ONGOING concerns about the delay in the issuing of Horse Sport Ireland passports reached the Oireachtas recently, when Wexford TD Paul Kehoe (FG) asked Minister Charlie McConalogue about the matter.

In a written question to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Mr Kehoe asked if Minister McConalogue was aware of issues with the production of passports for foals, if steps are being taken to alleviate the backlog and if he would make a statement on the matter.

In his answer published on October 26th, McConalogue stated: “In 2022, under a national breeding initiative funded by my Department, HSI and other equine breed societies commenced transitioning from micro-satellite (MS) to Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) DNA analysis, aligning with global equine genetics standards. This move involves collecting hair samples from foals and in addition samples from both parents will be required during this transition period to obtain SNP profiles. These profiles will form a reference library and therefore will not require to be repeated in future years. The move to SNP is advantageous for pedigree and the opportunities for research, but it has introduced processing delays. HSI have stated that they are collaborating with Weatherbys Scientific and are addressing this backlog and remain committed to optimising this transition.”

“We are acutely aware of the frustrations of breeders around the delays in receiving their passports recently,” Horse Sport Ireland Head of Operations, Paul O’Connor told The Irish Field.

“While the average foal passport has been issued within 8-10 weeks this year, there are still a lot of breeders waiting well beyond this time-frame, most of which is due to more hair samples and additional testing being needed.

“The failure rate of hair samples has reduced from a high of 29% in August to a much more normal 5% currently. All breeders have been contacted this week, where the laboratory have requested more samples and we urge those breeders to get the new samples back to us as soon as possible.

“I want to reassure breeders that the team here are doing everything we can to get passports out to breeders as quickly as we can. I would also ask that callers to our phone lines have some understanding with our staff – some of the abuse the team has been subjected to over the past few weeks has been very disrespectful and distressing. HSI understand the frustration of breeders, however, it is not appropriate to verbally abuse those very same staff that are trying to assist breeders with their queries.

“We anticipate that we will process another 2,000 passports by the end of 2023.”