Wednesday, 17 October 2018
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I thank Deputy Troy for raising this issue. Ironically, I will be introducing the Greyhound Racing Bill 2018 in the Seanad at 3 p.m., with Committee Stage scheduled for next week, all going well. I hope that the Bill will modernise the greyhound industry by underpinning it with legislation that is fit for purpose in the 21st century. The Deputy mentioned a colleague. I presume he meant Deputy Burke, who has also been in touch and made representations on this matter, including to the track's board directly.
Bord na gCon is a commercial semi-State body established in 1958 under that year's Greyhound Industry Act, chiefly to control greyhound racing and improve and develop the greyhound industry. It is a body corporate and separate legal entity to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
I have made inquiries with Bord na gCon and have been informed that, due to issues around attendance capacity at the Mullingar greyhound stadium owing to fire safety restrictions, the 2019 Irish Cesarewitch is proposed to be run in Galway over 575 yd. The intention behind this proposal is to move the event to Galway temporarily.
Approval of any significant capital project at individual stadia is subject to the completion of a systematic review of the industry footprint, as proposed in the IGB Strategic Plan 2018-2022. I have been advised that the procurement process for appointment of an independent consultant to undertake this study will commence shortly, and it is anticipated that a final report will be completed by next March.
Bord na gCon has informed me that, in the interim, it has engaged consultant architects to prepare a proposal to address the deficiencies at Mullingar and that this proposal will shortly be put forward for planning approval. On receipt of same, it will be necessary to obtain fire safety and disability access certificates regarding the proposed works. A sum of €100,000 has been assigned for works under the board's business plan regarding the use of some of the surplus proceeds from the Harold's Cross sale.
The capacity of the restaurant is limited to 126 people on the upper floor and 130 on the ground floor. The suggested proposal involves the demolition of the existing fire exit at the southern end of the building and the construction of a new, larger fire exit staircase. Subject to fire authority approval, this solution would increase capacity on the upper floor to 240, with ground floor capacity remaining unchanged, representing a net increase of 114 patrons.
Bord na gCon has informed me that, at the national greyhound consultative forum meeting held on 26 September, it indicated that a review of the fixtures and events calendar was under way and submissions were invited in respect of that calendar. The necessity to review the calendar was based on the changes in the industry in general and to provide for an optimum racing calendar throughout the year. A number of detailed submissions were received. These were considered by a sub-committee established to make recommendations to the board. The sub-committee met on three occasions and gave detailed consideration to a range of factors which have an impact on the events calendar. A draft calendar was formulated and put forward for consultation on 11 October. Submissions were invited on it by 16 October so that the matter could be considered at the board meeting scheduled for 18 October, which is tomorrow. Bord na gCon has informed me that, at this point, no decisions have been made regarding the fixtures and events calendar for 2019.