[Sinn Fein]

16th June 2003

McHugh - Anger at the sale of horses at Necarne, Irvinstown

Sinn Fein Agriculture Spokesperson, Gerry McHugh has expressed concern at the sale of horses at Necane, Irvinstown.

Mr McHugh said:

The Assembly Public Accounts Committee raised some very serious concerns especially the management, and roles of senior DARD staff, together with the conflict of interest some had in this project. We share all of these concerns and feel that those people were never properly held to account by DARD.

``However the decision now to sell these horses may be a flawed one.

``There is an opportunity here to develop an all Ireland horse board association, which can build a thriving industry. This would allow both classification standards to be reconciled and the development of the very ethos of PEACE funding by enhancing cross border co-operation in what is a very successful industry in the South.

``The horse needs to be classified as an agricultural animal in the North and the industry needs support.

``DARD has constantly preached to the farming and rural community of diversification, now when we have the potential to develop a world class industry, DARD has decided to sell off the future of the sport horse industry.

``Many would question whether this decision about putting to bed and embarrassment to senior DARD staff? Instead we need to be using imagination to grow a world class Irish Sport Horse industry.

``If DARD was serious about the future of the Horse industry as was set out in the Vision action plan why have they ignored the 300 + members of the Irish Sport Horse Development Association? Why have DARD never sought to bring people together on an All Ireland basis?

``There is also the important question of what will happen to the proceeds of the sale of these horses. Will the revenue generated go back to the original funders or will it be used to develop the original concept of supporting the development of a world class Irish Sport Horse industry.''

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