Meeting at Agriculture House on 05/06/2016 with Minister Andrew Doyle and Brendan Gleeson, Assistant Secretary General of the Dept of Agriculture.
From IGOBF Bill Murphy, Ray Harney, Martin Moriarty & Paul Dillon.
We had a detailed discussion on the decline of the industry with particular emphasis on the period 2011 up to 2014.
Prior to the meeting we had requested IGB figures for 2015 but we were refused access. Mr Gleeson could not explain why Horse Racing Ireland had figures for 2015 available but IGB did not.

Tote at IGB has fallen from €24 million to €19.9 million in the period; attendance has fallen from 756,000 to 644,000 ; sponsorship has fallen from €944,000 to €879,000; Horse Racing Ireland tote has increased from €45 million to €74 million from the 2011 to 2015.
To put these figures in context, the IGB tote in 2007 was €48 million, attendance was 1.28 million, sponsorship was €2.09 million.
Breeding
The breeding decline figures from ICC are equally worrying.
The number of active owners have declined from 9,826 to 5,940 in the period 2011 to 2015 and in spite of the breeding incentive introduced in April 2016, matings for the first five months of 2016 are 10% less than the same period in 2015.

Total debts of IGB continue to rise but Mr Gleeson refused to divulge what the current figure is.
In spite of the continued decline in tote and attendance, staff costs rose from €7.05 million to €8.3 million from 2011 to 2014. Mr Gleeson did not think this was a matter for concern.

Agriculture Committee Report.
We got what I felt was a very unconvincing explanation as to why the Minister was not going to implement the recommendations of the Ag Committee Report. The Minister did say that he hoped that the recommendations would be incorporated in the upcoming legislation that was being prepared. He did not give any time line as to when this would be done only to say it was on the agenda.

Mr Gleeson agreed that any industry that was in receipt of Government funding would be obliged to disclose how many people were employed in the particular industry. He could not give any explanation as to why nobody knew how many people worked in the greyhound industry. The Minister thought that this was information that IGB should be able to provide but Mr Gleeson was reluctant. I don’t expect any figures to be made public as this would only highlight the failure of the industry.

IGOBF pointed out the conflict of interest when members of the Control Committee are active owners of dogs. Mr Gleeson said it was difficult to get suitably qualified people to sit on these committees. I don’t expect any changes here.
Simon Coveney has previously stated that the Indecon recommendations were being implemented “assiduously” . One of the recommendations was that board members would serve a maximum of 2 terms. Minister Doyle could give no explanation as to why his predecessor appointed a board member for a third term in clear breach of the Indecon recommendations. Minister Doyle was also non-committal on how he was going to resolve the issue even though the Ag Comm report recommended that the “provision must be adhered to immediately”
We also pointed out that under Mr Hayes tenure as Minister that four Tipperary people had been appointed onto the Board and such blatant cronyism was damaging to the integrity of the organisation.
Minster Doyle would not say if the current Chairman of IGB would be reappointed but said the decision was not solely his and that the new Agriculture Committee would have a say in the matter. The new Chairman, Pat Deering TD, is a close friend of the current IGB Chairman. It is easy enough to see where this is going.
Illegally registered dogs.
The Minister was familiar with the problem and has retreated from the position of the Ag Comm report when he said that issue “must be addressed immediately”. The Minister is concerned that there would be a legal challenge if the illegal dogs were disqualified but he also conceded that owners beaten by illegal dogs could also legally challenge results. The Minister now seems at one with the Board on this one, cross your fingers and pray that nobody beaten by an illegal dog goes to their solicitor.

Drugs
We explained that the previous Minister had refused to discuss the drugs problem in detail as he said the Morris report would answer all issues. We asked Minister Doyle to explain why IGB have had this report for twelve months but refused to publish it. He had no explanation. Mr Gleeson said that it would be published soon but when pressed for a date he refused to give one.

Harolds Cross
We raised the issue of Harolds Cross but the Minister informed us that he was meeting representatives of Dublin GOBA immediately after our meeting to discuss the issue and felt it would be better to deal directly with Dublin GOBA.

End of meeting.

Summary, what next?
It is now 4 years since the IGOBF started their campaign to highlight the serious financial problems that were developing at the IGB if it did not adjust. The Board and The Executive of the IGB rubbished our predictions but the figures now clearly show who was telling the truth.
The new Minister appears a very honourable man and seems to have a genuine interest in helping the industry. The Minister is putting a lot of faith in the Forum that was established by Minister Coveney. I believe he is being naïve here. This Forum can only make recommendations to the Board. Indecon, The Ag Committee, Dalton, The C&AG, The PAC, Sutton&Kelly, The Information Commissioner, Morris, the various Greyhound Acts, the list goes on of people and organisations that have produced reports with recommendations and legislation to direct the greyhound industry. What is the point in making further recommendations or producing more legislation when the current board refuse to abide with what is already in place?
The Irish greyhound industry has three basic challenges it needs to address if it is to have a future.
1) Greyhound Welfare, this is a growing issue but can be dealt with. Token gestures fool nobody.
2) Restoration of Integrity. A board that have shown scant regard for rules will find it difficult to convince anyone that they have changed their ways.
3) Finance; The IGB is devoid of ideas and has now become totally dependent on Government funding. The general public perception which will become more negative due to the failure to address welfare issues suggests this money may not always be available

The Irish greyhound industry has lost 18 active owners per week or 45% of the total owners since the current chairman was appointed. Having spent over an hour in the company of the Minister and Brendan Gleeson, the two most influential people regarding the direction of the Irish greyhound industry, I expect the decline of the industry will continue.