In March 2018, my Department agreed to fund the preparation and development of a Five Year Strategic Plan for the Irish Harness Racing Association and the sector. The report was recently received and Department officials are currently examining its contents.
My Department had previously funded the Indecon Report of the Irish Harness Racing Sector, which was published on 1st November 2017. This report provides the sport with a road map for its potential development and I supported the recommendations within my Department's remit from the outset.
My Department have also offered the sector supports from the following sources:
- In 2016, the Irish Harness Racing Association received grants totalling €21,704 under the Equine Infrastructure grant scheme;
- In 2017, grants totalling €40,020 were paid to the Irish Harness Racing Association under the Equine Technical Support Scheme;
- In 2018, €24,823 in grants were also approved under this Scheme; and
- In 2017, support valued in excess of €25,000 for 'Road Racing Education Programme' were issued.
I would like to highlight that in addition to the funding already provided, I have committed to continuing and expanding the pilot integration programme in 2018, which will also be funded by my Department. With a view to raising awareness of the critical importance of good horse welfare amongst road racing sulky participants and the owners and keepers of trotting horses, my Department awarded a tender to carry out an education programme Horse Welfare course for Road-Racing Sulky Drivers and owners. The first course was run in the Dublin region in May 2018. A second course is currently under way in Tipperary. A third course began at the end of September in Cork and has a high level of engagement with participants in the north of the county. The demand for a fourth course is currently being assessed in other areas.
The level of expenditure provided by my Department and my support for the pilot integration programme clearly shows that the Government is underpinning this sector in a targeted way.