Thursday 23 January 2020

Olympian O'Connor clears planning for arena development


Showjumper Cian O’Connor’s plans were supported by local Fine Gael TD Helen McEntee
Showjumper Cian O’Connor’s plans were supported by local Fine Gael TD Helen McEntee

Fearghal O'Connor

Olympic showjumping medallist Cian O'Connor is planning to develop an indoor equestrian arena as part of his booming Co Meath business.

The showjumper plans to convert an existing agricultural building for use as an arena with the provision of an extension to include for stores and viewing area. The plans, which have been given the go-ahead by the local planning authority, also includes the addition of new stables, offices and staff accommodation at his successful equestrian complex near Dunboyne.

O'Connor, a grandson of Irish rugby legend Karl Mullen and godson of businessman Tony O'Reilly, is best-known for his showjumping prowess. A regular member of the Irish Nations Cup Team, he won a bronze medal in the London Olympic Games in 2012. That success came eight years after he was stripped of a gold medal in Athens after his horse, Waterford Crystal, failed a drugs test, for which he has always insisted he bore no responsibility.

The plans, which also included retention for an existing stable building, were backed by local Fine Gael TD and Minister for European Affairs Helen McEntee. In a letter to the local county council she said that she was "delighted to support" the development because it would be "an asset to any community and would be a great economic boast for the local area".

She said that O'Connor's plans "have been a long time coming as they were first discussed back in 2012 with my late father, Shane", then Minister of State within the Department of Agriculture. He had requested that planning officials visit O'Connor's yard to "assess the possibility of future planning opportunities," she wrote.

Shareholders funds at O'Connor's firm, Ronnoco Jump Ltd, jumped from just over €2m in 2016 to €3.75m in 2017, according to the most recent set of financial accounts for the business.

Last year was a record one for his bloodstock business with an expected increase of 60pc on revenues and profits, according to previous reports.

In 2016 the business sold 22 showjumping horses to buyers across Europe and North America, it was reported.

Overall, the Irish horse breeding and racing industry generates over €1.8bn in economic activity and supports almost 29,000 jobs, according to a report undertaken by Deloitte last year.

It found that the Irish bloodstock industry was second only to the US in terms of value at public auctions. Nevertheless, the industry now faces huge potential challenges from Brexit, with newly appointed Horse Racing Ireland boss Nicholas Hartery saying earlier this month that he was preparing for a "doomsday scenario".

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