The Irish Harness Racing Association has been approved for grants totalling €21,704 for upgrading its horse registration system and website.
And to help it stage an exhibition at the RDS Horse Show, promote the trotters and pacer studbooks, stage a trotter breeding conference, and develop its links with international organisations.
The grant aid comes from an equine infrastructure grant scheme operated by the Department of Agriculture, to which the IHRA is being access in 2016 for the first time.
A further project, with a focus on equine welfare, is being considered, said Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney.
He said the IHRA requested financial support from his department, and it has also been agreed to carry out a comprehensive economic analysis of the harness racing industry, to determine its current and potential return to the Irish economy.
“This will require the commissioning of an independent economic consultant to carry out the task.
“My department is at present deciding on the terms of reference for such a study.
“Once the terms of reference are agreed, the tendering process will commence.”
Sources in the IHRA have welcomed the minister’s economic analysis commitment as a “huge step”.
Earlier this year, the Oireachtas joint committee on agriculture, food and the marine recommended to Mr Coveney that IHRA receive appropriate funding to develop the sport, that partnership between the IHRA and its counterparts in France be fostered and developed so that Irish harness racing can flourish on a world stage, and that better co-operation between Horse Racing Ireland and the IHRA be encouraged .
In February, the IHRA joined the 20 other member states in the UET, the governing body of the European trotting, following its one-year observer status within the Union.
This is seen as the most significant achievement to date in the IHRA’s efforts over the past two years to grow the sport of trotting in Ireland.
UET membership gives Irish harness racing greater recognition overseas, and allows Ireland host international events.
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