Equine vet Dr. Esther Skelly-Smith has been jointly elected new President of the Northern Ireland Branch of British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the President of the North Of Ireland Veterinary Association (NIVA).
Esther takes on the role following one year as Junior Vice President of both BVA’s Northern Ireland Branch and NIVA. She also holds many notable roles such as: equine expert on the College Advisory Group for the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise; the Northern Ireland Representative on the UK Notifiable Equine Diseases Core Group; is also an Ulster Farmers Union Next Generation Development Forum member and was BVA’s NI Regional representative.
Graduating in 2012 from the University of Nottingham, Esther interned at the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket before establishing Shanaghan Veterinary Services which is Ireland’s first equine integrated veterinary referral service, in 2017. She is also an Honorary Lecturer with Queen’s University Belfast, acting as a supervisor and placement provider for undergraduate and postgraduate research projects and lecturing on equine welfare.
During the two associations joint Annual General Meeting, which was held last night (Wednesday 22 February 2023), Esther succeeded Fiona McFarland as President of both BVA Northern Ireland Branch and NIVA, and was elected as the incoming 2023 President. Fiona will now move into the role of Senior Vice President of both associations.
On becoming President, Esther said: “I look forward to the year ahead. The veterinary profession in Northern Ireland continues to face challenges from long-term access to vital veterinary medicines and the evolving role vets play in trade following Brexit through to workforce shortages and future sustainability of the profession. However, there are also exciting opportunities and I’m keen to explore the role wellbeing and positive working relationships can have in delivering a veterinary profession that is fit for the future. I also hope to engage with the government to progress a strategic plan for the equestrian industry and improvements in equine welfare.”
Esther also plans to concentrate on several issues affecting animal welfare. “As a profession we are key stewards of animal welfare. Unlike people, animals do not have a voice; yet they deserve to be understood and have their rights preserved and advocated for. It will therefore be no surprise that animal welfare issues will feature highly on the agenda this year.”
Esther also extended her thanks to Fiona McFarland, who was President of both BVA NI Branch and NIVA for 2022 - 2023, and outgoing Senior Vice President Mark Little. During the last couple of years, the officers have tackled many challenges most notably working hard to secure an extension to the grace period for veterinary medicines. We also published our manifesto for animals, vets, and public health in Northern Ireland ahead of the 2022 Assembly election. Whilst no Executive has been formed, we have continued to engage MLAs, government officials and other stakeholders including at our successful annual BVA Stormont Dinner. Officers also continued to engage with the Government on the Northern Ireland Protocol, an issue which will continue to be a priority in the months to come.
Esther said: “I would like to both thank and congratulate Fiona on a very productive year as President. I would also like to thank Dr Mark Little for his support and wisdom. I am grateful to them both for their kindness and the way they have prepared me for the year ahead”.
BVA President Malcolm Morley congratulated Esther on her appointment as President. He said: “Esther’s years of experience and dedication to the veterinary profession means she is a real asset to both BVA and NIVA. There are challenging times ahead as we continue to resolve many of the issues still arising from Brexit. Esther has worked with the officer team in Northern Ireland to campaign and lobby for the issues that matter most to vets in Northern Ireland and there is more work still required to protect the future supply of veterinary medicines in Northern Ireland, but I know she is going to make a real difference and achieve great things.”
Esther will be joined on the officer team of both associations by new Junior Vice President and fellow NIVA council member Sharon Verner.
Sharon has worked with Animal Health and Welfare NI (AHWNI) for the last six years, managing the BVD eradication programme. Her main background is in leading on delivery and technical aspects of animal health schemes, including during 15 years in government veterinary service. Sharon is enthusiastic about improving animal welfare and farm efficiencies through the control of endemic diseases of livestock.
As part of the network of devolved and specialist divisions, BVA Branches contribute local knowledge and expertise to BVA’s wider lobbying and representational activities.
For more information about BVA Northern Ireland Branch, please visit www.bva.co.uk/About-BVA/Association/Northern-Ireland-Branch/