Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund Regulations 2016: Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine
I thank Deputy Kehoe and the Chair. The first point Deputy Kehoe made was on the importance of integrity and the highest standards in oversight in the racing industry. We all agree that is critical. Maintenance of the highest standards is essential to the future of the industry and the sector. I know from the committee's report that it found that the testing regime and the systems in place domestically were strong and comparable with any international systems and other major racing countries. Much of that oversight work is carried out by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, which received €10.3 million funding through HRI this year to carry out those regulatory functions. In regard to the work it carries out, it has an extensive testing programme. Some 5,000 samples were tested in 2021, including every race winner being tested and additional race day samples and out of competition samples being tested. There is also testing at point-to-points.
As colleagues will know and as I mentioned previously, I granted authorisation to 12 authorised officers in the IHRB in May this year, which strengthened the work on anti-doping in Ireland. That officer status allows those IHRB officers access to sample any thoroughbred at any time. It also gives the veterinary team in IHRB increased powers, which include access to unlicensed premises and the testing of these operates in the same manner as it does for licensed premises. Tests can take place without any prior notice. Tests involve blood, urine and hair samples. It is critical that we properly fund and invest to ensure that the highest standards are maintained.
It is also essential that everyone in the industry maintains the very highest standards. We are very fortunate to have a strong industry in this country and one that has been built up over many years through great work on behalf of all stakeholders. Maintaining good and top class standards and integrity is essential to maintaining the success it has had over the years into the future. This is why we put so much effort and emphasis on it and why we will fund it so strongly. It is also why those in the industry are aware of the uniform, consistent highest standards right across the board.
On CCTV, €500,000 was provided by HRI, to the IHRB as part of its integrity services funding this year for the installation of CCTV in all racecourse stable yards. The tender process for the project has been completed and the contract is to issue shortly, subject to board approval. Most racecourses will have a CCTV system installed before their first meeting in 2022 and all 25 racecourses will be completed by the end of quarter 1 in 2022.
Deputy Kehoe and the Cathaoirleach both mentioned insurance as a real issue and it has been a real difficulty for a number of point to point meetings this year. The HRI is working with relevant stakeholders to assess potential solutions. The Minister of State, Deputy Seán Fleming, has done significant work in his Department to address competitiveness in the insurance sector in general as well. The HRI is engaging with stakeholders on the challenges in its industry and to examining potential solutions as well.