A NEW board of four people, drawn from the top ranks of corporate life, academia, and the civil service, was announced this evening as the new directors of Horse Sport Ireland.

The new board are Michael Dowling (interim chairman), UCD Professor Niamh Brennan, Zoe Kavanagh, head of the National Dairy Council, and retired high-ranking civil servant Dr Kevin Smyth.

Meanwhile, Joe Reynolds confirmed his resignation to The Irish Field this evening from his post as chairman at Horse Sport Ireland as the new regime swept in. Reynolds gave this statement to The Irish Field.

The new HSI board

Michael Dowling is the former Secretary General of the Department of Agriculture and was the author of the Dowling Report which saw the creation of Horse Sport Ireland. He is a former chairman of the Kerry Group. He also sits on the board of the Irish Agricultural Trust (publishers of The Irish Field and Irish Farmers Journal).

Niamh Brennan is the Michael MacCormac Professor of Management at University College Dublin and the Founder and Academic Director of the UCD Centre for Corporate Governance since 2002. She is the former chairperson of the National College of Art and Design and the Dublin Docklands Development Authority. She has also served as a director for Children's Health Ireland, the Health Service Executive (HSE), Ulster Bank, Co-operation Ireland, Coillte and a number of private companies. She is chairperson of the audit and risk committee of the Garda Síochána. In 2020, Niamh was elected a member of the Royal Irish Academy, Ireland's highest academic honour. Prof. Brennan also serves on the board of the Irish Agricultural Trust.

Zoe Kavanagh (neé McElligott) is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Dairy Council since 2011. She occupies a variety of Board positions including chair of International Milk Promotion Group, vice chair of European Milk Forum and governance board member of Vista Milk. She has a keen interest in horses and has competed in eventing.

Dr Kevin Smyth is the former Chief Financial Officer at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine having retired earlier this year.

The four were announced as the Ministerial appointees tonight and in time, the existing HSI structure can appoint their four, restoring the board to eight at a future point in time.


The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD made the announcement this evening, in consultation with Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin TD and Minister of State for Sport and the Gaeltacht Jack Chambers TD.

In a statement from the Department tonight, it stated that the new Board members will remain in-situ until after the Paris Olympics.

Minister McConalogue expressed his gratitude to the former chairman Joe Reynolds, who had offered to step down but agreed to remain in place until a new chair had been appointed. Minister McConalogue also thanked previous board members for their service.

Referring to the appointments, the Minister said: “The sport horse sector is enormously important in Ireland, from a sporting, economic and cultural perspective. Many of the key performance indicators around breeding and sporting performance are positive.

“From the local shows to major international events, we are the envy of the world when it comes to producing top-class horses for the sector. Recent results by our high-performance teams on the global stage show the calibre of our sector internationally. What is important now is that we have a period of stability for the organisation and its staff in the period running up to the next Olympics.

“Given that the Board has resigned, I have asked Mr. Michael Dowling, former chair of Kerry Group PLC, to step in as chair for that period. He will be joined by Professor Niamh Brennan, Professor of Management and Corporate Governance at UCD, Ms. Zoe Kavanagh, Chief Executive Officer of the National Dairy Council, and Dr. Kevin Smyth, former Chief Financial Officer at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

“This is a strong team and I am grateful that they have agreed to serve in order to bring stability to the organisation. I know that they will work closely with the sector and cast an objective eye at the running of the organisation, the development of the sector and the stewardship of almost €7 million in public funds annually.”

These appointments are effective immediately, the Minister's statement concluded.