As we mark the close of another record breaking crowd at the Punchestown Festival this year, it’s a good time to reflect on the importance of the horse racing industry in Ireland.
The industry directly employs over 20,000 people through breeding, training and race riding alone. These jobs are almost 100% rural based and provide a vital source of employment in areas that would otherwise see young people leave for jobs abroad or in the cities. When we begin to consider those employed at racecourses, hospitality companies and the variety of related agricultural and service led firms, we can see how great the impact of this industry really is.
County Kildare is arguably Ireland’s greatest beneficiary of this industry. We have fantastic breeders producing world class horses, trained by top trainers and ridden by best in class jockeys. Our county holds the top National Hunt and Flat festivals in the country and our association with the industry is renowned worldwide.
But the success of this industry didn’t happen by accident and it’s vital that we work to see it improve for the benefit our local economy and society. To do this we need to take some actions:
- Secure funding for training courses in the horse racing and related hospitality industries.
- Expand the list of Level 5 & Level 6 courses offered by both Teagasc and Failte Ireland in County Kildare.
- Encourage Universities and local employers to work together in offering a wider range of Level 7 & Level 8 degrees in the industry.
- Facilitate people in long term unemployment to take up work placement and re-skilling programmes within the industry.
- Demand more engagement and support from Kildare County Council in promoting equine festivals and events in county Kildare.
I believe that there is much that can be done within this important industry to;
- Support and create employment in rural areas
- Stimulate the local economy
- Contribute to the preservation of the countryside and
- Enhance social cohesion and integration.
I will work through Kildare County Council and respective industry bodies to ensure we make the most of this fantastic resource over the years ahead.