Tom Hayes TD, junior minister with responsibility for the industry, said that after meeting with the Irish Greyhound Board recently and discussing its plans, he has asked for a terms of reference to be drawn up.
The announcement came after the Department of Agriculture was put under pressure by one of the company’s directors and Fianna Fáil to examine the industry.
Last week Fianna Fáil’s agriculture spokesman Éamon Ó Cuív wrote to the Oireachtas committee asking for it to open up an inquiry this autumn. He asked for such an inquiry to include input from the IGB, owners and breeders, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, bookmakers, and private track owners.
“I view of the delay in the publishing of the annual report and accounts for 2011 of the Irish Greyhound Board, and the issues of concern about the industry aired in the public domain, I believe an examination of the greyhound industry in Ireland should be on the work agenda for the autumn,” he wrote.
Last month, Mr Hayes received a letter from a greyhound board director, Brendan Moore.
This claimed political interference had brought the company to the brink of collapse. He said the semi-state firm had combined debts in excess of €30m and its tracks lost €1.1m last year: “Confidence in the industry is shattered. Breeding figures and racing pools are dangerously low. The regulatory function is completely and utterly failing on a regular basis with one scandal after another.”
The IGB responded and said it had performed strongly despite the economic downturn. It said it has produced its own five-year plan that will turn the industry around.
“With the assistance of external consultants, IGB completed a strategic plan that involved over 1,200 submissions from industry stakeholders. This plan is being implemented,” it said.
The department said that notwithstanding the IGB’s plan, the minister wanted a review in line with the work carried out for the horse racing industry by Indecon consultants.
“Minister Hayes has met with key industry stakeholders in recent weeks and met with board members and executives of Bord na gCon on Jul 25. The terms of reference of the review are being finalised and will be published in due course.”
Both Mr Ó Cuív’s and Mr Moore’s letters came on the back of annual accounts for the company that had been belatedly published.
In these, the company and the Comptroller and Auditor General noted that it had broken procurement rules and had not conducted proper tendering. The IGB’s long term bank debt had risen to €22.7m and it said these will be on an interest only basis until 2016.