Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy TD, has said that the report of the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine into horse racing in Ireland paves the way to restore public confidence in this important sector.
The committee published its report on Tuesday following several hearings, which addressed concerns about the horse racing industry, including allegations of doping.
Teachta Carthy said:
“I am pleased to have had an opportunity to partake in intensive deliberations in the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture that robustly addressed key concerns that have been raised publicly.
“While the committee found no evidence to substantiate allegations of widespread doping within the horseracing sector, it is clear that there is a lack of public confidence that the anti-doping regime is sufficiently stringent and independent.
“This report contains a number of key recommendations that can restore that confidence.
“I hope that the Minister for Agriculture will now ensure that those recommendations are implemented.
“Primarily, there must be a demarcation between Horse Racing Ireland and the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board.
“This report recommends that the IHRB be funded directly from the department, rather than via Horse Racing Ireland, and also that the organisation be directly accountable to the Department of Agriculture.
“Horse racing in Ireland receives significant public investment, reflecting the important role it plays in the Irish economy and in communities across the country.
“However, this state funding must be matched by the highest standards of accountability and transparency. In the first instance, the salaries of senior personnel must be publicly available.
“In particular, I firmly endorse the recommendation that the composition of the board of the regulatory body be comprised by a majority who are independent of the sector, as has been adopted in the United States.
“Horse racing in Ireland is largely a success story. We need to ensure that it remains so.
“That means that we must constantly evaluate whether state funding is spent in a manner that represents best value-for-money. Clearly, there is disquiet in the sector that funding is directed at prize monies, which disproportionately benefit a small number of elite trainers.
“Examination should be ongoing to source a method that better directs these funds to support new entrants, local breeders and trainers as well as rural economies.
“If the state is to continue to subsidise this sector, which I support, then the government must take greater control to ensure the investment benefits the greatest number of those involved, and not just an elite few.
“They must also ensure that Ireland sets the global metric on animal welfare standards in horse racing.
“I am sure that the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee will return to this subject but, for now, this report, if its recommendations are implemented by government, paves the way to restore maximum public confidence in Irish horse racing.”