Tuesday 25 July 2017

'Like North Korea' - Brian Kavanagh gets 'unprecedented' 19 years in €191k job because contract details weren't finalised

Horse Racing Ireland boss's appointment to third term became 'a matter of course'

The CEO of Horse Racing Ireland Brian Kavanagh Photo: Martin Nolan
The CEO of Horse Racing Ireland Brian Kavanagh Photo: Martin Nolan
John Downing

John Downing

FAILURES to finalise details of a fixed-term job contract led to the Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) boss getting an unprecedented third term in his €191,000 per year job.

Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of HRI, will have served 19 years in the post when his extended term expires in 2021 despite government rules fixing a seven-year term. HRI chairman, Joe Keeling apologised to the Dáil agriculture committee for his board’s “mishandling” the appointment procedures .

“There have been errors – but no wrongdoing. There was no attempt to mislead the Minister and the Government,” the chairman of the Keeling food group said.

Independents4Change TD Clare Daly said the 19-year term could only be compared with practices in North Korea – or the Olympic Council of Ireland.

Board member, Meta Osborne, also a member of the HRI remuneration committee, said they were furnished with two legal opinions which warned that Brian Kavanagh “potentially” had a Contract of Indeterminate Duration (CID). They contemplated seeking a third legal opinion but decided against this.

Fine Gael TD Michael D’Arcy said that in practice once a fixed-term contract was not finalised or renewed it automatically became a permanent contract with strong legal stipulations. But none of the three board members attending the committee could say precisely when this contractual change had happened.

Chief: HRI’s Brian Kavanagh
Chief: HRI’s Brian Kavanagh

Labour TD, Willie Penrose, who is also a barrister, said  the best county manager was appointed for a seven-year term and only after great pleading might eventually secure one three-year extension.  He said Mr Kavanagh was first appointed in 2001 for seven years and that term was up for extension in 2008.

Mr Penrose said efforts to deal with contract extension dragged into 2011 but were never concluded due to dispute over outstanding issues. These included a stipulation that Mr Kavanagh should have no job of any kind at HRI once that second term expired in 2016.

The Labour agriculture spokesman said that the HRI board had failed in 2011. “You were left holding the baby,” Mr Penrose said – adding that he also accepted Mr Keeling was chairing HRI voluntarily without any payment.

Deputy Penrose said it was important to keep personalities out of the issue. He accepted that Mr Kavanagh was highly qualified and experienced – but it was “far-fetched” to say a planned major redevelopment of the Curragh Racecourse could not happen without him heading HRI.

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