National Stud stays in public ownership but board to be overhauled

THE controversial Irish National Stud will remain in public ownership, but the revamp of its boardroom will continue with the appointments of new directors, according to Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney.

He confirmed that the Government would go against independent advice and retain the INS as a semi-state enterprise. He believed it would break even this year, despite its difficulties.

In the meantime, the minister said he would take the opportunity further to shake up the boardroom.

Earlier this year the Review Group on State Assets suggested that the INS was no longer necessary as a state-run operation and should be sold. It compromises of almost 1,000 acres of prime land in Kildare and a business with an annual turnover in excess of €6.8 million.

The company has over €8m in the past three years and has been the subject of high-profile and costly court actions arising out of an affair between two of its senior managers.

Mr Coveney said the terms of some directors had expired and, rather than reappoint them, he would use the opportunity to bring in “new blood”.

His department would not confirm which directors will be replaced or what potential vacancies have been brought to the minister’s attention.

Mr Coveney made his comments in response to a new book on the scandals surrounding the INS.

In the past 22 months the INS has been the focus of allegations of conflicts of interest involving the former board and misgivings over the manner in which it lost out on a chance to shape the stud career of the multimillion-euro wonder horse, Sea the Stars.

During this time the board was also under the spotlight for how it dealt with an internal report which found the then chief executive, John Clarke, subjected his former lover — the INS’s stallion nominations manager — Julie Lynch to victimisation and belittling treatment.

Just three out of seven directors who were in situ in late 2009, when internal disputes and controversies began to become public, remain on the board. These are chairman Chryss O’Reilly, trainer Dermot Weld and retired senior civil servant Jim Beecher.

Since January 2010 three directors have stepped down.

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