‘Up to €4m’ available for racing’s stable staff pension scheme
New scheme will be financed by proportion of prize money deducted from trainers
Michael Grassick, chief executive of the IRTA, said “there is €4 million ready to be distributed among people who qualify for the new pension”. Photograph: Eric Luke
The Irish Racehorse Trainers’ Association (IRTA) estimates that up to €4 million is ready and waiting to be put into Irish racing’s new stable staff pension scheme.
The new scheme set up to replace an old pension fund wound up in 2010 will be financed by a proportion of prize money deducted from trainers.
Michael Grassick, chief executive of the IRTA, said on Friday that such deductions have continued in the years since the old scheme finished.
“That money from trainers deductions has been put aside and at the moment there is €4 million ready to be distributed among people who qualify for the new pension; that is staff that can be proved to have been working in the industry for the last three years, earning the minimum wage and working 30 hours a week or more,” he said.
Trainers and stable staff have been encouraged by Horse Racing Ireland to attend a series of countrywide road shows starting next week on how the new scheme will operate, including in Northern Ireland.
Stable staff in the North didn’t benefit under racing’s old pension scheme due to being in a different jurisdiction despite racing’s status as an All-Ireland sport.
Longstanding discontent in the North about pension arrangements, and the way those concerns were handled by the IRTA, has led to moves for the estimated 34 trainers there to break away and set up their own organisation.
Plans to set up a Northern Ireland trainers’ association are ongoing and Co Tyrone-based trainer Mervyn Torrens said on Friday he will meet with Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Féin’s leader in Northern Ireland, next week.
Torrens said both O’Neill and another former Sinn Féin agriculture minister in the North, Michelle Gildernew, have been sympathetic.
“They’re not very happy with the way Northern Ireland people were treated,” he said. Torrens added that a new trainers’ association in the North could positively address other issues besides pensions.
“With this Brexit thing, God knows what’s going to happen and I think it’s for the good of Northern Ireland trainers that we have an association,” he said.
“We want to be able to do things for ourselves so that when Brexit comes around we can lobby Stormont on different things, for the good of Northern Ireland trainers and for racing in Northern Ireland,” Torrens added.
However, Grassick played down suggestions of a split in the national trainers body.
“I’ve spoken to a few Northern people and they seem satisfied that we’ve done our best. I think they’re going to form a sub-committee and any issues Northern trainers would have they would make a representation with,” he said.