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Minister Charlie McConalogue warns horse racing industry over standards following Oireachtas inquiry


Charlie McConalogue said horse racing must preserve its integrity. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Charlie McConalogue said horse racing must preserve its integrity. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Charlie McConalogue said horse racing must preserve its integrity. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Charlie McConalogue has said any breaches of regulations in the horse racing industry must be addressed with the “highest level of severity”.

The Agriculture Minister said the industry had “sailed too close to the wind” last year and called for the integrity of the sport to be protected.

He also signalled plans to appoint independent members to the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) on foot of recommendations by the Oireachtas agriculture committee.

Horse racing came under intense scrutiny last year following allegations of doping in the sector made by leading trainer Jim Bolger in the Sunday Independent.

Mr Bolger’s claims led to an Oireachtas investigation which ultimately found no evidence of doping, but called for a review of how the sport was regulated.

Mr McConalogue said Ireland had a “tremendous” horse racing sector which should be protected against any accusations that there was cheating in the industry.

“It’s a key driver in terms of rural economy and it’s world class in terms of its place in the horse racing industry internationally,” he told the Sunday Independent.

“It is something we really have to value and cherish and indeed protect. Central to that is the issue of ensuring the integrity central to everything that is done.”

The Fianna Fáil TD said the industry took doping “very seriously” and wanted to ensure standards were upheld by everyone working in the sector.

“It’s something I take very seriously as minister too and it’s something we cannot be in any way complacent about because the industry and horse racing is very much built on trust,” Mr McConalogue said.

“There was a couple of incidents over the last year which saw this sector sailing too close the wind.  

“Any intimation or any instance where integrity is not at the highest standards will be dealt with and must be dealt with the highest levels of severity.

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“And that’s certainly the lead I will give as minister and it needs to be right throughout the sector.”

He praised the work of the Oireachtas agriculture committee which, under chair Jackie Cahill, produced a report outlining how horse racing could ensure it is following international best practices.

The IHRB has since appointed former New South Wales chief veterinary officer Craig Suann to review its testing procedures.

The committee also recommended appointing independent members to the regulatory board and Mr McConalogue said this is something he is considering.

He said the committee “rightfully” highlighted that the minister did not get to select a nominee to the board and said this was something he was planning to make a decision on.

The minister also said the €70m the horse and greyhound racing sectors get from taxpayers is money “well spent”. 

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