Limerick club says point-to-point cancellation 'a big blow to economy'

Askeaton event cancelled after change in lease of land from Shannon Group

Maria Flannery

Reporter:

Maria Flannery

Limerick club says point-to-point cancellation 'a big blow to economy'

The loss of the point-to-point fixture in Askeaton this year is estimated to have cost the economy up to €1m

THE CANCELLATION of the Askeaton point-to-point could mean losses of up to €1m for the local economy, according to the club responsible for organising the event.

The point-to-point was due to take place on February 13 of this year but was cancelled after the farmer renting the land from the Shannon Group exercised his right in a renewed lease to refuse its use for the fixture.

The Stonehall Harriers had a formal deal with Shannon Development for the past 25 years for use of a Shannon-owned farm in the area. Shannon Development’s assets have since been transferred over to the new Shannon Group.

The written confirmation of the old deal shows that the Stonehall Harriers would pay €700 to Shannon Development and adhere to certain conditions to have use of the lands for around six weeks every year, while the renting farmer would have use of it for the rest of the year.

This was “subject to change”, according to the agreement, and any changes would be put in writing from the Shannon group.

But the point-to-point group claims that it did not receive any written notification about the change in its agreement when the lands changed over to Shannon Properties.

A spokesperson for Shannon Group said: “A new lease agreement for the property was signed with a local farmer last year, with the Askeaton Point-to-Point Committee also having been afforded the opportunity to tender for that lease.

“Shannon Commercial Properties, as a result of the new lease agreement, does not decide whether or not the point-to-point is held on the site.”

The club makes thousands of euro worth of contributions to local businesses, and losses in the tourism and hospitality sector from visitors have also been recognised by Dunraven Arms and the Woodlands House Hotel.

“Point-to-point horses become a very valuable commodity in this country, it’s a huge business, and there’s always about eight to 10 people in here from England every weekend looking for a horse,” said Stonehall Harriers treasurer Tommy Kelly.

“It’s an awful lot of money to the economy, at the end of the day. You’re looking at a million of a loss to the Irish economy, easily,” he added.

Point-to-point horses regularly fetch hundreds of thousands after a win, when they are scouted by big players in the business.

“A four-year-old winner made over €500,000 last week,” added Mr Kelly.

“Not only does the Askeaton Point-to-Point bring large crowds to the area itself on the day of the race, but there is a huge ancillary industry employed around it, sustaining small farms and local businesses and promoting Askeaton as an integral part of the point-to-point fixtures season,” said Independent Cllr Emmett O’Brien.

“Askeaton and the surrounding parishes have a great history and record of producing high calibre race horses and this point-to-point is crucial to local owners and breeders whose horses are highly sought after from all over Ireland and the UK,” he added.