Following the outstanding success of the Irish contingent at the recent Cheltenham horse-racing festival, Afloat.ie understands that ongoing exploratory international talks have been stepped up to ensure that existing access is maintained and developed to countries where our thriving bloodstock industry is serving a healthy export market. But there’ll be alarm in coastal communities that our fishing waters are being considered as a bargaining chip.
A tripartite agreement has been in place between Ireland, Britain and France since the 1960s, whereby thoroughbred horses with the correct paperwork – passports in effect – can travel easily and unhindered between the three countries. With highly-strung animals like top racehorses reaching the final peak of fitness in the buildup to a major race, the smoothest passible journey is essential, and this particular agreement is covered under EU law.
But the arrival of Brexit could change this very efficient state of affairs and other close and lucrative interactions between the three national bloodstock industries. While the various authorities are giving every assurance that the system can continue unhindered, Brexit is still uncharted territory, and a small specialist group in the Irish bloodstock industry is closely monitoring the situation.
In fact, according to one source, they’re going further than this, and are actively exploring ways in which links to France’s growing horse-racing industry can be strengthened post-Brexit with more direct and special treatment, while by-passing the British side of the tripartite agreement.
It’s understood that behind the scenes, the French government are prepared to consider special treatment for the Irish bloodstock industry, but only if there’s a tangible benefit for them in some other area, and they have hit on improved access for French boats to Irish inshore fishing waters as a possible solution to the need for a trade-off.
In responding to criticism of this high-handed attitude to supposedly sacrosanct Irish fishing rights in inshore home waters, a spokesperson for the bloodstock negotiating team said that it was high time people took a realistic look at the big picture, and realized the relative significance of the bloodstock and fishing industries to the Irish economy.
“The Irish bloodstock industry employs more than 100,000 people, and brings in earnings of billions of euros. Our fishing industry employs about 15,000 people at most, and on the actual boats, many crewmembers are immigrants. Not only do the people of Ireland have a very low level of fish consumption, but they don’t want to take on the tough and challenging job of catching them either – at deckhand level, they seem to prefer to leave that to foreigners.
But in the horse racing industry, Irish people are passionate about their jobs at every level. And their devotion to it is rewarded by success, and a high status in the rural and national community. Is that the case with the fishing industry? We think not. So it would be better for everyone if we secured more scope for our bloodstock industry to expand in France, and allowed the French into our inshore waters to catch fish. They’ll not only make a good job of catching the fish, but they’ll make a better job of cooking them too - they’re much more enthusiastic about eating seafood than we are in Ireland.
Faced with the probable harsh reality of Brexit, we have to realize that sacrifices will have to be made in some parts of the economy to provide for the greater good, and letting some of our small fishery go for the sake of even better times for the bloodstock industry is an obvious step”.