Junior minister Tom Hayes has come under cross-party pressure to formally investigate integrity and corporate governance problems at the Irish Greyhound Board.
Mr Hayes addressed concerns in the Seanad yesterday where members of all parties, except Fine Gael, called for an investigation into how the company has been run.
During the debate it was revealed the IGB’s internal auditor, who had been in a dispute with its chairman, Phil Meaney, over claims of interference into a race-fixing inquiry, had left his job.
It was claimed the internal auditor, who had been on long-term sick leave, had been “paid off”.
Last year the internal auditor and the IGB’s head of compliance had gone on sick leave after they had produced a report that found numerous incidents of race fixing at Dundalk.
Mr Hayes was asked why the IGB never published the work of the men, that criticised the board’s regulation system, and instead opted to hire a consultant to produce a separate sanitised report.
A number of senators read extracts from a separate letter sent to Mr Hayes by the recently-resigned director, Brendan Moore. In it, Mr Moore claimed political interference and a board lacking the required skills was hurting the industry.
Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill said Mr Moore’s claims and the ongoing problems warranted a full independent investigation. This was supported by Sinn Féin’s Trevor Ó Clocarthaigh.
In response, Mr Hayes said he had met with Mr Moore last July and following this meeting, the director had not attended board meetings.
He suggested the department was considering removing Mr Moore before he resigned himself.
In a statement last night Mr Moore said Mr Hayes’ account of their interactions was not accurate and he was disappointed the minister had used Oireachtas privilege to say this. He said he had written to the agriculture ministers on three occasions (July 21, September 3, and January 22) and he asked for Mr Hayes to retract his statement and lay that correspondence before the Dáil.
“Minister Hayes’ comments in the Seanad are most upsetting as they are not a correct account of what happened. Thankfully, I have written evidence of what happened and I will be calling on Minister Coveney and Minister Hayes to put the contents of the following correspondence on record in Dáil Éireann,” he said.
The Seanad heard that the head of compliance returned to work after the former chief executive, Adrian Neilan, left the company in January. But senator James Heffernan said the company’s decision to pay off the internal auditor was not right.
“I smell a rat, minister, and I am not the only one who smells the same rat.”
Labour’s Declan Landy said there were clearly issues in need of investigation.
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