Conflict of interest in greyhound stadium deal

A builder who earned €1.3m preparing the land for Limerick’s new greyhound stadium owned a stake in the firm that backed out of a gentleman’s agreement to do the work for free.

Pat Mulcair’s company Roadbridge stepped in and won the Irish Greyhound Board (IGB) tender to raise the flood-prone site for its Greenpark stadium in Dec 2008.

At the time he owned 45,000 shares out of 571,000 in Limerick Racecourse Company (LRC), which sold the site to the IGB for €3.4m.

This deal was tied to a parallel gentleman’s agreement covering millions of euro worth of ancillary services.

As part of the unwritten pact the IGB believed it would get €2m-worth of filling done as a ‘gift’ from LRC.

However, weeks into the site work LRC abandoned its efforts to source material and its contractor, Earthworks Profiling, left the site.

The IGB was forced to undertake a hasty tender process. This was won by Roadbridge for €870,000, although the eventual bill came to €1.3m.

In the seven months leading up to the signing of the Jun 2008 sale contract the IGB repeatedly overruled warnings from solicitors and engineers on its terms.

These consultants urged private arrangement for the filling work, which was eventually done by Roadbridge, to be written down. In addition, LRC prepared a side letter to outline the areas of understanding. This was never signed.

Ultimately the IGB felt it could not ask for too much from the company selling it the property. It cited a fear it would spoil the goodwill it believed existed in LRC’s “neighbourly gesture” to raise the land levels.

Following the engagement of Roadbridge, the IGB had to spend €1.1m with another company to compact the ground to carry the stadium’s weight.

The gentleman’s agreement was struck between LRC chairman Mark McMahon and IGB counterpart Dick O’Sullivan. This happened four years after the semi-state company walked away from the same site because a valuer’s report said the filling cost would be too expensive.

A tender report did show that the original €870,000 price quoted by Roadbridge was marginally cheaper than the second-placed bidder.

Mr McMahon, and Mr Mulcair did not reply to requests for comment.

The IGB said it would not comment on this issue as it was dissatisfied with how its statements have been treated in previous newspaper investigations. It did say it was happy all purchasing was consistent with procurement guidelines.

A €25m debt burden has been built up by the IGB because of costs associated with the Limerick development and an inability to sell two linked properties around the city.

In a bid to stay inside its debt limit the IGB has had to cut its staff numbers, reduce prize money, pair down the number of race meetings, and eliminate some services such as the Aertel results page.

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