herald

Sunday 22 October 2017

Jobs 'at risk' in row over greyhound stadium closure

Harold's Cross Stadium
Harold's Cross Stadium

The future of greyhound racing in Ireland is under threat as a result of the row over the closure of Harold's Cross Stadium, it has been claimed.

It has emerged that the shutdown has cost the industry more than €500,000 in the past 10 weeks.

Bord na gCon, the commercial semi-State body that controls the industry, has lost about €300,000 because of pickets that have stopped racing at its sister Dublin track, Shelbourne Park, while owners are down about €250,000 in prize money.

The sale of Harold's Cross Stadium was triggered by debts of more than €20m, but it provoked protest pickets at Shelbourne Park.

It was announced this week that the Department of Education has bought the stadium with a view to building badly-needed primary and post-primary schools on the site.

The transaction has to go through normal protocols for the sale of assets between State agencies and, ultimately, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has to sign off on it.

A Department of Agriculture spokesperson said Mr Creed would consider the proposal for the stadium when it is submitted to him.

Warned

Meanwhile, the Department of Education has had preliminary discussions with the city council about the rezoning of the site.

In a statement last night, Bord na gCon said the sale of Harold's Cross was "absolutely essential in order to reduce the enormous legacy debt that threatens the national greyhound industry".

The board said the debt had to be addressed now, and ruled out a partial sale, which has been suggested, as a "half measure".

It warned that "unless racing is resumed and the debt is reduced now, jobs and the national industry are at risk".

It emerged earlier this week that the board had agreed to the sale, hoping to draw a line under the issue.

A meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will today discuss the accounts of Bord na gCon.

PAC chairman Sean Fleming said the committee wanted to hear what measures the board had taken to ensure future sustainability.

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