No apologies have been received. Senator Mullen is substituting for Senator Boyhan.
Before we begin, I remind members that, in the context of the current Covid-19 restrictions, only the Chairman and staff are present in the committee room. All members must join remotely from elsewhere in the parliamentary precincts. The secretariat can issue invitations to join the meeting on MS Teams. Members may not participate in the meeting from outside of the parliamentary precincts. I ask members to please mute their microphone when not making a contribution and to please use the raise hand function to indicate. Please note that messages sent to the meeting chat are visible to all participants. Speaking slots are prioritised for members of the committee.
The first session is engagement with Irish Racehorse Trainers Association, IRTA. The topic for today's meeting is alleged issues in the horse racing industry with representatives of the IRTA, followed by representatives of Horse Racing Ireland, HRI, and the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, IHRB. I acknowledge once more that this series of meetings was called on foot of recent allegations made in the media. In order to give all parties a fair hearing, the person who made those statements was invited to appear before the joint committee, but has chosen to decline the invitation. Although such an engagement would have been beneficial to our discussion on what is a important issue for a significant Irish industry it is their right not to participate and they are not answerable to the committee. It must be said that we are not a committee of inquiry, so we are not here to judge the veracity of statements made or explore any allegations or wrongdoing against any person. Our only objective is to establish what systems and processes are in place to see if they are up to international standards and to discuss any policy issues arising. I remind witnesses and members I will not allow criticism of anyone and in particular anyone who is not here to defend themselves. I also remind them of the parliamentary practice that they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.
From the IRTA I welcome Mr. Michael Halford, chairperson, and Mr. Michael Grassick, chief executive officer. Both are joining us remotely. We have received their opening statement and it has already been circulated to members. All opening statements are published on the Oireachtas website and are publicly available. The IRTA representatives have ten minutes to make an opening statement before we move to questions and answers.
Before we begin, I must give an important notice regarding parliamentary privilege. Witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence relating to a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise nor make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Participants in the committee meeting who are in locations outside the parliamentary precincts are asked to note that the constitutional protections afforded to those participating from within the parliamentary precincts do not extend to them. No clear guidance can be given on whether or the extent to which participation is covered by the absolute privilege of a statutory nature.
I invite Mr. Halford to make his opening statement on behalf of the IRTA.