OFFICIALS from Horse Racing Ireland [HRI] will appear before the Public Accounts Committee [PAC] “in the coming weeks” to answer questions on trading losses at the Curragh Racecourse, which is 35% owned by the state through HRI.

Last week Seamus McCarthy, the Comptroller and Auditor General, drew the attention of the PAC to “an additional loss of €1.4 million in 2022 related to Horse Racing Ireland’s investment in an associate company, Curragh Racecourse Limited. The cumulative loss on that investment to end 2022 was €9 million.”

PAC chairman Brian Stanley said: “This issue has come up before with regard to the investment of public funds in the redevelopment of the Curragh racetrack. There is an expectation that the Curragh would be a premier racecourse. There has been huge development there in recent years. Here we are again with another €1.4 million loss and a cumulative loss of more than €9 million.

“I am trying to understand what exactly is happening that this money has been lost. Is HRI taking corrective action to try to address that?”

McCarthy said the losses have required HRI to provide additional lending to the joint venture. Other investors have equally provided additional funds. “The bottom line is that €9 million has effectively been incurred as a trading loss already in the venture,” he said.

“Cash profitable”

In January 2023 Curragh chief executive Brian Kavanagh told The Irish Field that depreciation and Covid-19 were the main reasons for losses at the Curragh in 2021/’22, but that the track had been “cash profitable” in both those years.

Previously HRI boss Suzanne Eade told the PAC that loans made by the racing authority to the Curragh would be converted into shares in the racecourse in 2024.

Separately, earlier this month in a written answer to a query from Paul Murphy, TD for Dublin South West, the Minister for Agriculture said the 2022 audited financial statements for HRI were received by the Department on December 21st, noted by Government on March 5th and laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas on March 8th.

The 2022 audited financial statements for the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board were received by the Department on March 28th and are currently “under consideration”.

In June 2023 IHRB chief executive Darragh O’Loughlin told the PAC he had been made aware of issues in the 2022 accounts which necessitated an external investigation by consultants Mazars. Some 10 months later, that process has not been completed.