Equine vet Dr. Esther Skelly-Smith has been jointly elected as the new president of the Northern Ireland branch of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the North of Ireland Veterinary Association (NIVA).

During the joint annual general meeting (AGM) of the associations last night (Wednesday, February 22), Skelly-Smith succeeded Fiona McFarland as president of both the BVA NI and NIVA.

Skelly-Smith will be taking on the role following one year as junior vice-president of both associations. She acts as an equine expert on the College Advisory Group for the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE).

She is also the Northern Ireland representative on the UK Notifiable Equine Diseases Core Group, an Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) Next Generation Development Forum member and was previously BVA NI’s regional representative.

On becoming president, Skelly-Smith said she was looking forward to the year ahead.

“The veterinary profession in Northern Ireland continues to face challenges from long-term access to vital veterinary medicines and the evolving role vets play in trade following Brexit through to workforce shortages and future sustainability of the profession,” she said.

“However, there are also exciting opportunities and I’m keen to explore the role wellbeing and positive working relationships can have in delivering a veterinary profession that is fit for the future.

“I also hope to engage with the government to progress a strategic plan for the equestrian industry and improvements in equine welfare.” 

Esther Skelly-Smith

Skelly-Smith graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2012 and went on to intern at the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket before establishing Shanagan Veterinary Services – Ireland’s first equine integrated veterinary referral service – in 2017.

She is also a lecturer with Queen’s University Belfast, acting as a supervisor and placement provider for undergraduate and postgraduate research projects and lecturing on equine welfare.

Skelly-Smith said she plans to concentrate on several issues affecting animal welfare during her time as president of BVA NI and NIVA.

“As a profession we are key stewards of animal welfare. Unlike people, animals do not have a voice; yet they deserve to be understood and have their rights preserved and advocated for,” she said.

“It will therefore be no surprise that animal welfare issues will feature highly on the agenda this year.”

BVA president Malcolm Morley congratulated Skelly-Smith on her appointment, saying her years of experience and dedication to the veterinary profession means she is a “real asset” to both BVA and NIVA.

“There are challenging times ahead as we continue to resolve many of the issues still arising from Brexit,” he said.

“Esther has worked with the officer team in Northern Ireland to campaign and lobby for the issues that matter most to vets in Northern Ireland and there is more work still required to protect the future supply of veterinary medicines in Northern Ireland, but I know she is going to make a real difference and achieve great things.”