Public Accounts Committee Probes Irish Horseracing

Addressing Financial Scrutiny and Animal Welfare in Irish Horseracing

The transfer of €350,000 from the Jockeys Emergency Fund to the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) and the repercussions from the RTE Investigates programme will be key topics as senior racing officials face the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday morning.

Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) chief executive Suzanne Eade and IHRB’s Darragh O’Loughlin will attend the session at Leinster House.

Unpacking Financial Concerns and Animal Welfare

The focus will be on the controversial transfer from the Jockeys Emergency Fund and the recent RTE Investigates programme, which revealed disturbing footage of routine animal welfare abuse at Ireland’s only licensed equine abattoir in Straffan, County Kildare.

Last June, O’Loughlin disclosed a serious financial issue regarding the IHRB’s 2022 accounts during a PAC hearing. Chief financial officer Donal O’Shea was placed on “voluntary leave” immediately, without prejudice. The IHRB’s 2022 annual report, released last Friday, confirmed the irregularity involved a €350,000 transfer from the Jockeys Emergency Fund to the IHRB, which was reversed three months later. The Jockeys Emergency Fund is one of three charities managed by the IHRB.

The Call for Transparency

After last year’s PAC hearing, auditing firm Mazars was tasked with investigating the issue, but their findings remain unpublished after 12 months. PAC chair Brian Stanley emphasized that the status of this review and the IHRB’s 2022 financial statements will be central topics at the hearing, alongside those of HRI.

Brian Stanley stated: “Key issues for the committee with regard to the IHRB are the independent external review in relation to financial governance, enforcement of the rules of racing, provision of integrity services such as monitoring and controlling the activities of horseracing officials, providing licences to horseracing trainers and jockeys, enforcing doping controls, and providing forensic testing and handicapping.”

Comprehensive Examination of Horseracing Integrity

Seamus McCarthy, the comptroller and auditor general who audited the IHRB’s 2022 financial statements, will be present. Officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine will also attend.

Questions concerning the RTE Investigates programme will be directed at HRI.

Stanley outlined the committee’s focus with HRI:

“Matters for the committee to examine with HRI include animal welfare and traceability, the growth and sustainability of Ireland’s horse racing and breeding industries, the Curragh racecourse development, security and standards for the sport of horse racing in Ireland, standards of integrity and anti-doping, trickle-down of prize money, clarity of roles with regard to other players in the sector, and protecting the industry’s reputation and economic value.”

Stanley concluded: “The committee looks forward to examining the 2022 financial statements of both HRI and the IHRB and related matters with Ms. Eade, Mr. O’Loughlin, and their colleagues.”


Public Accounts Committee Probes Irish Horseracing

Sign Up To Ireland’s First Ever Grassroots Equine Magazine!

Written by Grassroots Members for Grassroots Members!!

Your subscription is 100% Free for our first year, No credit card details required.