A SERIES of issues arising from Horse Sport Ireland’s plans to develop a centre of excellence at Greenogue Equestrian Centre, Rathcoole, was twice raised in Daíl sessions last week.

Carlow-Kilkenny Deputy John McGuinness (FF) and Kildare North TD Catherine Murphy (SD) both raised matters relating to it.

The Public Accounts Commitee noted correspondence from Mr Brendan Gleeson, Secretary General of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, dated March 31st, providing information requested by the committee regarding a legal review being undertaken by the Department in respect of the proposed relocation of a Horse Sport Ireland facility to Greenogue in Dublin.

Commenting on same, Deputy Murphy said: “I refer to paragraph (d), which states that Horse Sport Ireland should obtain legal advice on whether the procurement rules apply to this transaction in advance of finalising an agreement with the landlord at Greenogue. It is an industrial estate. I would like greater clarity from Horse Sport Ireland in respect of whether it believes procurement rules apply in this context and whether it has already obtained legal advice.’’

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue responded to a series of questions from Deputy McGuinness.

Minister McConalogue replied: “Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) is a company limited by guarantee. It is not a State Body established by legislation and it is operationally independent of my Department. I have been briefed by Horse Sport Ireland that they have been considering Greenogue as a centre for the establishment of a new headquarters and a national centre of excellence. It is envisaged that such a centre is to provide a world class environment for the production of horses, provision of equine services, industry training and promotion.

“I have been informed that they entered into a usage agreement with the facility at Greenogue Equestrian in 2021 in the context of the overall Centre of Excellence project to be located at the centre. The usage agreement provided for both sport and breeding activities. The monthly fee for unlimited usage is commercially sensitive information.

“In relation to training carried out at Greenogue, on average training across the disciplines took place weekly depending on the need of the programmes from March 2021. Also mare inspections and foal qualifier events were held atGreenogue Equestrian. Regarding professionals using the facility overall, the feedback was very positive across all disciplines.

“Horse Sport Ireland has engaged with a range of equestrian enterprises in the immediate area concerning their concerns and following their objection to the planning application with South County Dublin Council. Furthermore, feedback has been documented in industry press publications. Since the grant of planning no further concerns have been raised.

“Regarding procurement, I am advised that the Procurement Directive and the European Union (Award of Public Authority Contracts) Regulations 2016, do not apply to public service contracts for the acquisition or rental, by whatever financial means, of land, existing buildings or other immovable property.

“The Board of Horse Sport Ireland approved the Heads of Terms for the agreement and the usage agreement. The proposed lease agreement is yet to be progressed and will be subject to financial assessment noting the current environment and the view of the Board of Horse Sport Ireland.

“Regarding the Chair’s relationship with the owner, I have been informed that the Chair holds a purely professional relationship with the centre owner arising through his exchanges on the centre of excellence project. Subject to the Board of HSI, the financial commitment to Greenogue will be predicated on the decision related to the centre of excellence project as a whole.

“Should the project not be realised, subject to the terms of the agreement, HSI are liable for the costs associated with the project design, architectural, technical, and legal input for the project to bring same to full planning permission stage with Dublin County Council,” concluded Minister McConalogue.