Minister’s Hands Tied In Youghal Dog Track Closure

By Seamus Whelehan

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The Minister with responsibility for greyhounds, Andrew Doyle, says he cannot interfere in any decision to close Youghal Dog Track.

The East Cork Race Track has been listed among 4 stadia to close by May 2020, due to financial pressures being experienced by the Irish Greyhound Board.

The Indeco Economic Report released by the Board of Bórd Na gCon has also recommended the closure of Enniscorthy, Lifford and Longford Tracks. There are currently 16 Greyhound Stadia nationally.

The Report, published last Friday, stated that the infrastructure is poor and the Stadia were loss making, and indicated that further Tracks could be closed in 2022.

The Junior Minister for Agriculture said "the recommendations of the report, which have been accepted by the Board of Bórd Na gCon, provide a road map to underpin a sustainable long-term future for the industry."

Minister Doyle said he was “surprised” to learn that Youghal was earmarked for closure, stating "the impact will be acutely felt."

He said what is important now, is that the community make a "robust" submission to the IGB before its public consultation period deadline of 10 January 2020.

The Minister was responding to a Parliamentary Question tabled by Cork East Deputies, Pat Buckley Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail's Spokesperson on Sport, Kevin O'Keeffe.

The Youghal Track has been in operation since 1948 and is seen as an integral part of the town's tourism product.

Youghal is one of two profit making Tracks, racing 2 nights a week on the SIS International Betting Platform.

Speaking in the Dail, Deputy Pat Buckley said the closure of Youghal Track would be an economic blow as detrimental to tourist related businesses as the closure of Youghal Carpets,

Deputy O'Keeffe said "taking the Greyhound Track out of Youghal is like taking a Post Office out of a village."

He said if he had known he was "signing the death warrant" for the track he would not have voted for the 2019 Greyhound Act.

The 2019 Act has ring-fenced €16.8million in funding for the IGB if certain criteria are met which include the welfare of greyhounds as one of the Bórd's Statutory functions.

The IGB estimate they will spend over €3million on welfare and regulation in 2020.

Earlier this week the majority of Cork County Council backed a campaign to keep the Youghal facility open.

Fine Gael Cllr Michael Hegarty, himself a greyhound owner who uses the Youghal track, said he could not understand how Thurles and Clonmel are to remain open, both of which are just a short distance from each other, when the Youghal track serves a greater area, East Cork and West Waterford.

Social Democrat. Holly McKeever Kerns, was the only Cllr to speak out about Cork County Council taking any step to protect the Greyhound Industry.

She said, because of the appalling standards of care and the loss making nature of the Industry highlighted in the RTE Investigates programme in July, she could not support efforts to keep the Track open.

“Attendance has fallen by 55% since 2008 and 2018. The combined loss of the tracks between now and 2020 is estimated to be €30,000,000 and that’s not to mention the almost 6,000 greyhounds that were killed for not running fast enough.”

However, Fianna Fail Cllr James O’Connor said the RTE Investigates programme, ‘Running for their Lives’, which highlighted how thousands of greyhounds were killed between 2014 and 2015, was not a true reflection on those who use the Youghal Track.

A public meeting will take place in the Greyhound Track at 8:00pm on Thursday December 12, to rally support against the closure of the Track.

 

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