakers on the day asking that the Government and the racing industry continue to support the facility which badly needs investment.

Debbie Grey has been chief executive of the IEC since the new year and said: “The Irish Equine Centre was delighted to acknowledge it donors, clients, partners, supporters and staff past and present as it commemorates its 40th anniversary.

Mission statement

“The organisation’s mission of ‘protecting the health and wellbeing of Ireland’s horse population’ remains the same in 2023 as it did when the IEC opened its doors in 1983. The launch served as a reminder of the relevance of the IEC as its global surveillance continues and it remains the most highly accredited equine laboratory in Ireland.

“The anniversary provided an opportunity to celebrate its rigorous diagnostic and scientific reputation as it designated a World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) reference laboratory for equine influenza and equine rhinopneumonitis i.e. equine herpesvirus.”

Grey also highlighted the increasing number and the variety of testing on offer across varied industries including equine, agriculture, environment, nutrition and other commercial sectors thereby validating the investment into it.

She quoted the equine flu outbreak in Britain in February 2019 as a good example of why the Irish Equine Centre’s work was so important.

“Racing was cancelled for a week and the estimated cost of that to the racing industry was £16 million,” she said. “Considering that racing did not stop in Ireland, largely due to the diligence, surveillance and collaborative work of the IEC, I feel we come cheap at the price.”

Grey concluded: “The IEC prides itself in its independent, confidential advice and superlative service. The IEC’s mission is that it provides “independent diagnostics, education, research and allied services to the Irish horse industry and to the industry globally.”