Budget process goes to dogs

Cantillon: Why do we let State siphon money from education to spend on greyhounds?

Racing ahead of schools: greyhounds at Curraheen Park in Cork. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Racing ahead of schools: greyhounds at Curraheen Park in Cork. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

 

It emerged this week following extensive work by The Irish Times that greyhound racing body Bord na gCon, a commercial semi-State entity, will spend €5.8 million of the €23 million that the Department of Education paid it last year for Harold’s Cross stadium on improving other race tracks around the country.

The department paid almost twice the €12 million that valuers estimated Harold’s Cross was worth, so it was effectively financing improvements to other dog tracks.

Greyhound racing is economically and socially important to many Irish people, but in no universe should it get cash that was earmarked for education.

Theme of prudence

This story emerged in the week when prudence was the central theme of Budget 2020, with Paschal Donohoe setting aside €1 billion to deal with the possible consequences of a no-deal Brexit. Yet the Harold’s Cross transaction is is a good example of how annual budgets are largely meaningless.

In Budget 2020, Bord na gCon received €16.8 million in funding from the exchequer, in spite of controversies that emerged in an RTÉ Prime Time documentary about the treatment of greyhounds post their retirement.

The process of deciding how we will be taxed lacks transparency, while no one is accountable for how our money is spent once it is collected. Why did the Department of Education pay so much over the odds for a dog track in south Dublin that was effectively in State ownership?

It’s time to ditch the whole budget farce and start making those we elect properly answerable for what they do with our hard-earned cash.

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