THE Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue, has no plans to review the legislation which requires state funding for horseracing and greyhound racing to be split in an 80:20 ratio.
For the past 20 years the annual Government grant to both sports has been made through the Horse & Greyhound Racing Fund, under Section 12 of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act, 2001.
Since 2001 a total of €1.54 billion has been paid from the Fund to both sports, with 80% going to Horse Racing Ireland.
This week Sinn Fein’s agriculture spokesman Matt Carthy confirmed his support for both industries but queried the logic behind the 80:20 split.
Addressing the Minister during an all-party Oireachtas Committee meeting, Carthy said: “If funding for each sport is dependent on their respective business cases, you could have a situation where – for example – greyhound racing brings forward a very good proposal for an extra €2.5 million in funding. If you approve that then horse racing gets an additional €10 million by default. This is a unique arrangement. I believe the funding for both should be separated.”
The Minister said he hadn’t considered making any changes to the system and said he was satisfied there was sufficient oversight of spending by both semi-state bodies.
Carthy has often queried the distribution of prize money in racing and again this week he cited statistics which showed that a large proportion of prize money was won by a small number of elite owners and trainers.
The Minister said that the allocation of prize money between big and small races “will always be contested no matter how you slice and dice it.” He said the fact that Irish horse racing was performing well internationally was evidence that the sector was healthy. He said 70% of horses who raced in 2020 and 2021 won some prize money.
Senator Paul Daly, a director of Kilbeggan Racecourse, asked the Minister if he could encourage Horse Racing Ireland to give some prize money to small breeders, but overall he backed the current framework.
“The proof that our model is working is that very little of our prize money leaves the island while at the same time our big owners and trainers can go to America and the Middle East and bring back prize money to the Irish economy.”