Sport Horse Racing

Sunday 15 September 2019

HRI chief did draft ad for job to which he was re-appointed

Champion jockey Jim Crowley on his return to action at Lingfield six weeks after being injured in an accident involving multiple fallers at Kempton. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Champion jockey Jim Crowley on his return to action at Lingfield six weeks after being injured in an accident involving multiple fallers at Kempton. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Johnny Ward

Brian Kavanagh drafted an advertisement for the job of Horse Racing Ireland chief executive in 2008 - the position he held at the time and has held since.

Kavanagh, who began a third term at the helm this year, had expected that he would get a second term without the need to apply for the position, only for pressure from the government to necessitate an open interview process.

There was never any question that anybody else was going to win and the bizarre nature of the process is reflected in the holder of the position drawing up a draft of "a possible advert which could be used based on the previous time the position was advertised" to then HRI chairman Denis Brosnan, who had been lobbying relentlessly on his behalf.


The draft ad concluded with reference to "the rewards", which stated that the "remuneration package will be in accordance with Government guidelines".

That would thus put it at odds with Kavanagh's controversial third term, which runs against government guidelines which stipulate that semi-state CEOs should be allowed to serve only one, seven-year term.

Kavanagh currently has a basic salary of €190,773, which breaches the specified salary range for a commercial state body by €25,000.

A tranche of the Freedom of Information releases illustrates Kavanagh's serial drafting capabilities. Last September, he drafted a letter for the signature of chairman Joe Keeling, since which time the relationship between the pair has soured.

The draft was addressed to Agriculture Minister Michael Creed and supported the HRI "retaining the expertise and experience of our chief executive for the significant challenges and opportunities which we will face in the coming years."

Kavanagh also wrote to Carol Nolan, HRI's human resources manager, on September 1 about his contract. He understood that she would "be writing to (him) to provide objective grounds for the renewal and the failure to offer a contract of indefinite duration."

"While I do not expect any guarantees," he wrote, "I would hope that on termination, some recognition would be given for income foregone between the termination of my contract and my normal retirement date... as well as the 32 years service (sic) mentioned above.

"If somebody with the same service were being made redundant, they (sic) would receive circa (two years' salary)."

HRI's board meets today for what is a regular pre-Christmas gathering. According to Professor Niamh Brennan, it has been sidelined by both Keeling and Kavanagh.

She said: "What I find most troubling is that the board doesn't seem to be involved at all. Under the legislation, the board appoints the CEO. Nobody else except the board can make that appointment.

"The complete absence of the board, I find puzzling. If you read one of the letters from the chairman, towards the end of the letter, he starts a sentence with "I". It's not his gift. It is clear the chairman and chief executive were working jointly, completely aligned on what they wanted."

Meanwhile, HRI has played its part in a new pay deal - running until January 1, 2017 until May 1, 2019 - that has been agreed between the Irish Stable Staff Association and the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association.

Minimum pay rates for experienced stable staff in Ireland will rise from €9.75 per hour to €10.75 per hour. Expenses for day and night meetings also increase.

Paul Hensey has decided to leave the Curragh to seek new challenges in racing. Hensey, a popular figure in the sport, has been general manager of the Curragh since 2002 and director of racing since May 2016.

Swinburn 'was Irish'

The late Walter Swinburn, whose death on Monday prompted enormous grief across racing, was more Irish than we may ever have understood.

Speaking to the 'Racing Post', former rival Willie Carson said of the gifted ex-jockey, who was 55: "He was born into the racing world. He was born in Oxford but he always said he was Irish; he was adamant he was Irish."

Walter was the son of Wally Swinburn, who was Irish champion jockey on the Flat in 1976 and 1977. He was the first jockey to record over 100 winners in an Irish Flat season.

Fran Berry said of Swinburn: "He was pure class," Declan McDonogh tweeted that he was "a supreme stylist", while Criquette Head-Maarek, trainer of Treve, said that he was "one of the greatest jockeys".

'The Choirboy' also put his hand to training, holding a licence from 2004 to 2011. - Johnny Ward

Irish Independent

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