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Forensic accountant looking at greyhound track report

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Marguerite Furlong, chairperson Coiste na nÓg, Richard Pugh, commentator and Myles Roban, Enniscorthy Greyhound Track

Marguerite Furlong, chairperson Coiste na nÓg, Richard Pugh, commentator and Myles Roban, Enniscorthy Greyhound Track

A packed Riverside Park Hotel for last Wednesday’s public meeting

A packed Riverside Park Hotel for last Wednesday’s public meeting

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Marguerite Furlong, chairperson Coiste na nÓg, Richard Pugh, commentator and Myles Roban, Enniscorthy Greyhound Track

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Such is the level of dissatisfaction with an IGB report into the Irish greyhound industry in Ireland and a subsequent recommendation that funding to the track in Enniscorthy be withdrawn that a committee fighting to keep the track open have employed the services of a forensic accountant to look into the matter.

Interest in the track and its future is so high that an estimated crowd of around 600 people packed into the Riverside Park Hotel last week to attend a public meeting on the matter.

Former Wexford county councillor, Paddy Kavanagh, was MC on the night. A member of the committee that runs the Showgrounds - where the track is located - Mr Kavanagh said that despite the majority of local councillors and TDs being present at the meeting it was a non-political event and that's why none of them spoke.

'We have a forensic accountant at the moment disputing it [the IGB report],' Mr Kavanagh told this newspaper following Wednesday nights meeting.

A key figure disputed by the track and showgrounds committees is that of alleged attendance at events last year.

The IGB report puts the figure at around 13,000, however, Mr Kavanagh said the committee 'has proof that the figure was actually 19,000'.

Among those who attended the public meeting were Marguerite Furlong (Chairperson of Coiste na n'Og and the Island Hunt); James Kehoe (Chairperson of Wexford IFA); Jimmy Gahan (Enniscorthy & District Chamber) and Richard Pugh (owner of Irish Point-to-Point Services Ltd and RTE commentator).

Damien Matthews, from Newry, is the National Chairperson of the Greyhound Owners and Breeders Federation, and he was also in attendance at the event along with local election candidates Verona Murphy, Johnny Mythen and Chairperson of Wexford County Council, Cllr Michael Sheehan.

The common theme of the meeting among all of the speakers was the significant importance of keeping the track in Enniscorthy open for business.

'We deliberately kept it as a non-political event,' Mr Kavanagh told this newspaper.

'It came across loud and clear that the owners do not feel the IGB is fit for purpose,' said Mr Kavanagh.

'It received €16.5m last year from the Government to run the greyhound business here across 16 tracks but they are trying to close four of them including Enniscorthy,' he added.

As was pointed out at the meeting the local track receives €40,000 per year for maintenance and upkeep.

'Enniscorthy is run on a shoestring but up to [the year gone] we could wash our face comfortably,' said Mr Kavanagh, who is a former champion dog owner and his family has always been involved in the greyhound racing industry.

'It's part and parcel of who we are and how we were brought up,' he said.

Enniscorthy & District Chamber has said it is fully supportive of the campaign to keep the track open and that fact was outlined to those attending Wednesday nights meeting by the organisations' CEO, Jimmy Gahan.

'The track is worthy in the region of €2m annually to the local economy and is an essential facility for tourists visiting Enniscorthy,' he said.

'As such, it's closure must be prevented at all costs,' he added.

He encouraged members of the public to lobby their elected representatives and pointed out: 'With a General Election in the offing,the timing is perfect for a concentrated campaign by all sectors of society to make politicians aware of how valuable this asset is to Enniscorthy.'

Mr Gahan also pointed out that Enniscorthy is one 'of only a handful of towns in Ireland with a greyhound track and as a result it attracts visitors from all over'.

He said the knock-on effect of that is that local accommodation providers benefit.

In terms of supporting local charities and organisations he said that last year over €1m was raised through benefit nights at the track.

With regard to a controversial RTE documentary last year that highlighted cruelty to greyhounds once their racing careers are over Mr Gahan said that closing the Enniscorthy track will not solve that particular problem.

He said he grew up in an area where greyhounds were 'a way of life' and that he 'never once experienced the cruelty exposed in the RTE programme'.

'I am of the view that the vast majority of greyhound owners care for their animals just like those involved in other field sports,' he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Kavanagh said the issue is not just about greyhound racing but also the positive knock-on effects that race meetings have on the local economy and society in general.

'This is a much a mental health issue as anything else,' he said.

'Many people will tell you that the positive feeling experienced from winning in Enniscorthy is indescribable,' he added.

'People look after their greyhounds the same way boy racers look after their cars.'

He reiterated a point he made at the public meeting that the campaign to keep the track open is gathering momentum.

'There is a team of people working in the background and an FOI request has been made with regard to the Terms of Reference that Indecon [who compiled the IGB report] were given to make their decision.'

Mr Kavanagh went on to say that closure of the track would be a disaster for Enniscorthy town and also for the county.

He also pointed out that in addition to the track complex the showgrounds land is also home to many organisations involved in other sports including rugby, soccer, boxing and the GAA.

'The Showgrounds has also been home to major music festivals and the track is an integral part of it,' said Mr Kavanagh, referring to events that featured the likes of Status Quo and UB40.

He went on to comment: 'Everything has to be done to keep it open.'


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