POLITIANS described “a seismic rift” between Horse Sport Ireland and four of the major affiliate bodies at Wednesday evening’s sitting of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Members from Showjumping Ireland (SJI), Eventing Ireland (EI), Dressage Ireland (DI), Para Equestrian Ireland and the Equestrian Competition Venue Owners (ECVOA) came before the committee to outline their concerns and the challenges facing the sport horse industry.

SJI was represented by Ronan Corrigan and Christy Murphy; EI by Niki Potterton and Richard Ames; DI by Marguerite Kavanagh and Petra Larkin; Para Equestrian Ireland by Karen Reilly and Ivor Harper; and ECVOA by Robert Fagan and Ciaran Glynn.

In a joint opening statement, read by SJI’s chair of the management and finance committee Ronan Corrigan, the bodies said they “fear for the future and for the best interests of our industry and sports”.

Citing the proposed changes to the appointment method to the board of Horse Sport Ireland, which would see the four current Ministerial-elected Board of Directors do an ‘open call process’ instead of the electing four directors from HSI’s advisory councils, the statement said: “The current and proposed structures of HSI are, as many believe and have highlighted, flawed and not fit for purpose. The recent history of HSI shows it is driven towards administration and self-preservation with a total lack of understanding of the industry or its pressing needs.

“One only has to look at the criteria the Board of HSI are proposing to engage to select its future members of the Board. This current direction must be halted, and an industry-led review of their actual needs carried out with the aspiration of rebuilding a Horse Sport Ireland entity that would once again be truly representative of the industry and sport.”

Corrigan said that communication and consultation between HSI and the affiliates is “poor”, adding: “A significant amount of money is consumed by administration and while many of those within Horse Sport Ireland are diligent and hardworking, their efforts do not reap the reward that could be achieved due to the lack of interaction, consultation and co-operation with the relevant bodies who run the sports on a daily basis nationally.”


Opening the questioning, Joe Flaherty TD (FF) said it was “concerning when we see constituent parts of a sector come in here, clearly at odds with the governing body. It is very clear there is a seismic rift between yourselves and governing bodies and it has to be a serious concern - it’s a standoff.”

He asked if the bodies had made a submission to HSI on the proposed board changes, to which Corrigan confirmed each affiliate had made a separate submission “all of similar mind”.

“Our fears are what is being proposed now will empty out the ability of the industry to have a meaningful impact on policy, on funding requirements and how that funding is utilised. I think I speak for everyone, that the ideal would be that this process is paused and meaningful consultation take place with stakeholders,” Corrigan said, adding that while the board is currently functioning with the Ministerial appointees, it has no industry representation and High Performance committees and advisory councils were put in abeyance last November when the former board fell apart.

Responding to a question from committee chair, Jackie Cahill TD (FF), about the former make-up of the board, Corrigan added: “It [the board make-up] was within the memo and articles in the constitution of Horse Sport Ireland set out, and still set out, that that is the mechanism by which the board members would be appointed.”

Cahill responded: “So the Minister would have to go back and change the structure of HSI. I think that is a fundamental point.”

Deputy Flaherty proposed the committee write to the Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue, and ask for a review of the sector. “I am pleased to see you do acknowledge there is some future role for HSI, we might be able to save this marriage to some degree,” he commented.

More coverage from the committee hearing in next week’s paper.