Cllr Bill O’Donnell
COUNCILLOR BILL O’Donnell made an impassioned defence of sulky racing during a debate to prohibit it on public roads.
The councillor was speaking after Kieran Lehane, director of service, gave a presentation on horse draft bye laws at a Cappamore-Kilmallock municipal district meeting.
Mr Lehane said they had received correspondence from gardai in relation to parallel sulky racing and time trials.
“Gardai are very concerned about the danger to other road users and participants. Gardai asked us to consider amending the bye laws to give them greater powers,” said Mr Lehane, who cited an incident on the N24 last summer when motorists had to take “evasive action” due to a sulky race.
Mr O’Donnell said he would be “very, very slow” to implement these horse bye laws.
“I am not in favour of eroding traditional life. Horses were there long before cars. I have been on horseback all my life. This raises alarms with me. A vet often says to give a horse a month’s roadwork,” said Mr O’Donnell, who added that gardai “have enough powers under the Road Traffic Act”.
He said the control of horses and sulky racing is being mixed up.
“The people behind sulky racing, their horses are not wandering around Limerick city. Rural life is being attacked on all sides. I have had a lifelong involvement in field sports and coursing. I have concerns about anything that might impinge on country pursuits,” said Cllr O’Donnell, who referred to fox hunting being banned in the UK.
He also said he has followed sulky racing in the past
Cllr Mike Donegan said he had witnessed a race on the M20.
“It was frightening for motorists not to mind animal welfare,” said Cllr Donegan, who brought up the idea of a councillor from another municipal district who suggested a purpose built sulky track.
Cllr O’Donnell said this was like telling a coursing man to take his dog into the greyhound track.
“It’s totally different,” he said.
Cllr Gerald Mitchell said sulky racing causes danger and there are insurance implications.
Cllr Noel Gleeson said Cllr O’Donnell has a point but it has to be controlled. He said he witnessed a race from the Cross of Grange into Cappamore.
”One of the drivers got too near the ditch and he was thrown off. The horse hit a private car that had pulled in. They were two abreast in parts,” said Cllr Gleeson.
Cllr Lisa Marie Sheehy said roads are closed off during car rallies.
“It is regulated. You don’t have two cars driving up the middle of the road. I am for putting this out on public display. I appreciate your [Bill O’Donnell] passion,” said Cllr Sheehy.
Cllr Brigid Teefy sulky racing is very frightening and causes a big backlog of traffic. Cllr Lehane stressed a sulky can still be driven on the road. The purpose is to prohibit racing, he said.