Senator Sharon Keogan — Horse and Greyhound Racing
I am happy to support the motion, which is the annual one to raise the State funding cap for the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund. A lot is said every year about improvements that could be made in the industry, with animal welfare being a top priority. I support the proper and humane treatment of the animals involved in these sports. Every assistance should be given to the governing bodies to implement top-level standards of care for horses and greyhounds alike. There are people who point to areas of possible improvement such as these and say that on account of some practices not being perfect, we should scrap everything and ban everything too. If we banned everything that was not perfect in this country, we would have nothing left.
Many politicians did not grow up in places where these sports, and the participation of the community in them, were woven into the fabric of a shared community life. Let us not forget that horse racing, the thoroughbred industry and greyhound racing are vibrant and important parts of the culture and economy of this country, particularly the rural economy and rural life.
Ireland as a whole has a long and proud tradition of horse racing. Cork has the honour of being the birthplace of the steeplechase back in 1752, which I feel could only ever have started in Ireland. Horse racing in Bellewstown, County Meath, where I am a volunteer unpaid member of the committee, took place even before that in 1726. Horse racing provides direct and indirect employment of 29,000 people. The horse racing industry generates €1.9 billion annually for the economy. Ireland is the third biggest producer of thoroughbred foals in the world. We attract significant interest and investment globally as a result of our high standing in the sector. Significant employment and economic benefit is derived from greyhound racing as well.
With the investment of €91 million in the industry in budget 2023, there have been steady increases in the standard of care afforded to animals and our national racing standards can be improved upon as well. For all that it brings to our country and our communities, I will support this motion.