I welcome the opportunity to raise this Topical Issue. I submitted it over the weekend on foot of Bord na gCon's threat to move a feature greyhound race from Mullingar greyhound stadium to Galway greyhound stadium. The Irish Cesarewitch, a premier 600 yd classic, has been held successfully in Mullingar for the past 18 years and it appears that the threat to move it to Galway has since been rescinded. I compliment the members of the board of the greyhound track, the breeders who use the track and my constituency colleague who in recent days have been highlighting the regrettable proposal that emanated last week. I thank the Minister for taking a call over the weekend. I wonder why the decision to move the race to Galway was not formally notified to the board of Mullingar greyhound stadium. While it is most welcome that Bord na gCon has changed its mind in advance of tomorrow evening's meeting, at which the decision was due to be ratified, it raises questions about the governance of Bord na gCon. Did someone in Galway put pressure on Bord na gCon to move the race in the first instance? Did the decision to rescind the proposal to move the race to Galway result from the pressure exerted in recent days by the directors, the political representatives and the breeders?
We were told that it was proposed to move the Cesarewitch to Galway because of capacity issues at Mullingar. I consider this to be a very lame excuse because the capacity issues with the fire escape were definitely present last year and may have been present for the past two years when there was no proposal to move the race. All of this shows Bord na gCon's clear lack of support for Mullingar greyhound stadium. We know that Bord na gCon has invested in greyhound stadiums in regional locations such as Thurles, Clonmel, Galway and Tralee and wonder why Mullingar is not on that list. In February 2017 Bord na gCon received Government approval to dispose of Harold's Cross greyhound stadium. Part of the reason for that decision was the need to clear the substantial debts Bord na gCon had built up in the preceding years. It was also intended that some of the money raised from the sale of the Harold's Cross facility would be used to invest in other stadiums. We cannot interfere in the fire officer's decision and should not seek to do so because health and safety are paramount.
However, the board's lack of support for the directors of the Mullingar stadium making the necessary physical improvements is hampering the dog track's ability to reach its full potential. Consequently, the stadium is losing revenue weekly. The track is turning down highly profitable benefit nights and is no longer available to the sports clubs from surrounding counties that once travelled to use it. I understand that Bord na gCon turned down a recent request for funding to replace the advertising board at the centre of the track, a further indication of its lack of support for the stadium.
Bord na gCon is responsible for presenting a business case to the Government and the latter has representatives on the board. When will funding be made available to carry out the essential capital works that will enable the stadium to generate its own revenue and put it on a sustainable footing?