Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 3 July 2018
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Horse Racing Ireland: Discussion
The purpose of this session is to engage with Mr. Nick Hartery who has recently been appointed as chairperson of Horse Racing Ireland, HRI, to discuss his approach in undertaking his role and his strategic priorities in that regard. The joint committee welcomes the opportunity to meet him to hear his views. We trust that it will serve to provide greater transparency in the process of appointment to State bodies and boards. I welcome Mr. Hartery and wish him well in his new appointment, on which I congratulate him. I wish him every success in his new role.
By virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by it to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person or an entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.
Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official, either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
I ask Mr. Hartery to make his opening statement.
Mr. Nicky Hartery:
I thank the Chairman and committee members.
I grew up in County Waterford, on a farm in Kilbarry just outside Waterford city. I graduated from UCC in 1972 with a degree in electrical engineering and later from UCG with a master's degree in business administration.
My business career has allowed me to see much of the world. I spent the first nine years working with General Electric in Shannon, County Clare. I then worked with Verbatim in Limerick in growing the start-up company in green fields for the first five years of its history, before moving to Geneva in Switzerland for two years to become its senior vice president for its operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. I spent the years from 1987 to 2000 in the United States as executive vice president at Eastman Kodak and president and CEO of the Verbatim Corporation. I returned to Ireland in 2000 to take up the role of executive vice president for Dell's operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. I worked there for eight wonderful years.
My family and I put down roots in Limerick when I moved to work in Shannon. I bought a farm in Croom in 1985. I have had an interest in horses all of my life. The farm is my passion and it is where I breed thoroughbreds, some of which I keep to race and some of which I send to the sales. I have been a non-executive director of Cement Roadstone Holdings, CRH, since 2004 and chairman since 2012. I have been chairman of Musgrave Group since 1 January this year, having served on the board of the company since 2010. I am also on the board of a Canadian company, Finning International, and chairman of its governance committee. It is the largest global dealer of Caterpillar machinery. I also have my own company, Prodigium. My love for business is matched by my passion for thoroughbred horses. To have the opportunity to serve as chairman of Horse Racing Ireland at a key juncture in the history of the racing industry is truly an honour.
If my business travels around the world have taught me anything it is that Ireland is a global leader when it comes to breeding thoroughbred horses to race. I assure the committee that Ireland's reputation for producing skilled people, as the most brilliant handlers of horses, is renowned all over the world.
Ireland is the second largest producer of bloodstock by value in the world, second only to America, and the third highest producer of live foals in the world. Those statistics are backed up by a report produced by Deloitte last year, which measured the contribution to the Irish economy of racing and breeding at €1.84 billion and the number of jobs directly and indirectly supported by racing at 28,900.
At the start of this journey I am pleased to come before the committee this afternoon to express HRI's gratitude to our elected representatives for the support the industry has received over the years. The Deloitte report shows that investment made by the State in horse racing pays off by many multiples in terms of return to the Exchequer and additional employment throughout rural Ireland.
One of my ambitions in my term as chairman will be to continue to strengthen the role that thoroughbred racing and breeding plays in the towns and villages of the State. On the track Ireland is world class, competes with the best and enjoys success from here to Melbourne and back, but this is a challenging and perilous time for the industry in Ireland with a number of significant challenges, including Brexit. Horse racing is run on an all-island basis in Ireland, and 80% of our bloodstock exports are to Britain.
Horse Racing Ireland is putting the final touches to an ambitious strategic plan for 2019-23. The extra investment that we are proposing will protect our current position, allow the industry to grow and will enhance the return to the Exchequer and to local economies all over the State. This strategic plan will address the various challenges faced by our industry.
Given the keen interest that the committee has shown in our industry, I would encourage and invite any members who have suggestions, ideas, priorities or objectives for Irish racing’s five-year future, to please engage with us. The suggestions would be very welcome.
My priorities for the next five years are very focused but interwoven. The key issue for me will be to drive excellence through people by putting people first. It is also crucial that we have our equine welfare side of the business right and the integrity of what we do is secure. If we have the people right and the horses right, then we have the perfect raw materials.
There is also the matter of making sure the investment and funding is appropriate. A sustainable funding model for Irish racing is critical to allow the future planning that an industry of this size needs. This will lead to greater participation in our industry, more horses in training and more people involved in ownership. There will be a knock-on effect of broadening the interest and appeal of racing in Ireland and increasing its profile.
That is probably enough about me at this point, and I am happy to answer any questions the Chairman or the members may have.
I thank Mr. Hartery for his introduction and the outline of his résumé. I wish him well in his role as chairman of Horse Racing Ireland, and all that it involves. Coming as I do from Donegal I probably do not have as much first-hand knowledge of Horse Racing Ireland as we do not have too many race tracks up in Donegal. We do, however, have a couple of successful jockeys. I wish Mr. Hartery well and all the best for the future. As Mr. Hartery has said, it will be a difficult time with Brexit and so on coming down the tracks.
With regard to harness racing, and Irish Harness Racing Association, which has been in existence in Ireland for the last few years also, will that sport have some impact on Horse Racing Ireland? I am not sure what the role is, and perhaps Mr. Hartery could expand on that. That sport has the potential to develop and grow but it needs the use of tracks. I believe that all aspects of horse racing should be working in partnership and working together but this does not seem to be happening on the ground in the context of harness racing. In his role with Horse Racing Ireland, what are Mr. Hartery's views on harness racing and does he see the two sports developing and working together, if possible?
I thank Mr. Hartery, we are glad to have him at the committee. He has a very impressive résumé and I have no doubt that his national and international business acumen will be of great benefit and will be utilised by HRI. Mr. Hartery has very ambitious plans and I am sure he will help the executive and the board in a very positive way.
We are all acutely aware of the importance of the horse racing industry at all levels, including the thoroughbred industry and flat racing. Ireland is prominent in the sport internationally, especially in Britain and France. The horse racing industry in Ireland is spread geographically right across the 32 counties. There are currently some 6,500 breeders. Mr. Hartery will be aware that there was a big lull during the economic recession and it sapped a lot of the confidence out of the industry, but we still have 26 racecourses. I know that the chief executive of HRI is familiar with my interest in Kilbeggan Racecourse. Mr. Hartery will know that we are very eager for some significant investment to be forthcoming. He is very welcome to visit there as part of his first duties, along with the chief executive. We look forward to HRI presenting the course with a cheque very soon.
I never lobbied, not really.
One of the big threats that Mr. Hartery and his board will have to confront is Brexit. It certainly represents a significant threat to the horse racing and horse breeding industry in Ireland because the UK is our biggest export market, ahead of France. Some of our racecourses are across the Border. Has Mr. Hartery thought about this? Has the board prepared a plan? Is HRI working with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine on this? What has been the interaction between HRI and the British Horseracing Authority in the United Kingdom, and with Gallop France? Interaction with these organisations is very important to us in this context. I know that HRI is in a difficult position. Like everybody else, they are in a vacuum, but HRI is a major industry that has significant North, South, east and west relationships.
The question I have for Mr. Hartery is one that often comes up at this committee - including at our last meeting when the HRI chief executive referred to it - on the significant funding provided by the people of Ireland to the horse racing industry. Mr. Hartery has expressed his appreciation for that today, and it has cross-party support. In a recent presentation to this committee the HRI chief executive spoke of a long-term and sustainable funding structure to be put in place. Has Mr. Hartery given any thought as to what a long-term sustainable funding structure for the industry would look like?
The industry is not just very important for breeders, jockeys and those within the industry; it also makes a major contribution to rural areas in particular. There were big events at places such as the Curragh at the weekend but smaller racecourses such as Ballinrobe, Roscommon and Kilbeggan are tremendously important to the midlands. There have been some noteworthy successes. One of our most significant owners lives right in the heart of that area, just outside Mullingar at the Gigginstown House stud. We have a great history there but it is important that it is maintained, retained and supported.
One has to look for ways to do that, such as taxation, including the betting tax and whatever will come forward, as a sustainable way of ensuring that the industry will be promoted and financed.
I thank the witnesses for attending. I welcome the CEO of Horse Racing Ireland, HRI, Mr. Brian Kavanagh, who is accompanying the witnesses. I thank Mr. Hartery for taking on the role. It is important that people with good qualifications step up to the mark and serve in public service roles. This is one. It is clear from his presentation and curriculum vitae, CV, that not only does he mix passion and strong interest in horse racing, he also combines it with an impressive business CV and much experience at corporate level across a number of companies.
With regard to the challenges going forward, as Deputy Penrose touched on, what are the witnesses' thoughts on Brexit, the challenge that poses and what actions they think we need to take to best prepare ourselves for that over the coming months? The witnesses outlined the importance of appropriate funding investment and that it needs to be used well. I would be interested in their further thoughts on how they believe funding should be invested and what the best way to spend it is. Deputy Penrose mentioned Kilbeggan Racecourse, and Senator Paul Daly, who is a member of this committee, is chairman of Kilbeggan Racecourse. He passes on his apologises for not being able to be here today due to a bereavement in the family but I have no doubt that he and Deputy Penrose would be at one about that.
Certainly. Those are the two key points I would make about Brexit, funding going forward and how the witnesses believe that is best used to promote the industry. I thank them for taking the time to come in to us today.
Mr. Nicky Hartery:
I will start with each member, call the question and make sure that the question I heard is the question that I was asked. The first relates to the Irish Harness Racing Association, from Deputy Pringle. I officially joined on 23 May and went to a board meeting. I will categorically say that I have not discussed harness racing. I will take it out of here as a question to us, about how we encompass all activities relating to horses in Ireland. We will take the question away and come back to the Deputy about it.
Mr. Nicky Hartery:
Not today. I have been to Kilbeggan, had a horse run in Kilbeggan and it is a nice place to be and to race. With regard to Brexit, in other non-HRI businesses, it is also a big deal. My process relating to Brexit is to prepare for the worst. I will talk the committee through some of that. I have spent time with the team at HRI on this. It is one of the biggest and most pressing challenges facing Irish industry and breeding. The ability to move horses between the three big nations is really important, as the Deputy mentioned, with France Galop, the UK and us in Ireland. Between the three individual groups and the departments of agriculture in each country, a high healthcare standard has developed and was presented to Brussels last Thursday. That also has the support of the other 15%, which are Italy, Germany, Scandinavian countries, Spain and others. It has united support across Europe. That is so horses can move freely within Europe. That part of it has been done. Activity has started to complete the issue of - using airline terminology - priority boarding, so that when it comes to a port, a horse is not delayed for a number of hours but moves through on priority. That part of the logistics has to be completed and will be done. Those are the two critical items. That is assuming a hard Brexit. That means there will be special categorisation for thoroughbred horses.
The next issue related to funding. A key issue with funding is that there are a number of areas where there is funding, such as the foal levy, which I have been paying into for years, and that should be retained. We are looking at every mechanism that provides revenue to HRI. That is one. The stallion masters provide approximately €2.5 million a year, which goes into European breeders' funds and so on. The other issue which I am interested in, when I look at this as a balanced portfolio, is that we collected approximately €70 million for HRI in 2001 on €1 billion of revenue in betting. Today, we collect €51 million on €5 billion. There is a significant imbalance somewhere. I am not saying that it should go up by a certain amount or anything like that. We need a balanced portfolio. There needs to be more give where we, as HRI, can fully fund ourselves. The UK tax is 2.5%. We have an excellent product. How do we stay competitive? In France, they take 7.5% in the pari-mutuel to fund their organisation. If an Irish horse is racing in France, one misses the premiums which are worth another 80% of the winnings. I raced there recently and the winning horse, which was just ahead of us, had €17,500 of a win take and approximately €12,500 between premiums. It is quite significant. There are different models in different countries. I am not saying there is any outcome from this but HRI will look at the different models used, and at what is best for Horse Racing Ireland so that we can give it and the industry in Ireland an advantage as we go forward.
I may have answered both Deputy McConalogue's questions at the same time. Does he want to ask something else?
Mr. Nicky Hartery:
A big investment which I inherit coming in is the Curragh. That is important. I have asked our CEO to get an update on it. It looks like we are on plan and on time. I have asked because it is a big investment and I have no doubt that the Deputy will ask me at some stage if we are on budget. It is one of our biggest spends so we should make sure we get an up-to-date record of where the budget is. I assume that we are close to it. That is a big spend, and another big investment should be the Equine Centre. To have an industry like ours and to be a leader in the global market, we need to have the capabilities for drug testing and everything related to that. The committee should see an energy in that area from HRI. The last development in Leopardstown was in 1971, according to the check I did, and it is probably time for it to be refreshed. They are the key investment areas that I see in the next 12 to 24 months.
As previous speakers have done, I wish Mr. Hartery well in his appointment as the new chairperson of Horse Racing Ireland. As Deputy McConalogue said, it is important that someone with such an impressive CV will come in and take over a public body. I wish Mr. Hartery the best of luck in his new role.
When answering some of the questions about betting tax, Mr. Hartery indicated that we should be able to fund industry ourselves at some point. While I fully agree with him, I am a man who likes my day at the races. Track bookmakers are an endangered species. They are part of the whole atmosphere and racing scene, which they add to and enhance.
I appreciate that. I am delighted to see investment in the equine centre in Johnstown is under consideration. The centre is a world-class leader with regard to both equine research and forensics. It is extremely important that the trustworthiness of the industry is upheld.
In Mr. Hartery's opening statement he mentioned he is chair of CRH and the Musgrave Group, is on the board of a Canadian company and has his own company. Will he have time for this role? In the past, there were issues around chairmen of boards not putting sufficient time into the boards, and this had consequences.
Is Mr. Hartery advocating an increase in betting tax and, if so, is he seeking support for such an increase?
Those of us who regularly go to the races will notice the dominance of a small number of trainers in certain parts of flat racing and also in the national hunt. That is not their fault, but many people are leaving the industry because they do not get sufficient returns, especially on the training side. Does Mr. Hartery expect the industry to be able to galvanise support to increase the returns for those who are in difficulty and those at the lower end of the scale? The more trainers the industry loses, the worse it will be because it will be more centralised with only a few trainers. We would like a broad spectrum of trainers across the country in various counties. There are trainers along the western seaboard too.
I thank Deputy Cahill for letting me speak before him.
While I appreciate the potential to increase revenue from taxation and betting, the figures will show that the number of track bookmakers has dropped significantly. As I said, they are an integral part of the atmosphere at race meetings in Ireland. If we are to increase revenue, we must consider their position. We cannot compare a track bookmaker with a major multinational because it is not a level playing field. Ladbrokes and other companies are on the rails now. We must try to preserve the unique atmosphere of the betting ring. If we try to increase revenue from betting, a concept which I would not disagree with, we have to ensure track bookmakers are able to survive. We must not impose an unsustainable tax on their turnover.
In regard to attendances at race meetings, Galway in a couple of weeks' time will be thronged to the rafters. At marquee meetings, whether it is Leopardstown at Christmas or whatever, attendance is good. However, at the ordinary, mundane meetings, attendance is dropping significantly. At my local track in Thurles on a Thursday in the winter time, there will hardly be the people looking after the horses that are racing. Those tracks are struggling. Is anything envisaged to promote attendance at what we would describe as bread and butter meetings? Many of the provincial tracks are under extreme pressure, especially in the winter. They are an important part of the industry. Does Horse Racing Ireland have plans to help these provincial winter tracks?
Thankfully, prize money is good in this country, but there is a division between the flat and national hunt prize money. What does Mr. Hartery see as a suitable ratio? As Senator Lawlor said, a small number of trainers and big operations dominate flat racing. A few trainers also dominate the national hunt racing scene. What are Horse Racing Ireland's plans regarding prize money for both flat and national hunt racing? Point-to-point racing is becoming more and more important for trainers with one, two, five or six horses as they try to get customers. It plays a significant part in the national hunt scene. This sector needs to be protected and we must ensure it feeds into the national hunt. The prize money and support available for the sector will be important.
I would also like syndicate ownership to be promoted. Levels of syndicate ownership declined alarmingly after the boom, although it is starting to recover. There is no better way to promote the product we have to sell. If five, ten or 15 lads are involved in the ownership of a horse, they and their families will attend race meetings. I would like greater incentives to be provided for syndicate ownership. For a limited outlay, one can become a part of the whole atmosphere. There is no greater kick than having a winner. I would like to see syndicate ownership promoted as much as possible.
Drug-testing was referred to and I strongly recommend investment in it because our reputation is paramount. I encourage co-operation with Bord na gCon in this area because greyhound and horse racing are similar industries, including in respect of funding. If we had a State laboratory covering both sports, there could be many synergies. That is the best approach because the industry needs its integrity to be enhanced. The integrity of horse racing is at a very high level, without question, and the level of testing is superb, but investment in testing would be welcome. I encourage Horse Racing Ireland to engage in talks with Bord na gCon on a joint venture in this area, which would be very welcome.
I agree with Deputy Pringle's comments about harness racing and its future. Representatives of the harness racing sector have made impressive presentations to the joint committee. They believe they could get a competitive industry up and running with a small budget. I would like to see greater co-operation with that sector, which has potential and will not encroach on other parts of the horse racing industry.
I thank Mr. Hartery for coming in today and sharing with us his extensive CV in the business world, and his interest in horse racing.
One of the major issues over the years has been the amount of taxpayers' money that goes into the horse racing industry. The industry receives a significant sum every year. I accept that this investment delivers a return in the sense that the activity in the horse racing industry generates tax revenue. Mr. Hartery referred to the impact of betting tax. Something clearly needs to be done in this area, although I will not get into what this should be. How can Horse Racing Ireland make the industry sustainable and enable it to pay its own way and more? As everyone will appreciate, it is difficult to make an argument for allocating the best part of €100 million to the horse and greyhound racing industries every year when hundreds of people are lying on hospital trolleys and we have a housing crisis and many other problems in society. Much of this money is used for prize money and we see that the people in the winner's enclosure are not exactly on the poverty line. This issue needs to be addressed by the industry.
On attendance at race meetings, Galway in a couple of weeks' time will be thronged to the rafters. At marquee meetings, whether it is Leopardstown at Christmas or whatever, the attendance is very good. Attendance at the ordinary, mundane meetings, however, is dropping significantly. At my local track, Thurles, on a Thursday in winter, there will barely be the people looking after the horses racing. Those tracks are struggling. Is anything envisaged which could promote the attendance at those bread-and-butter meetings, as we would call them? Many of these provisional tracks are under extreme pressure, especially in the winter time. They are an important part of the industry. Are there any plans to try to help those provincial winter tracks
Given his past experience, perhaps Mr. Hartery is the person to do it. It would also be a difficulty if we were to see an increase in betting tax and it went to pay for what people would see as an extravagance. There needs to be a sense that value for money would be coming from it. That brings me back to the point made that in the past decade or two it has become an industry in which it is very much the high flyers who are seen to take the cream, while a lot of those at the bottom such as the smaller trainers and breeders are struggling and finding it difficult to survive. A serious attempt needs to be made to rebalance that position. Simply creating a level playing field would not do that because the bigger players are so dominant. Measures have to be put in place to ensure the people at the bottom will be given more than a fair chance to rise and do better in that respect.
The issue of the working conditions of stable staff has come up at different times. Their remuneration needs to be looked at. There is a need to follow best practice because I know someone from my part of the country who works in the industry, loves horses and works with them nearly 20 hours a day, but they are not very well paid for the amount of energy and effort put in. While we all appreciate it is an industry in which there is a need for consistency and the same people to handle horses all of the time, at the same time there is an issue that cannot be ignored and which needs to be dealt with.
I refer to Brexit which Mr. Hartery mentioned as something that will clearly be a problem which we will all have to face. I live in a Border area and know that any issue of trade across the Border or the channel will be difficult. It does not only concern the movement of horses for racing, it also concerns the sale over and back of horses and other animals. Mr. Hartery mentioned healthcare standards, but from the point of view of public policy, does he believe there are particular areas at which we should be looking to enhance it to ensure Brexit will not have too serious or negative an impact on the horse racing industry?
I mention the relationship with bookmakers. A lot of small bookmakers feel squeezed because of the way the situation has developed during the years. It is another issue that clearly needs serious attention quickly because it is not appropriate that they have ended up in the situation in which they find themselves.
A lot of the big problems we have had during the years have had to do with management and how things are run. Certainly, the perception is that things could have been run a lot better. As the new person in the position of chairman, I would appreciate an assurance from Mr. Hartery that he has a handle on the matter and understands that these issues need to be dealt with appropriately.
hT lot of the big problems that we have had down the years have been around management and how things are run. The perception out there has certainly been that things could have been run a lot better and I would appreciate an assurance from the witness, as the new person in the position of chairman that he has a handle on that and that he understands that those issues are there and that they need to be deal with appropriately.
Mr. Nicky Hartery:
A lot of questions - about 20 - have been asked. If I miss one of them, please come back to me on it.
I will start with Senator Anthony Lawlor who asked three questions, the first of which was about the time I could give to this role. I gave a lot of consideration to it before I decided to take it, particularly the time I could give to it. It is not the degree of difficulty that is the issue but giving the role the appropriate amount of time. I committed to giving it the appropriate time to make sure it would be done properly and that at the end of my term the organisation would be in a far better place. My predecessor did a fine job and I hope that when I pass on the baton, the next person will get it in better shape again. I hope every chairman who comes after me will have the same attitude to the role. That is my attitude to it.
On betting tax, I appreciate the support. The CEO and I will come back to the committee on the issue. It is not about picking out one element but about ensuring people are fully aware of all of the different elements of fundraising within HRI, including the foal levy, and where we might be in that regard in the next two to five years.
The Senator's third question was about the few dominant trainers. It is interesting because on a weekly basis fields will include the offspring of the top sires and the top trainers and so forth will be seen. The other day I was reflecting on the fact that of the top ten trainers, probably only three of them were there five to seven years ago. That movement will happen every five to ten years. There are quite a number of new young trainers coming through in Ireland; therefore, in time there is a changing of the guard. As in all industries, that puts pressure on people to perform better, which can be good, as much as anything else. I look at what is going on and the standards being set in Ireland are exceptionally good. I do not only look at Aidan O'Brien as being Irish. It is a global picture. Irish trained horses race in England, France and the United States. In the past they only raced in Ireland and the United Kingdom, but lots of trainers now race their horses in the United States and France. Therefore, it is a different playing pitch, but changes will happen in time. They are the dynamics of the industry. The key owners in the seventies were probably not the key owners in the eighties. They are definitely not the key owners today.
There was a question about harness racing. The one thing I will say about it is that I have been to the Hambletonian twice. As I have seen it in the United States in particular - New Jersey is a great state for it - I am quite familiar with it and, therefore, the question is interesting for me. I have not, however, looked into it in Ireland. In response to what the first Deputy asked of me, I do not see or hear a lot about it, but we will pick up on it.
I am delighted that there is support for drug testing, about which Deputy Jackie Cahill spoke.
I agree with the points made about syndicate ownership. I saw how effective it could be in getting more people involved in the industry.
The division of prize money between flat and national hunt racing was the subject of another question. I have not looked into it, but I will take the question away and look at it.
Attendances are back to where they were pre the recession. The annual figure is about 1.3 million, of which the festival meetings, including those in Galway, Listowel, Punchestown and Leopardstown at Christmas time, account for about 40%. There are about seven festival meetings which the include the Fairyhouse festival meeting at Easter. Attendances at all other tracks account for 60% of the figure. The comment that attendances are lower at tracks such as Thurles is reasonable and accurate. It is something that will be looked at because it is all part of promoting the industry.
The one thing we need to be careful of is the idea of people who attend race meetings being the few who are well-heeled and go racing and so forth. When one looks at many sports, and I have lived in Switzerland where motor car racing and the motor show in Geneva are big things, one gets the same principals, but they are a minute number of the 28,900, or let us say 30,000, people involved in the industry in Ireland. As has been said, there are many people who do a lot of hard work in the industry locally on the stud farms preparing horses for racing and so forth. We need to keep that in mind.
The other question from Deputy Cahill was on bookmakers. The bookmakers' stands at the racecourses are an endangered species. When we consider the opportunities we have to support the industry we will take that into account and I will revert to the Deputy on the matter. I have noted what he said.
I might not have Deputy Martin Kenny's questions in the order he asked them. He referred to small breeders struggling and a rebalance. Many of the small breeders I see in my part of the world multitask, if I can put it that way. They might be doing cattle, milk or whatever and they do a great deal of multitasking. Unless one has a specific capability in the breeding lines and the like, the industry will pay for what it wants, which is what the industry does, and it does not pay for what it does not want. That will always be a difficulty. It is an industry that very much refreshes itself. For example, right after the recession in 2008, 2009 and 2010 there was a significant drop in foal numbers in the country. We had significant overproduction and what happens then is the bottom 10% or 15% of the industry falls out. That will happen as that is just the dynamics of an industry.
The Deputy referred to working conditions in stables. One of the things I have got myself and our CEO involved in is staffing. We realise it is not a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job and so forth but currently Kieran Mulvey is pulling the employers, the employee groups and HRI together and is working that diligently. We hope to have an appropriate outcome emerge from that process by the end of this year and hopefully even sooner. This is a work in progress and I do not wish to say more on it at this point. However, I know there is a good programme in place and I hope to see it come out on the right side for everyone.
Mr. Nicky Hartery:
My objective is to see the industry becoming self-funding, if that is the right word, in order that the funding in the industry is used to promote a better industry, higher foal numbers, better breeding and, as a result, more people employed. It is a labour intensive industry and that would be better for the country as it is very much driven on a rural basis.
The Deputy's last question was on the management, and I assume he was referring to HRI management, and how things were managed. I believe the chairman has a couple of key responsibilities. One is strategy. One makes sure the strategy is appropriate for the business one is running. The second thing is talent. That is something I have yet to get into within HRI and to work with the team there, but my understanding from the outgoing chairman is that he was quite pleased with the management and so forth. Respectfully, as the Deputy asked me the question he can take it that I am responsible for it. I will make sure I follow through on that and ensure we meet all needs.
As there are no other questions, I thank Mr. Hartery for appearing before the committee today. We raised a number of issues with him and I am sure he will revert to us in due course. He indicated in his opening statement that a strategic review was being undertaken. The committee looks forward to engaging with Mr. Hartery, the chief executive and Horse Racing Ireland over the next number of months in that regard and we look forward to having him and the chief executive before the committee later in the year perhaps, so we can have an input into that review. We wish him every success in his new role. I am sure it will be very fruitful and beneficial as we all move forward together.