Cahill questions ‘logic’ of quizzing Minister over horse racing controversies

Agriculture committee chair says McConalogue could be invited for broad discussion

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Fianna Fáil TD Jackie Cahill has questioned the “logic” of bringing the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue before TDs and Senators to be quizzed on the horse racing industry in the wake of recent controversies.

It comes after Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy said Mr McConalogue should be invited to the Committee on Agriculture to face questions on State funding for the industry and how it should be linked to animal welfare standards. 

Horse trainer Gordon Elliott and jockey Rob James have both apologised after images emerged of incidents where they were respectively pictured and filmed sitting on dead horses.  

Mr Carthy said the committee, of which he is a member, should look into the State funding of the industry and how it should be “matched by ever-improving animal welfare standards”.

Mr Cahill, the committee chairman, said he would not pre-empt any discussions its members may have next week on the proposal to invite Mr McConalogue. 

But he said his personal view is that if Mr McConalogue was to be invited to discuss animal welfare on the basis of the photograph of Mr Elliott, he did not “see any logic to it”.

Mr Cahill said the image was “incredibly stupid” and “shows a lack of respect for the horse” that had died of a heart attack, but added: “It’s not an animal welfare issue.” 

The Tipperary TD said he had no problem inviting the Minister for a broad discussion on horse welfare, adding: “It’s something I’ve been championing.”

He said 19 per cent of horses in the country are not micro-chipped and this makes it difficult to attach blame to an owner in cases of abuse or neglect. 

“You’ll find it very hard to find any case of welfare abuse [in the horse racing industry],” he said.

Mr Carthy suggested that Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) and the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) could also be invited to appear before the committee. 

Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) is to receive about €76.8 million in State funding this year from the Department of Agriculture through the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund.

A HRI spokeswoman said the organisation is “always happy” to meet the committee and “would welcome the opportunity of a meeting to discuss animal welfare standards throughout the racing and breeding sector”.  

Mr Elliott apologised at the weekend for a photograph taken in 2019 of him sitting on the dead racehorse Morgan. He said he can “categorically state that the welfare of each and every horse under my care is paramount”.