The return of horse racing earlier than anticipated is a great boost to the sector which has been hit hard by Covid-19, Fine Gael Parliamentary Party Chairman Martin Heydon has said.

Deputy Heydon, a Kildare South TD, has welcomed the decision to bring forward the resumption of horse racing from phase three of the Government’s roadmap to ease Covid-19 restrictions to phase two, with racing due to begin on June 8th – behind closed doors.

Deputy Heydon said, “Government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer and his team, have to get the balance right between getting the country back to work while ensuring we do not undo all of the progress made by the public in flattening the curve of Covid to date, which has avoided a surge on our hospitals and prevented many more deaths from the virus.

“While there have been great sacrifices made by those in the racing industry and many other sectors of the economy, those sacrifices have been necessary as part of overall public health measures.

“I also understand the really significant impact these sacrifices have had not just on the horse racing sector, trainers, owners, jockeys and racecourses but the knock-on implications for the horse sales and breeding sectors as well. 

“That is why I fought for an earlier resumption date for horse racing than phase 3 on June 29th. Such a delay for us while racing resumed in France already and the UK in early June would have been devastating for the racing and breeding sector here that employs over 29,000 people, with most of those jobs in rural Ireland and many of them in Kildare.

“While I know many in the industry would have wished for an even earlier date for resumption, the clarity around today’s decision by Cabinet allows all in the industry to now plan for a safe resumption of racing with more certainty.