Enda Kenny refuses to address Horse Racing Ireland controversy

Sinn Féin TD raises concerns over re-appointment of chief executive for third term

File photograph of a Horse Racing Ireland event in Dublin. Taoiseach Enda Kenny has refused to be drawn on the controversial re-appointment of Brian Kavanagh as chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

File photograph of a Horse Racing Ireland event in Dublin. Taoiseach Enda Kenny has refused to be drawn on the controversial re-appointment of Brian Kavanagh as chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has refused to be drawn on the controversial re-appointment of Brian Kavanagh as chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland (HRI).

Questions have been raised about the re-appointment, following the revelations that the position was not advertised and that Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe signed off on it under the belief the HRI’s board had already approved Mr Kavanagh remaining in situ.

In the Dáil on Wednesday, Sinn Féin TD Martin Kenny asked Mr Kenny if he agreed that two Cabinet Ministers had been misled in agreeing with the re-appointment of Mr Kavanagh for a third term.

The Sinn Féin TD claimed Mr Donohoe and Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed were misinformed in relation to the process.

Under Government guidelines, chief executives of semi-State bodies such as Horse Racing Ireland should only serve one seven-year term.

Mr Kavanagh was first appointed in 2001.

The Sinn Féin TD said there had been “a lot of turmoil over the last couple of days” about the appointment.

During order of business, he asked the Taoiseach if he agreed that “his Ministers were misled and that they have agreed to the appointment for a third term of a CEO, which is in breach of Government guidelines”.

There were two issues of concern - the third-term appointment and “the huge salary this man receives”, he said.

The HRI chief executive’s salary is €190,000, plus performance bonuses.

The Sinn Féin said this matter “goes to the very heart of the issue of new politics”.

He had attended the Oireachtas agriculture committee meeting on Tuesday evening, during which Mr Creed was questioned about Mr Kavanagh’s re-appointment.

The Minister for Agriculture told the committee he was satisfied the required statutory provisions had been observed.

However, he acknowledged that “there was an issue with the sequencing of events”.

HRI is the governing body for the Irish horse-racing industry.

The agency’s board reports to the Minister for Agriculture. HRI receives €60 million annually from the exchequer.

The board of HRI on Tuesday endorsed Mr Kavanagh’s re-appointment and confirmed its support for the board’s chairman, Joe Keeling.

‘Business case’

Earlier this year, Mr Keeling made a business case to Government for Mr Kavanagh to be retained for a third term.

The Sinn Féin TD said: “There was a business case supposed to be put forward and it was revealed to us yesterday evening that there was no business case, that the business case was simply a letter from the chairperson of HRI and that the business case does not exist.”