Governance at a Crossroads: The Battle Over Horse Sport Ireland's Future

Governance at a Crossroads: The Battle Over Horse Sport Ireland's Future

This past week, the Royal Dublin Society was the stage for an extraordinary gathering that may very well redefine the future of Horse Sport Ireland (HSI).

More than 30 of the country’s most influential equestrian affiliates convened in what was a historic call for sweeping changes to HSI’s leadership and governance structure—a first in the history of Irish equestrian sports.

Groundbreaking Demand for Change

The gathering was not routine by any measure. For the first time, a united front of industry heavyweights has voiced a profound dissatisfaction with the current governance and leadership of HSI, openly challenging the direction HSI is taking.

What stood out most was the consensus on the direct implications these amendments have on grassroots representation. "It was agreed that the significant modifications to the role of affiliates in the new Constitution have direct implications on the representation of the grassroots of the industry," a joint statement from the meeting declared.

Previously before these changes by HSI, Affiliates played a crucial role in governance and strategic decision-making, ensuring that the grassroots perspective was adequately incorporated. Now, these changes threaten to marginalise this critical voice, potentially altering how effectively the industry can advocate for and implement necessary developments at the grassroots level.

Historic Call for New Leadership

The stakes of the meeting were monumental, culminating in an unprecedented call for a complete overhaul of both the governance structure and the leadership of HSI.

The consensus was clear and decisively communicated: the current changes are not good, a huge cohort of affiliates do not agree and do not support them and HSI needs to get back to its core mission of serving the grassroots and broader equestrian community effectively.

Just think about the below piece. Think about what they mean by this statement.

"The meeting called for an overarching body, which provides accountability to the industry, increases stakeholder engagement, and uses industry resources efficiently," the statement emphasised, reflecting a radical shift towards transparency and inclusivity.

Stark Contradictions Exposed

The response from HSI's leadership, particularly from CEO Denis Duggan, starkly contradicts the reality described by the affiliates. Duggan asserted, "Nobody was excluded. The public consultation... offered an opportunity for all affiliates and members of the wider equestrian public to input into the changes proposed."

This claim of inclusivity flies in the face of the grievances aired at the meeting, where affiliates expressed feeling systematically excluded from meaningful participation in the decision-making processes that directly affect their roles and the sport itself.

Moreover, Duggan’s statement that "34 organisations are now included within the Advisory Forum structure," was met with scepticism and frustration. Affiliates contest that inclusion in this structure has not translated to real influence or decision-making power, indicating a superficial level of engagement that fails to recognise or address their concerns. "This system ensures the widest possible level of engagement and inclusivity from our industry partners," HSI stated, a claim that meeting participants vehemently dispute through their actions and words.

A Call for Government Intervention

With such profound disconnections between HSI’s leadership claims and the affiliates' experiences, the meeting participants are now seeking government intervention. They argue that only with oversight and possible restructuring at this higher level can HSI hope to regain trust and realign with its mission. The urgency of these requests underscores the critical nature of the governance failures perceived by many within the industry.

Looking to a New Future

The outcome of these discussions with government officials could be a watershed moment for HSI. As the industry looks towards potential monumental changes in leadership and structure, the need for an organisation that truly reflects the needs and aspirations of its stakeholders has never been clearer.

This week’s meeting was not just a discussion; it was a declaration that the current state of affairs is untenable. The collective voice of the affiliates, calling for radical change, signals a pivotal moment for HSI.

The organisation stands at a crossroads, with its credibility and future viability hanging in the balance. The industry’s leaders have spoken: adapt, reform, or face the possibility of becoming obsolete.



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