Lewis Lowry has served as President for a total term of five years. He was re-elected once after the normal term of two years, and then, at the request of the EFI members, remained as President for a further year to oversee the conclusion of preparations for the Strategic Plan for Equestrianism in Ireland.
Voting for a new President will take place at the agm.
Please find below text of speech to be made by Lewis Lowry, outgoing President of the Equestrian Federation of Ireland, at the agm of the EFI held at the Great Southern Hotel, Dublin, on May 17, 2001
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to the 2001 Annual General Meeting of the Equestrian Federation of Ireland.
As you know, this is my last address to the agm as President. One of the main reasons for me agreeing to stay on for one more year as the incumbent of this position was the delay in bringing the strategic plan for equestrianism to a reasonable state of readiness.
I am sorry to report that a year was not enough, and that the strategic plan is still not complete, due to several unforeseen problems, and I therefore have no alternative but to pass this process on to my successor, who, I am sure, will inject fresh energy into the deliberations.
So at this rather inconclusive point, it only remains for me to thank, on behalf of the entire Federation, the people who who have given - and who continue to give - so much of their time and their expertise to help bring the structures of the strategic plan to finalisation.
There are many people who have contributed to this vitally important exercise, but I would like to particularly single out Liam Connellan and Morgan Buckley for their work in spearheading the process, and of course all the committee members who have sat through so many long meetings, where their contributions have been so helpful.
I believe it is essential that the strategic plan moves forward with the agreement of all involved parties, and in a timeframe that is appropriate to all their needs and requirements.
The Federation cannot continue to function within its present structures and resources, because the demands made upon it in this increasingly fast-moving world are simply too great.
I think that any of you who have spent any time at all in the Head Office at Ashton House will appreciate just how great a workload is being carried by too few people, with too few resources at their disposal. Quite frankly, the Federation cannot continue for much longer in its present form.
We must face up to the challenge presented to us, if the sport is to be managed successfully, or even adequately, in the months and years ahead.
On a more positive note, I am glad to report that there have been significant successes in the past year, of which we can all be justifiably proud.
The jewel in the crown of our achievements as a federation is the almost unqualified success of the Coaching Scheme, which has progressed to a point where we will shortly be employing a full-time professional Coaching Development Officer to take the scheme to its next stage.
The EFI Coaching initiative is regarded both nationally and internationally as one of the most successful of these schemes ever initiated in any sport.
This is demonstrated not just by the achievements on the ground, and by recognition at government level, but also by the acute interest taken in our progress by the FEI, and by Federations in other countries.
We also, of course, hosted the very successful International Coaching Seminar at Tattersall¹s in December, where the United States Olympic Gold Medallist David O¹Connor was one of the guest speakers, as was our own Eddie Macken, amongst others.
As I¹ve said, the Coaching Scheme is something of which we can be very proud indeed, and I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all those who have made it work so well. Lt. Col. Gerry Mullins and his committee have do ne ground-breaking work, and have contributed a vision to the scheme that is without parallel. I would also like to single out Joan Keogh and Anne Chanarin for their invaluable input in this area.
Gerry Mullins, as most of you will know, has now been appointed to the Board of the National Coaching and Training Centre in Limerick, and I believe that this is recognition indeed of the talents he has shown in this sphere. I would like to add my own congratulations to the many he has already received over this appointment.
I would also like to add that the Coaching Scheme needs continuing and positive support from all disciplines, if it is to achieve its full potential, and I¹m sure I can count on everyone here to make sure that this support will be forthcoming.
We have witnessed, during the last few months, the appalling effects of Foot and Mouth Disease in this country, both North and South. It has not only caused a very serious setback to equestrian activities, but has resulted in immense hardship throughout all of the rural community.
I believe we should commend the government for the forceful and decisive action it took, even before the disease manifested itself within our shores, and I think that this action has done much to limit the damage that everyone anticipated.
However, there is no doubt that extreme hardship has been caused to many people, and I extend my sympathy, on behalf of the Federation, to all those affected by this terrible disease.
We have not escaped the effects ourselves, of course. Our projected revenue for the current fiscal year has been badly hit, and this is a cause of some concern, and one which will have to be addressed in the months ahead.
However, it has to be said that if the sport horse industry had been in the same state of readiness as the thoroughbred sector was in such an emergency, we would have been better positioned to influence the government with a view to restoring our activities at an earlier time than proved possible.
I am pleased that in my final year as President, Ireland has produced a series of international victories that has not been equalled in the last decade, and, in some instances, not ever.
As you know, our predominantly young teams of show jumpers last year trounced the rest of the world and took the Samsung Nations Cup Series for the first time in history. Winning ten out of 14 Nations Cup competitions was a remarkable achievement by any standards you care to employ, and one which deserves the fullest and most unqualified of congratulations.
At the 2000 Olympics, our Eventing team took a most creditable Fifth Place against the greatest of odds, and it is a tribute to all involved in this effort that the courage and fitness of horses and riders alike brought such a fine result.
And, for the second year running, the European Young Riders Championship was won by Ireland - again, a staggering achievement for such a small country. The successes did not end there, however, and are almost too many to mention in detail within the time available to me.
The King George V Gold Cup at Hickstead, the Pony Tetrathlon Championships at Hartpury, the Kerrygold Grand Prix at Dublin, the team Silver Medal at the European Young Riders Championship, again at Hartpury, the rapid progress of our dressage riders in the World rankings, and an almost uncountable number of show jumping Grands Prix and Speed Classes all over Europe that have continued into the present season - these are just a sample of the Irish dominance of equestrian sport over the last year.
It could be said, with some justification, that despite inadequate resources, the most successful Irish athletes in the world at the moment are equestrian athletes, and I can only hope that this self-confidence, this pride in excellence, will produce even more spectacular results in the year ahead.
It is a pity that these successes are not more widely acknowledged by some elements of the media here at home.
However, it would not be appropriate to rest on our laurels due to the victories of the last year, and it should not be taken for granted that this success will continue, without appropriate analysis, planning and support.
To go back to my earlier point about media recognition, I can say that our sport, at least at home, still labours under the weight of the outdated and inappropriate notion that equestrianism is in some way an elitist sport, practised exclusively by rich and pampered athletes who have little connection with the tastes or aspirations of the man in the street.
That WE all know this is so far from the truth as to be laughable, is not the point at issue, however. Our Public Relations campaign to convince the mainstream media of the true nature of our sport continues apace, but it is a tough battle, and one not aided by the perception of internal disharmony within our own ranks.
Nor can it be assisted by setbacks, such as the loss to Ireland of the show jumping World Cup Qualifying Round, a reverse that the Federation must do all in its power to remedy.
I personally feel that the problems within the SJAI have not helped the image of equestrianism, but I hope that these problems are resolved and we can look to the future with confidence.
I would like to pay tribute to the small band of dedicated equestrian journalists in Ireland who have continued to fly the flag, so to speak, and who have worked so closely with our own press office to make sure that when Irish riders do well, then as many people as possible get to hear about it.
It is, as I¹ve said, just a pity that these successes are not more widely reported by the national television stations, who do not seem to listen to the statistics, or the good news, that we keep presenting to them.
However, we have made giant strides in the dissemination of good news about our sport to the world at large. The EFI website has been a spectacular success, and is now regarded by media around the world as a premium source of information for all things equestrian.
The same technology has allowed us to develop a fast and streamlined results service that is used by media outlets internationally, in many cases to the exclusion of their own country¹s services in this field.
However, if we are to see mainstream media interest and a positive public perception restored to our sport at home, it seems we must deliver a prize much greater, and more identifiable, than the successes of the past year.
That prize, ladies and gentlemen, must be nothing less than an Olympic medal.
In the context of the Federation¹s relationship with other organisations such as the Sports Council, the FEI and the Olympic Council I am happy to report that these have never been at a more positive level, and it is my hope that these relationships will become closer, to the benefit of all involved.
In conclusion, let me say that the future success of equestrianism in Ireland lies in cohesion. A house divided upon itself, falls.
We should by now have learned this lesson, and we should now be looking to the year ahead with a new vision, a vision governed by the knowledge that only in harmony can we succeed.
I am now preparing to bring my Presidency to a close, and I would like to say that the last five years would not have been so enjoyable and so productive without the constant help and expertise of the people working around me.
I would like to thank all the directors present here today, for their continued commitment to the sport in Ireland, and for their dedication to the ideals upon which this Federation is built.
Finally, I would like to thank Michael Stone, who was Secretary General when I became President, and who is now with the FEI; our incomparable Secretary General Ned Campion; our Treasurer Dave Errity; Dermot Forde, for his energetic input into our Olympic campaign and his invaluable help with Sports Council funding, and Anne Chanarin and Jane Shortall in the EFI Head Office, Colin McClelland our Press Officer, and all those others whose advice and support have been so invaluable during the last five years - to all of them I say a heartfelt thank you.
And I hope that my successor is fortunate, and lucky, enough to have people
of such calibre to call upon.
I wish to welcome the next president of the EFI to this position, and extend
to him, or her, my support for the coming years.