Sunday 21 January 2018

This man has made thousands of cows fly and now he's moo-ving on

Bóthar's chief executive Peter Ireton
Bóthar's chief executive Peter Ireton

Barry Duggan

HE has shipped enough animals to fill Noah's Ark many times over during the past 20 years.

And now the man who helped make Bothar one of the country's most successful charities is stepping down from his leadership role.

Peter Ireton (59) is retiring as CEO of Bothar -- a livestock aid organisation that he started on a voluntary basis two decades ago.

And while the charity now transports a range of species -- from goats to camels, water buffalo and bees -- it is Bothar's beginnings with Irish cows that will always stick in his memory. And he revealed that the cows are actually quite docile air passengers.

"The cows don't mind flying at all -- there is not a bother out of them," he said.

From what was meant to be a once-off gesture of airlifting cows to Africa to mark Limerick's 'Treaty 300' celebrations in 1991, Bothar now has an international staff of 30 people who deliver livestock to 5,000 families in 35 countries annually.


From Castletroy on the outskirts of Limerick, Mr Ireton has been involved in the international transport of pedigree livestock since flying his first cow to the US in 1976.

The first Bothar airlift in 1991 involved just 20 cows, which were flown from Shannon to Uganda.

Bothar grew out of this humble beginning and now has an annual turnover of €10m. The charity sends livestock -- 16 species in all -- to those most in need.

Bothar's main focus is training and educating recipient families on how to receive and look after their food -- and income-producing animals.

"We just grew and grew at a phenomenal rate," Mr Ireton said.

"The principal support was the farming community," but he points out that the group also receives huge support today from the non-farming community.

In recent years, inmates at Shelton Abbey prison in Arklow, Co Wicklow, have been raising dairy heifers and goats, which will be sent to Africa, Asia and eastern Europe.

Mr Ireton has taken up to 250 flights across the globe in cargo planes -- with just the animals in their pens for company.

Yesterday, he said it was time to make way for new blood and fresh thinking for the organisation.

"Little did I know that what started out as a one-off project with the late TJ Maher (former IFA president and MEP) back in 1991 would grow into a charity that works in 35 countries today," Mr Ireton said.

"I am quite happy, however, to be stepping down as chief executive as I believe that it's time for new blood and a new vision for the organisation and I look forward to seeing where the incoming CEO takes the charity from here and supporting him or her," he added.

Irish Independent

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