SETTING out from Co Clare at 5.30am (Monday) on the start of a five-day journey by horse-drawn carriage to the Dáil is lifelong horseman Sean Kilkenny.

Steeped in hunting and horses all his life, Sean runs a riding school attached to Dromoland Castle as well as a horse-drawn carriage business and a horse-drawn service for weddings and funerals.

Like all businesses nationwide, coronavirus dealt a severe blow but now a huge insurance jump has seen his bill more than treble and is forcing him out of business. To highlight his plight, Sean is aiming to arrive at the Dáil on Friday with his horses to hand in a letter of protest, demanding urgent insurance reform in Ireland.

“For the last 12 years, seven days a week, I have run the riding school at Dromoland Castle and I also have a jarvey business with the horse-drawn carriages and do a funeral and wedding service. I have been told my insurance is going from €3,995 to €11,500 - it has shot up. That is the end of my business. Politicians told me to sell my horses. I have 40 horses and I had to put them up for sale last week along with my equipment, the saddest time of my life.

"It's breaking my heart - the horses are my life. Politicians tell me to sell my horses but they are my animals and I'm entitled to my life, my life matters and so does that of my family. So I'm driving my horses to the Dáil on the old road to Dublin, it's 120 miles or more. We set out at 5.30am this morning (Monday) and it will take the five days to get there. We will be in Dublin on Friday to protest outside the Dail and highlight our plight over the insurance situation which is crippling all kinds of businesses," said Sean who also spent 14 years in hunt service.

Killing rural businesses

“The huge cost of insurance is killing small businesses in this country, particularly rural Ireland. The trekking and jarvey business is all but gone except in a few places and I'm told that the jarvey insurance is going to be pulled in October. We need urgent insurance reform in this country - it's a corrupt system here with any amount of individual claims going on - we all have a story to tell on insurance. It starts with the weak and works its way through.

"We want people to join in with us on the way or come out and stand with us as we pass through on the way to the Dail. Our country life is being taken from us. Our Lord rode a donkey in his day and we should be just as entitled to ride a donkey today if we want to.

“We need a complete reform of insurance in Ireland. Countless businesses have gone to the wall over insurance costs and that is not right. We all know it. My life matters as much as anyone else, my family and my horses matter. We need action now and we want people to join in and support us,'' Sean told The Irish Field this morning.