Army Equitation School under the microscope

No member of the Army Equitation School is paid in excess of €80,000 per annum.

That information emerged last week, when the school was picked up by the Dáil radar for the third time this year.

The first of these saw Defence Minister Alan Shatter outline that “the annual running cost of the Army Equitation School in 2012 (excluding salaries) was €908,478. Salaries accounted for a further €1.35m , approximately. The allocation to run the Equitation School (excluding salaries) has been reduced to €860,000 in 2013. A new horse transport vehicle was recently purchased for the Equitation School at a once-off cost of €213,359. (inclusive of VAT). The total prize money won by the Equitation School at national and international events in 2012 amounted to €73,835. Under agreed arrangements, 50% of the prize money won is awarded to participating Army riders”.

This response came on January 30 after Fine Gael’s Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy asked a range of questions of the minister, including “the sustainability of the school in the current economic environment”.

Eight days later, Fianna Fáil TDs Michael McGrath and Dara Calleary were on the case. Then, last week, three deputies questioned the minister on the institution’s finances.

The salaries were of specific interest to Sinn Féin’s Jonathan O’Brien, who wanted to know “the number of persons paid more than €80,000 more than €100,000 and more than €120,000”.

His party president, Gerry Adams, sought information on the cost of running the school for the past 10 years, and the cost of trips abroad, while FF’s Niall Collins asked the Defence Minister his plans for the school.

A pattern could be seen to be emerging, but Mr Shatter had words of comfort for those at McKee Barracks: “I believe the Army Equitation School is an emblematic feature of the Defence Forces and that it plays an important role in the promotion of Irish horses and the Irish horse industry. I have no plans to make changes to the operation of the Army Equitation School.”

*Millstreet ventures into what it describes as “unknown territory” next week with its first Welcome Tour.

The event, with a minimum of €25,000 in prizemoney, runs from Mar 29 to April 7, with a break on April 3/4.

The Duggan family say they have structured the programme to encourage the development of young and experienced horses, giving multi-ring experience over the tour duration. Packages are said to be “keenly priced and flexible to enable movement of horses from one height band to another, as their experience demands”.

SEE: www.millstreethorseshow.ie

*The ShowjumpingIreland executive on Tuesday ratified Ennis as the venue for the pony and young riders national championships on Aug 22-25.

*IRELAND show jumping team manager Robert Splaine, Olympic eventer Michael Ryan, and HSI chairman Patrick Wall are the big names lined up by the West Cork Horse Breeders Co-up for a seminar/discussion forum titled “Irish horse breeding: Where to now?” It takes place at Bandon’s Munster Arms Hotel on April 3, at 8pm. See: www.irishqualityhorses.com.



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