RTE; Friday, 19 Jul 2019 07:36

By Conor Ryan

Significant conflicts have emerged in the Irish Greyhound Board’s attitude towards a critical internal report that warned the industry’s future was threatened by over-breeding and the mass culling of greyhounds.

In the past week, the Irish Greyhound Board has publicly dismissed aspects of a business analysis it commissioned from consultants Preferred Results Ltd, the contents of which were revealed by RTÉ Investigates: Greyhounds Running for their Lives.

However, in June 2018, some nine months after the report was presented to the IGB, its chief executive Ger Dollard wrote a letter recommending Preferred Results Ltd and praising the “rigorous, thorough and professional way” the company undertook its work.

In the letter, seen by RTÉ Investigates, Mr Dollard said everyone he spoke to, who had been involved with the report process, was “impressed by the depth of the insight which PRL had acquired in such a short period of time”.

“I wish to confirm that between May and September 2017, Preferred Results Ltd. (PRL) carried out a review of the IGB Business Model, with a particular focus on the Racing Product, Management, Value Chain Analysis, and the Organisation Structure. The approach was rigorous, thorough and professional and really challenged how the board and senior management viewed the business.

“Not only did PRL highlight areas where it felt significant improvements could be made, it also set out a blue-print for change which it had worked through in detail with senior management, and which had their backing on the majority of the core recommendations,” Mr Dollard wrote.

The IGB paid Preferred Results Ltd €115,000 to deliver the report, which examined the industry’s breeding and racing records and concluded that 5,987 greyhounds were being killed each year for being too slow.

It also looked at the structure of the organisation and proposed the IGB taking over responsibility for breeding from the Irish Coursing Club.

Following the RTÉ broadcast, IGB Chairman Frank Nyhan appeared before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture.

Mr Nyhan, who took up his position as chairman six months ago, said that the consultancy company had gone outside its intended brief and the IGB believed its analysis of the racing dog pool was incorrect.

“We didn’t agree with or understand the conclusions reached by Preferred Results Ltd in respect of that. Quite frankly, we think they are wrong,” he said.

This point was echoed by Mr Dollard in an article written for the Sunday Independent.

“The [Preferred Results Ltd] analysis studied greyhounds from the 2009 ‘racing pool’ and was based on estimates, guesstimates and assumptions and lacked any empirical evidence base.

“The IGB did not accept the analysis as an accurate reflection of the greyhound industry,” he said.

The Preferred Results Ltd report had used breeding figures from 2013 to 2015 and said it examined the final outcome of racers using records going back to 2009 to provide a sufficiently long period to be sure all greyhounds in the sample had retired.

Speaking after the RTÉ broadcast, Junior Minister for Agriculture with responsibility for greyhounds, Andrew Doyle said: “Having read it I think it would have been useful to have seen it earlier.”

However, in June, the Department of Agriculture’s secretary general, Brendan Gleeson, told the Public Accounts Committee that it had not been given a copy of the report until May 2019 as the IGB “does not accept the report”.

Minutes of the Irish Greyhound Board from December 2017 recorded its directors described the report as “thought provoking”, but containing “some impractical short and medium-term measures”.

In response to a parliamentary question in April this year, Mr Dollard told Labour TD Alan Kelly the “report has not been adopted by the board and accordingly is not adopted as company policy for implementation”.

However, in his letter of recommendation, Mr Dollard said those involved were also impressed by the consultant’s ‘common sense’ recommendations, which challenged some of the most “cherished and long-held beliefs of the organisation”.

“While not all of the recommendations were accepted, some of the more critically important ones were taken on board and they are having a significant positive impact on an organisation which is naturally cautious when it comes to change,” he said.

Mr Dollard concluded his letter by saying: “I am happy to recommend PRL to companies which need a thorough analysis of its business and solid recommendations with respect to how it might change.”

RTÉ asked Mr Dollard and the IGB for a comment on the letter. A spokesperson said the IGB was not in a position to comment at this time.