Key IHRB Figure Takes 'Voluntary Leave' After Discovery Of 'Grave' Financial Matter

The IHRB announced a 'grave' financial matter | Emma Berry

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board [IHRB] revealed to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday morning that its chief financial officer Donal O'Shea is taking what the organisation described as “voluntary leave” after serious financial irregularities came to light this week. 

The news was delivered by the IHRB chief Darragh O'Loughlin, who was before the PAC to discuss the circumstances around the early retirement of his predecessor Denis Egan and other costs.

However, O'Loughlin dropped the bombshell news in his opening statement, and revealed that in preparation for his meeting with the PAC, he had discovered another financial issue from early 2022 which were of “grave concern.”

He said, “Within the past 48 hours, in the course of preparing for this meeting, I became aware of a hitherto unknown issue that occurred in early 2022 which caused grave concern.

“I immediately brought it to the attention of the chair of the audit and risk committee and the board of the IHRB. The board has commissioned a full review of the matter to be conducted by an independent firm. The preliminary facts, as they are known, have been disclosed to the relevant bodies, including the office of the comptroller and auditor general, Horse Racing Ireland, and the department of agriculture, food and the marine.”

He added, “The committee will appreciate that I am not in a position to give any further details on the matter, pending the outcome of the independent review.”

O'Loughlin was pressed on the matter but stated that he could not give any details for fear of prejudicing the independent investigation and report, which is likely to take months to complete. 

O'Shea was a late absentee from the hearing after taking “voluntary leave” yesterday. O'Loughlin declined to comment on whether his absence was related to the financial issue discovered this week.

Egan took early retirement from the IHRB in 2021 and received an exit payment of €384,870, a figure that was 58 per cent above what he was entitled to under the terms of the redundancy scheme.

The extra €140,000 included payments from the Turf Club and the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee and did not come from public money.

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