Management of the Irish Greyhound Board (IGB) admitted the situation during a lengthy Dáil meeting over the repeated failures by the board to ensure financial stability, due to a damaging €20m national debt.
Chief executive Sean Brady told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) the semi-state body is doing everything it can to reduce crippling debts and increase investment in the organisation.
However, questioned by Deputy Marc MacSharry (FF), Mr Brady and group chair Philip Meaney said the board did not undergo a tendering process or open market bid for the property, which is believed to have sold for about €7m.
“On March 24, the Department of Agriculture asked me not to let it go on the public market,” Mr Brady said, before adding, under questioning from Deputy David Cullinane (SF), that there was “no tender process”.
The sale of the stadium to the Department of Education — which plans to build schools on the site — was revealed this week after weeks of acrimony between groups affected by the sale.
The IGB insisted the sale was necessary, as the Harold’s Cross stadium and Shelbourne Park could not continue to operate so close to each other, while the sale was also recommended in the independent Indecon report into the industry.
However, the Dublin Greyhound Owners and Breeders Association had heavily criticised the deal, saying it is not in the interests of those dependent on the industry.
During the PAC meeting, senior board officials were also forced to defend high salaries for the organisation’s hierarchy and previous decisions, which are alleged to have caused the current financial problems. Asked by Fine Gael TD Peter Burke why 11 senior members of the 240-person group receive 10% of all salaries and if this is “sustainable”, Mr Brady said the group’s “remuneration board decide the salary” and that “talented people” needed to be retained.
In a later discussion with Social Democrats’ Catherine Murphy, board member Pat Creed was questioned over a failed €1.5m investment in a site at Meelick, Co Clare, which now costs just €100,000.
Asked by Deputy Cullinane if the “shambolic” financial errors were “mismanagement, poor decision- making or incompetence”, Mr Brady said mistakes were made.
However, he insisted the current board remain best-placed to oversee the financial recovery of the organisation, telling Mr MacSharry, when asked how he can “continue managing the team, if you’ve lost the dressing room”, that he did not agree with the claim.
“Then, who are the people outside?” asked Mr MacSharry, referring to a protest by grassroots greyhound groups.
The PAC meeting is due to continue on May 18.