Dáil Éireann - Volume 498 - 09 December, 1998

Written Answers. - Army Equitation School.

109. Mr. Yates asked the Minister for Defence if he will make a statement on the preparedness of the Army Equitation School in the context of the Sydney Olympic Games in the year 2000; and the funding available to it. [17941/98]

Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith): The mission of the Army Equitation School, as assigned to it on its establishment in 1926, is to advertise the Irish non-thoroughbred horse. The school has discharged this task with considerable distinction down through the years. Through its participation and numerous successes in equitation events at home and abroad, it has successfully promoted the qualities of the Irish horse.

The school has, down the years, provided horses and riders of the highest quality for Irish international show jumping teams and, while acknowledging the contribution of individual civilian riders, the Army riders have been a consistent feature of international teams over many years. Army riders have also participated with distinction in Olympic Games, most recently at Seoul in 1988 and Los Angeles in 1984.

[497] The Equitation School has, at present, two horses which are competing at international level and which are expected to be suitable for consideration for selection for the Sydney Olympics in the year 2000. The selection of horses for the Irish team travelling to Sydney will be made by the International Committee of the Showjumping Association of Ireland in the period leading up to the commencement of the games.

My Department continues to source high quality Irish bred horses for the Army Equitation School for competition at home and abroad and I intend to ensure that sufficient numbers of good quality horses continue to be acquired by the school in order to maintain the proud tradition of that establishment. Funding for the Army Equitation School is currently provided from the national lottery. There is a total allocation of £550,000 available this year which includes a provision of £260,000 in respect of the purchase of horses. I am committed to maintaining funding at existing levels in the coming year and also to continue to explore possibilities to ensure that horses of the appropriate standard will be available to the Equitation School for possible selection on an Irish showjumping team which, it is hoped, will travel to Sydney in the year 2000.