Point-to-pointing’s suspension in Ireland due to Covid has been debated in the Irish parliament.
According to a report on www.p2p.ie, Charlie McConologue, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, was questioned about the suspension by a number of TDs (elected members of Dail Eireann) during a debate about agriculture. Horses in particular, and racing and point-to-pointing generally, are regarded as important elements in Ireland’s agricultural landscape, providing jobs and incomes in a country of just under five million people.
Typical of the mood was a statement from Sean Sherlock, Labour TD for Cork East, who told the minister: “If we can justify holding race meetings, then we can surely justify holding point-to-point meetings,” while Fine Gael TD for Clare, Joe Cary, said: “Point-to-point racing is the starting point for many of our National Hunt horses. The entire National Hunt breeding industry is now severely challenged and there will be a lasting impact on the industry, on sales, on breeding and on the livelihood of those involved in producing point-to-point horses if the season does not recommence shortly. The sector needs clarity.”
Referring back to the autumn when pointing was staged on both sides of the Irish Sea, and looking ahead to a forthcoming irish government announcement on ‘Living with Covid-19’, Cary said: “It was no surprise that no outbreak of Covid was recorded in the hosting of any point-to-point events because they are all hosted in large open fields. I have spoken directly to the Minister on this issue and have tried to engage with his officials. I ask him to outline what he and his Department have done to ensure the safe return of point-to-point racing. In the revised plan for Covid, will point-to-point racing resume at the start of March?”
Fianna Fáil TD Jackie Cahill said: “This is regarded as an amateur sport, but a significant amount of money is involved. The cornerstone of the National Hunt industry is point-to-point racing. Many small operators have considerable investment in bloodstock and point-to-point racing is their shop window to sell their horses. The people involved are professional trainers even though they are amateur in name.
“All these horses are sold between February and the middle of May. They need to be able to run them to have the shop window to sell these horses. The only way they can get them sold is by running them in point-to-point races to show what they are capable of doing.”
In response, Minister McConologue said: “As he knows the public health advice must be put first throughout the pandemic. That is the backdrop against which we are working. I certainly understand and recognise the challenges closure has had on the point-to-point industry and the importance of that sector of the horse racing industry.”