Harold’s Cross sale could take six months

Harold's Cross Greyhound Stadium.

The controversial €23m sale of Harold’s Cross greyhound stadium that would wipe out the Irish Greyhound Board’s debts may take another six months to be finalised.

The Department of Education agreed the purchase last May with the Irish Grehyound Board (IGB), but the deal was subject at the time to a change in zoning that would facilitate institutional and community use on the six-acre site.

A vote by members of Dublin City Council last September approved that change, which opens the way for a planning application to build schools.

The department hopes to use the site to meet future requirements for a growing south Dublin population, the rezoning does not guarantee success for any such application.

Despite the planning variations, the IGB’s latest financial accounts published with its 2016 annual report, suggest it could be late July before the deal is completed.

The accounts signed off at the end of October say the closure of the Harold’s Cross site “is anticipated to be concluded in the next nine months”.

The Department of Education told the Irish Examiner the acquisition is in “final stages of conveyancing which is a routine part of an acquisition process”. No payments will be made until conveyancing has been completed and contracts are signed.

The agreement for Education Minister Richard Bruton’s department to buy the site was announced on May 2, and Agriculture Minister Michael Creed and Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Paschal Donohoe gave their approval within weeks.

The valuation on the Harold’s Cross stadium site was questioned by TDs when IGB officials and board members were quizzed at the Dáil Public Accounts Committee last May.

Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane said it was remarkable how the value of the deal was enough to wipe out the board’s debts, with some additional funds. The IGB’s total debts at end of 2016 were €20.3m but this had reduced to €18.1m by the end of March.

Fianna Fáil PAC member Marc MacSharry, who is also an auctioneer, suggested that current south Dublin land values mean the site should only have been worth around €9m.

The Department of Education said the €23m price was based on the market value that was provided by the Valuation Office, as required by protocol for the transfer of property assets between two State entities.

The board’s decision to cease racing at the Harold’s Cross track in February caused a major rift with owners and breeders.


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