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And they're off

'It's worth nearly €500m to the economy': Taoiseach defends reopening horse racing industry on 8 June

Varadkar said the horse racing industry here needed to be aligned with what was happening in countries like France and the UK.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has defended reopening the horse racing industry earlier than envisaged saying the industry is worth nearly half a billion euro to the Irish economy and needed to be aligned with scheduling of meetings in the UK and France. 

It emerged earlier today that race meetings will resume, behind closed doors and without spectators, from 8 June – three weeks earlier than the expected 29 June reopening. 

During a press briefing, in which Varadkar confirmed that Phase One of the roadmap for easing restrictions will go ahead from Monday, he said the horse racing industry in Ireland needed to be aligned with what was happening in the industry abroad. 

“Horse racing was never specifically mentioned in the plan that we agreed back in April, so now it is, and horse racing behind close doors will be allowed to resume from the 8 June, and that’s taking into account what’s happening in the UK and what’s happening in France,” he said. 

“This is a big economic sector, a lot of people employed in it, worth nearly €500 million euro to the economy each year and because people won’t be able to travel to meetings, the amount of movement will be limited – it’s people travelling to and from their workplace, essentially, but won’t be open to spectators, not for the foreseeable future.”

“We need to be aligned, or more or less aligned, with what’s happening in the UK and France in that regard,” he added.

Horse Racing Ireland said only essential personnel will be permitted onsite during meetings and will be subject to strict protocols to ensure social distancing is observed.

“We are grateful to be one of the sectors permitted to go back to work and acknowledge the responsibility on everybody in racing to ensure the events are run in a safe way,” Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland said.

The decision has lead to concerns as to whether the Greyhound racing industry will be permitted to resume business along the same timeframe.

Frank Nyhan, chairman of the Irish Greyhound Board said the organisation has sought clarity from Government. 

“The IGB is at a loss to understand why, on a risk basis, greyhound racing is not assessed as being capable of operating behind closed doors from 8 June next as it is clear that all necessary protocols can be fully complied with,” he said.

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