IGB chief says no to job from Coveney

The chief executive of the Irish Greyhound Board has shocked the company by deciding to leave his post weeks after Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney broke the rules to keep him in a job.

IGB CEO Adrian Neilan turned down the two-year contract Mr Coveney secured for him and will leave the organisation when his current seven-year term ends at the end of this month.

The company learned of his decision on Thursday and, in a statement, said Mr Neilan had not resigned but had decided to pursue another role which he will take up in the new year.

Mr Neilan’s departure took the company, the industry, and the Department of Agriculture by surprise.

The board had spent the last 18 months successfully lobbying the senior and junior agriculture ministers in a bid to relax the rules to keep Mr Neilan in place.

His original contract had included an explicit rule introduced for semi-state chief executives that prohibited them from being rehired for any role in the company.

However this month, following a request from Mr Coveney, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin granted approval for this rule to be broken in order to offer Mr Neilan a renewed deal.

The news has left the organisation in turmoil as it copes with the fallout of a race-fixing scandal in Dundalk and a looming High Court action linked to the drugging of a dog in the 2010 Derby final.

These two issues have compounded financial problems, which has led to protracted negotiations with AIB in a bid to restructure crippling debts that built up during the controversial development of its €23m Limerick track.

The Comptroller and Auditor General has also indicted his intention to launch a special investigation into that project.

This was deemed necessary after numerous issues emerged about the company’s costly reliance on a unwritten “gentleman’s agreement” which governed who should pay for key engineering work.

Of more immediate concern, the board met yesterday to try to finalise its response to written inquires from the Public Accounts Committee regarding irregularities and budget overruns linked to Limerick project.

Last month, Mr Neilan led the IGB’s delegation to meet the PAC and defended its record and the company’s prospects of recovering.

The PAC said it was not happy with the answers.


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