Stud gave €718,000 deals to firms run by staff

BUSINESS deals at the Irish National Stud (INS) worth €718,000 were not put to competitive tender and were awarded to firms run by some of its key personnel.

Figures reveal during an eight-year period two directors and its company secretary were linked to a series of independent deals with the state-owned commercial firm.

The details, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show that an accountancy firm managed by company secretary John McStay benefited the most.

Mr McStay, who holds the unsalaried honorary position, is also a partner at Dublin-based McStay Luby.

The INS said the company secretary acts as “financial adviser to the board on strategic financial matters”.

Between 2000 and 2008 his firm McStay Luby received €488,141 from the INS. This involved an annual accountancy fee which rose from €23,045 in 2000 to €48,450 in 2008.

In 2004 the firm was also retained to provide advice on a legal settlement brokered with former INS farm manager Pat Mullarkey. This was worth €48,400 to McStay Luby and was on top of €222,000 in legal fees incurred after Mr Mullarkey sought an injunction claiming he was bullied.

More recently McStay Luby was paid €59,895 to advise on the sale of shares in the stallion Invincible Spirit. The INS-controlled horse, valued at €45m, received a big investment in 2007. Mr McStay was a junior shareholder in the syndicate. When the deal was struck, he shared a €2.9m pot with two Invincible Spirit shareholders connected to the INS – chairwoman Chryss O’Reilly and director Trevor Stewart.

The INS said Mr McStay did not receive a salary for advising the board as secretary. It said the accountancy advice offered by McStay Luby was separate. It said the advice provided in the cases of Mr Mullarkey and Invincible Spirit were urgent. This is why they were not put to tender. And, since it employed a financial controller last year it no longer used McStay Luby.

McStay Luby was engaged by the INS prior to Mr McStay’s appointment as secretary. When contacted he said he did not wish to comment on the information supplied by the INS.

Separately, trainer Dermot Weld, an INS director, provided training services for a number of its horses from 2002 to 2008. For this he was paid €157,945. The INS said this was not tendered because it employs a number of trainers to match them with specific animals.

The INS bought a horsebox from a garage belonging to one of its directors, Mick Leavy. Burke Brothers’ garage sold the horsebox for €73,188. It didn’t go to tender because: “This was a specific customised vehicle of a type new to the market. It was accessible and serviceable locally.”

The revelations come as Public Accounts Committee chairman Bernard Allen prepares to quiz Department of Agriculture officials today on spending at the INS. He will probe how its former chief executive, John Clarke, clocked up €800,000 in travel expenses in eight years and €134,000 was spent on a house provided to him between 1999 and 2009.

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