No reduction in greyhound budget despite lockdown

The Irish Greyhound Board (IGB) is currently employing a fraction of the staff it would in normal times, while its overall budget remains unchanged.
No reduction in greyhound budget despite lockdown
The protest at Curraheen Greyhound Stadium Cork, organised by Greyhound Awareness Cork, was attended by over 200 people and included actress and author Pauline McLynn. Attending the event were members of Dog Action Welfare Group (DAWG). Pic; Larry Cummins
The protest at Curraheen Greyhound Stadium Cork, organised by Greyhound Awareness Cork, was attended by over 200 people and included actress and author Pauline McLynn. Attending the event were members of Dog Action Welfare Group (DAWG). Pic; Larry Cummins

The Irish Greyhound Board (IGB) is currently employing a fraction of the staff it would in normal times, while its overall budget remains unchanged.

The representative body for the sport said that, as of May 1, its staff total was 205, including part-time employees and casual workers.

Such non-contract workers can exceed 600 in number at peak operations in normal times, the board said.

The majority recurring staff role among the 205 active positions with the IGB is ‘racing operative’, with such posts dotted around the country at the board’s nine active racing tracks, according to an answer to a parliamentary question lodged by Kildare Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy.

All greyhound racing has been cancelled since March 24 in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, and is not expected to return before June 29.

Meanwhile, the IGB has published its injury data for 2019, a year in which 119 animals were put down.

All told, 332 injuries to dogs were recorded across 2019, or 0.34% of the 98,552 animals raced in that 12-month period.

The numbers represent a “downward trend evidence since 2015”, the board said. Some 427 injuries were recorded in 2016 per the IGB’s statistics. Denis Healy, veterinary director with Bord na gCon, said the reduction in injury rates is attributable to “improvements in track maintenance and operating procedures”.

Greyhound racing in Ireland has been through a difficult 12 months after an RTE Prime Time Investigates report last summer alleged that overbreeding and mass culling of pups was widespread, accusations the IGB claimed contained a “large number” of “factual inaccuracies and mistruths”.

In the fallout from that report’s broadcast, a number of high-profile sponsors, including Barry’s Tea and FBD Insurance, walked away from the sport, while Tourism Ireland ruled that greyhound racing would no longer be promoted to either the national or international markets.

The IGB’s annual statutory budget allocation for 2020 remained unchanged at €16.8m for 2020. That budget has not totalled less than €16m since 2017.

Last November, it emerged that Bord na gCon had paid no dividend from profits after tax to its shareholder, the State, in 25 years.

While commercial semi-state bodies are under no legislative onus to provide dividends, since the introduction of the New Economic Recovery Authority in 2011, a return of 30% from such bodies has become the expected norm.

Bord na gCon is, however, not alone among semi-states in not having made such dividend payments. Just 11 bodies are listed by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform as having returned a dividend to the State in each of the past five years.

The average attendance at Bord na gCon track meets in 2018 was 319 people. The board’s turnover in 2017 was €22.7m, down almost 20% on its 2016 figures, while profit before tax was down a massive 48% from €3.2m to €1.7m.

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