By Harry McGee, Political Editor
LABOUR leader Pat Rabbitte last night launched a stinging criticism of the handling of the Bord na gCon controversy, claiming that Sports Minister John O’Donoghue and chairman Paschal Taggart had both displayed a serious lack of judgement.
Speaking at his party’s selection convention in Cork North Central, Mr Rabbitte called for a clear-out of the board that runs the Irish racing industry.
He claimed Mr Taggart was indulging in "increasingly bizarre behaviour" in defending his role in the controversy - a reference to tomorrow’s high-profile press conference in Shelbourne Park.
Mr Rabbitte claimed Mr O’Donoghue was far too close to the industry to make the sort of objective judgments required of a minister. (Mr O’Donoghue is a greyhound racing enthusiast and is a member of the politician’s syndicate that owns the successful greyhound Lotto Princess).
Mr Rabbitte also queried the re-appointment to the board of one individual last year. Describing the reappointment as "extraordinary", Mr Rabbitte said he had tried to bring the matter up on several occasions with the minister in the Dáil but had failed to get a satisfactory explanation.
He said reports that recently departed chief executive Aidan Tynan had been offered a financial settlement was "entirely in keeping with previous experience in regard to Bord na gCon".
Referring to yesterday’s report in the Irish Examiner, he said: "Six senior employees are reported to have received financial settlements in recent years following their departure.
"Again we do not know what the cost to the taxpayer has been, but such a pattern of departure of senior staff, followed by generous financial settlements and confidentiality clauses, should have set alarm bells ringing in Minister O’Donoghue’s office."
The Labour leader argued that the current board no longer had the full confidence of large sections of the industry or of the public.
"These developments have also focused attention on the increasingly bizarre behaviour of Mr Taggart. Nobody doubts his commitment to the greyhound industry, but increasingly questions are being asked about his judgment."
He said if the board had the genuine interests of the greyhound sector at heart, the best thing they could do would be to resign.