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Minister under fire
over funding of racing

MINISTER Simon Coveney has defended horseracing's government funding as he revealed that the significant changes to the way the industry is run were nearing implementation at a meeting with the joint committee on agriculture, food and the marine.

The Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund has been allocated €54.22 million for 2014 and the committee met to consider whether this was appropriate and proportionate.

Coveney explained the international nature of horseracing and its contribution to the economy, but was criticised by senator Brian O Domhnaill.

Referring to the department of agriculture-commissioned Indecon report, a review into the way horseracing is governed, O Domhnaill said: "The report raised serious questions about the viability of the fund and the manner in which it is spent. There is roughly €25m available to the Irish Sport Council, which represents 57 national sporting organisations and 18 high-performance sports with athletes representing Ireland at an Olympic level."

He went on to say he could not justify maintaining that level of expenditure in horse and greyhound racing when funding for the Irish Sport Council and international athletes has been cut.

Coveney replied: "The actual sport element of horseracing is only part of the activity that we are funding here. I was in Qatar and the UAE recently and in both countries there are investors pumping money into Ireland. That type of economic investment just doesn't come from other sports. People need to understand the broader picture, it's not just sport."

Chair Andrew Doyle concluded that the fund should be "directly funded euro for euro with revenue from the betting industry, which is there to be tapped into" and stressed the importance of seeking use of the impending taxation of online gambling.

Coveney added: "We are introducing legislation to essentially complement the legislation that minister for finance Michael Noonan is introducing to actually change the structures within Horse Racing Ireland in terms of board membership, and you will see the details of that coming through this committee in the coming months."

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