Independent TD Mattie McGrath has cautiously welcomed confirmation from the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine, Michael Creed that Tipperary is be included as one of the locations of the new sulky education awareness programmes that have successfully been awarded a tender for the coming year. Deputy McGrath was speaking after he had made representations to the Minister following a massive public outcry regarding the ill-treatment of sulky horses and ponies in the county:
“Minister Creed has confirmed to me that the initial location of the education programme was Garristown in North Dublin but that further courses are planned for Tipperary, Cork and the Midlands this year.
A decision on the possibility of courses next year will be taken in light of experience gained, and demand from would be participants.
The tender was awarded to O'Scanaill and Associates Veterinary Surgeons. The tender provides for costs of up to €21,650 for each course to cover the various course modules, specialist speakers and location rental.
While I accept that the approach taken by the Department to raise the awareness of the importance of good horse welfare amongst sulky participants is a welcome development, I am also hoping that he finally accepts the gravity of the problem in some areas.
Minister Creed informed me in his reply that the tender was awarded with a specific requirement that members of the Travelling Community be catered for.
I certainly welcome the fact that this course is designed to encourage participants to move away from the road racing practices and move to racing on tracks and to engage with the regulated sport of harness racing on tracks as operated by the Irish Harness Racing Association.
I want to make it clear to the Minister however that his response cannot be seen as the end of the matter and that I and many others concerned with animal welfare in the county will be closely monitoring the programme to see if it leads to an active reduction in animal harm, and the removal of threats to human lives,” concluded Deputy McGrath.