Thursday, 15 February 2007
Question 6: To ask the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will clarify his recent call for figures within the racing industry to support the redevelopment of the Curragh Racecourse; the amount of money the Government has hitherto pledged to the redevelopment; if he anticipates further Government support for this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5547/07]
The redevelopment of the Curragh racecourse is part of an overall programme through which €280 million will be invested in racecourse development throughout the country by the end of 2007 under Horse Racing Ireland's, HRI, capital development fund for Irish racecourses. Under this fund, HRI, which is the statutory body responsible for the horseracing industry, will provide up to €140 million in grant aid with racecourses financing the balance from their own resources. HRI has approved grant aid of €35.6 million towards the redevelopment of the Curragh racecourse.
HRI receives a guaranteed level of funding each year from the horse and greyhound racing fund, which is based on accrued excise duty on off-course betting, subject to a minimum level based on the year 2000 level adjusted for inflation. Any shortfall in the amount generated by the excise duty is made up by direct Exchequer subvention. Since 2001, HRI has received over €317 million from the horse and greyhound racing fund and will receive a further €58 million from the fund in 2007. The new national development plan, covering the period 2007-13, includes €70 million in capital provision for the horse and greyhound racing industries which will enable HRI and Bord na gCon to undertake the further development of a network of facilities for both industries. In addition, both industries also receive a significant level of current funding under the provisions of the fund which enables the industries to meet borrowing commitments.
The redevelopment of the Curragh racecourse, which is the flagship project for Kildare, will involve the movement of the existing road, construction of a new grandstand and facilities and the relocation of the Stand House Hotel to overlook the racecourse. This will result in a world-class facility and further enhance Ireland's reputation as a world leader in the field of horse racing. Work has now commenced on the road and this is scheduled to be completed by the end of May 2007. The full redevelopment is scheduled for completion in 2009.
The redevelopment of the racecourse has received the support of His Highness, the Aga Khan, who in 2003 purchased the Stand House Hotel adjacent to the racecourse and donated it to the Turf Club on behalf of Irish racing. I acknowledge his generosity and the role played by the then senior steward of the Turf Club, Ray Rooney. The redevelopment has also received the support of three leading owners who are sponsoring the construction cost of the road and it was in this context that I recently urged those who benefit most from the industry to also support the redevelopment of the Curragh racecourse, which is the home of flat racing in Ireland. I acknowledge the role played by all involved with the Curragh racecourse, including the current senior steward, Pierce Molony, and thank them for their continuing effort and commitment.
I thank the Minister for his comprehensive reply and associate myself with his remarks about the Aga Khan and the three owners. I attended the Moyglare dinner at the K Club at which the Minister stated he was looking for others to do as those owners did and get behind the project. This gives rise to concern that some aspects of the industry are not fully supportive of the development at the Curragh. I asked the question to find out whether the Minister's remarks were a general overview of the position aimed at getting everyone who could support the Curragh in their own way to do so, although they may not have offered financial support like the three owners. It is the flagship of the flat racing world and certainly generates huge revenue for Kildare and the counties in its catchment area during the flat season. I asked the question to see whether it was a general overview to get people involved who could take on other aspects of the development and sponsor or fund it as the three owners have done in respect of the new road. This road, which is nearing completion, will certainly be very significant for safety and the transport of horses on the Curragh and will allow the development to take place. Did the Minister believe there was someone who could add further to the development at the Curragh?
Are there other sporting events or aspects of sport which could be catered for at the Curragh? I know that, at one stage, the late Michael Osborne, God rest him, proposed that a project concerning national hunt racing could be undertaken. I do not think this developed into anything. Does the Minister have a view on this?
My remarks at the dinner, to which the Deputy referred, were of a general nature in acknowledging the contribution of His Highness, the Aga Khan, and the generosity of John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith. I was encouraging other people involved in the industry who benefit from it to see whether they could also invest for the benefit of the racing industry and, in particular, the benefit of racing in Kildare and its flagship project, the Curragh, which is the headquarters of Irish flat racing.
To answer Deputy Wall's second question, I do not envisage national hunt racing taking place at the Curragh under this particular development. The Curragh will remain a flat racing course which is, unquestionably, one of the finest of its kind in the world. I am delighted that this major development for Kildare, Irish flat racing and the Irish racing industry is taking place. It is very important. In 2009, when the racing and general public see the newly designed Curragh, they will agree this is a state-of-the-art, world-class race track with every modern facility available. I envisage it making an enormous contribution to the Irish racing industry, sporting public and, in particular, the economy of County Kildare.