Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has defended an increase of €12m in annual funding for horse and greyhound racing. 

The sports will receive €96 million next year.

Horse Racing Ireland funding will be increased to €76.8m in 2021 from €67.2m this year. 

Charlie McConalogue said the increase in funding was "important" due to the impact of Covid-19.

He said the increase reflects the fact there have no been attendances at events, which he said has put massive pressure on the sector. 

The minister said it is important that jobs in the industry are supported.

Asked if animal welfare issues had been raised during discussions on funding increases for the sector, the minister said the issue was "very much central to all of our engagements with the greyhound sector".

He added continued funding was "contingent on animal welfare measures being taken".

The minister pointed out that the Government has increased the funding of animal welfare organisation by 50% and believes that reflects the priority of the issue in the Department of Agriculture.

Greyhound Racing Ireland chairman Frank Nyhan welcomed the additional funding.

"The greyhound community has been operating in very difficult circumstances. I very much welcome the additional allocation of €2.4m provided as part of Budget 2021 which is a very necessary support to greyhound racing and the greyhound community," he said.

Nyhan added that their priority remains on the area of care and welfare and that full implementation of the Greyhound Racing Act of 2019 will be progressed.

He said: "The traceability system for the racing greyhound is nearing completion and will be available before year end."