With every passing year the greyhound industry faces a different challenge and this appears to be the case for some time now. The year 2020 has certainly presented some significant challenges and all have been met with resilience, determination and focus by all participants in the greyhound industry.
Covid-19 has presented a serious challenge to people’s health, livelihoods and way of life within and outside the greyhound community. The coursing community has faced the same challenge and has played its part in complying with all Covid-19 protocols and government guidelines while attending coursing meetings during Level 3 and was equally ready to do the same under the current Level 5. That opportunity has not arisen to date as the ICC, though named as an exempted activity on SI 560/2020, was removed from the amended SI 695/2020 that was published on December 24 just prior to its enactment at 3pm. The singular exclusion of the ICC and the continued inclusion of three comparable bodies has left many unanswered questions, huge frustration, annoyance and disbelief among all coursing supporters. The ICC immediately contacted the Department of Agriculture and the Department of An Taoiseach for clarity as to why coursing was now excluded, more particular when it was represented to the ICC that once we were included on SI 560/2020, we were covered for future levels but no response was received to date.
The Executive Committee has worked non-stop over the Christmas period to progress our case and to that end has engaged Senior Counsel to vigorously pursue the matter on behalf of all coursing people to establish the rationale for such a decision and to advocate for the rights of coursing people to be treated fairly, equitably and with dignity and this includes going before the Courts to vindicate our rights.
In addition to Covid-19, coursing has had to deal with the RHD2 virus for two consecutive seasons. (The ICC presented a very comprehensive submission countering the current licence conditions and this is under the remit of the recently established Licencing Committee of the ICC). This has resulted in a number of clubs being prevented from coursing at their respective venues as they resided within the exclusion zone. However it did not prevent them from availing of support from their fellow clubs to host events on their behalf to ensure the tradition of each club continued and qualifiers for the National Meeting were produced.
The ICC was unable to hold its National AGM or Provincial AGMs during the year and this denied its members an opportunity to meet up and discuss the future and debate the issues of the day. The Executive Committee welcome the time when it is safe to hold such meetings again and bring coursing people together to plan for our future and with the help of a national Covid-19 vaccination programme, this may be sooner rather than later.
During the year, Provincial Nominees were duly elected onto the Executive Committee and numerous sub-committees were established with the ability to co-opt expertise when necessary, to manage specific areas under the coursing umbrella and the subsidiaries of the ICC.
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While much of what I have covered highlights the present difficulties, I have no doubt that we do have a brighter future and rather than let others dictate what that may look like, the ICC’s focus is firmly on protecting the sport of coursing and promoting a future that will instill confidence by developing the necessary strategies to bring us to a better place. In the meantime, we will continue to work with our political representatives that have supported us now and in the past in a professional manner to bring about the required changes.
I wish all participants in the greyhound industry and your families a brighter and more positive 2021.
Irish Coursing Club