The Times Tuesday October 8 2018

Documents show that Seán Ó Foghlú, secretary general of the Department of Education, told the PAC last year that its offer of €23 million was based on an assessment of the site by the Valuation Office as required when property is being transferred between two state bodies. He claimed that a circular issued by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform set out that the market value determined by the Valuation Office was “binding”. Its value of €23 million was provided in April last year, one month after Savills’ valuation of €12 million.
Documents show that the Valuation Office based its price on the fact that there was restrictive zoning on the site and a necessity to obtain a change in zoning to facilitate the construction of schools together with the cost of demolishing existing structures.
An internal document from IGB showed that its directors had expressed “disappointment” at Savills’ valuation at a board meeting in March last year. Savills had said that the site could also appeal to parties interested in providing student accommodation or sports clubs as well as a number of semi-state bodies.
The sale of the Harold’s Cross track was one of the key recommendations of the 2014 Indecon report on the future of greyhound racing, which was commissioned by the government because of the deteriorating financial position of IGB. The greyhound board had amassed total debts of €21.3 million by the end of 2016. This was largely linked to the expenditure of €21 million on a project to develop a new stadium in Limerick which never went ahead.
In a letter to Michael Creed, the agriculture minister, in May last year, Seán Brady, the interim IGB chief executive at the time, said that its “enormous” debt level, interest on bank borrowings and repayment on loans was restricting the board from meeting its statutory objectives as a semi-state body.
Dr Brady described the sale of Harold’s Cross as “the key cornerstone for the future viability and planned rebuilding of the greyhound industry”.
He informed the minister that the ability of the board to keep trading was at the discretion of AIB, which had a lien over all the board’s assets.
“The sale of Harold’s Cross is absolutely essential to avoid the IGB becoming insolvent,” Dr Brady said.
He told Mr Creed that the acceptance of the offer from the Department of Education had the potential “to regenerate all elements of the greyhound industry following a decade of decline”.
The Harold’s Cross track first opened in 1928, but racing ceased there in February of last year after the decision by the greyhound board to address its debts, which led to a six-month boycott by trainers and breeders of racing dogs at Shelbourne Park, the only remaining greyhound track left in Dublin.