New joint president elected for NIVA and BVA Northern Ireland branch

New joint president elected for NIVA and BVA Northern Ireland branch

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

Esther, from Katesbridge, Co Down, takes on the role following one year as junior vice president of both BVA’s NI branch and NIVA. She also holds many notable roles including an Ulster Farmers Union Next Generation Development Forum member and was BVA’s NI regional representative.

Graduating in 2012 from the University of Nottingham, Esther interned at the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket before establishing Shanaghan Veterinary Services in Banbridge which is Ireland’s first equine integrated veterinary referral service, in 2017. She is also an honorary lecturer with Queen’s University Belfast, acting as a supervisor and placement provider for undergraduate and postgraduate research projects and lecturing on equine welfare.

During the two associations joint annual general meeting, Esther succeeded Fiona McFarland as president of both BVA NI branch and NIVA, and was elected as the incoming 2023 president. Fiona will now move into the role of senior vice president of both associations.

Esther said: “I look forward to the year ahead. The veterinary profession in NI 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.

“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 also plans to concentrate on several issues affecting animal welfare: “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. It will therefore be no surprise that animal welfare issues will feature highly on the agenda this year.”

Esther also extended her thanks to Fiona McFarland, who was president of both BVA NI Branch and NIVA for 2022 – 2023, and outgoing senior vice president Mark Little.

BVA President Malcolm Morley congratulated Esther, he added: “Esther’s 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.

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

Esther will be joined on the officer team of both associations by new junior vice president and fellow NIVA council member Sharon Verner.

Sharon has worked with Animal Health and Welfare NI (AHWNI) for the last six years, managing the BVD eradication programme. Her main background is in leading on delivery and technical aspects of animal health schemes, including during 15 years in government veterinary service. Sharon is enthusiastic about improving animal welfare and farm efficiencies through the control of endemic diseases of livestock.