The Irish Greyhound Board has alleged it suffered intimidation and verbal abuse by members of the public in Leinster House after an Oireachtas committee hearing.
In a series of letters seen by The Irish Times, the board of the IGB says it was confronted by a number of individuals after a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee on May 4th. The correspondence alleges some present in the public gallery sought to intimidate and bully the board of the IGB and subjected them to a "verbal onslaught".
Michael Murnane, chief financial officer of the IGB, said the behaviour caused great upset and unease to him and his colleagues. Mr Murnane said five members of the public approached him and were "vicious in their verbal abuse".
In his letter, the chief financial officer said “their attack can only be described as verbal abuse and attempted intimidation. I am thankful for the intervention of the usher as it could have easily escalated into a physical assault.”
Mr Murnane said the content of the conversation can not be repeated “as there is no place for such language in any circumstance”.
It is further alleged that the interim chief executive Sean Brady was approached in the bathroom.
Mr Murnane said: “I know that you fully concur with the level of respect and consideration that witnesses should expect attending hearings and not the intimidation and bullying that IGB personnel were subjected to. My fellow colleagues in the IGB have expressed great concern over future appearances due to this level of intimidation.”
The IGB, also known as Bord na gCon, is the semi-State body responsible for the control and development of the greyhound industry in Ireland. It accepted an offer this month from the Department of Education worth €23 million for the Harold's Cross stadium.
The board's decision to sell the greyhound racing track was met with strong opposition by Dublin Greyhound Owners and Breeders Association. It prompted a protest outside Dublin's Shelbourne Park racing track and has resulted in the cancellation of racing in Dublin since the end of February.
A number of people also demonstrated outside Leinster House when the board appeared before the PAC. Mr Murnane said he was followed down Molesworth Street by 40 people.
The letter names several individuals alleged to have carried out the abuse. In further correspondence to the committee, Mr Brady has requested the gallery be closed to members of the public and that a separate entrance be provided to the IGB for future appearances.
The board is due to appear before the PAC this Thursday.
Chairman of the committee Seán Fleming said it was regrettable that such events unfolded. Mr Fleming, who was not present at the meeting, confirmed he would raise it with Houses of the Oireachtas authorities.
He said: “Members who request passes for visitors are responsible for their conduct. That is a long-established practice. I propose to bring this matter to the attention of the Captain of the Guard to make him aware of the incidents.
“While I will not suggest that we close the Visitors Gallery, we have to be careful and fair to witnesses. ”