Government agreed €190,000 salary for horse racing chief executive even though starting salary set for role had been €137,356

Two Fianna Fáil ministers signed off on a €190,000 annual salary with company car for the chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland even though the starting salary set for the role had been just €137,356.

Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath and Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue both agreed to the package after HRI warned recruitment would be “extremely difficult” based on lower rates.

HRI ended up appointing Suzanne Eade – who had been serving as their chief financial officer – to the role and she formally took up the post late last year.

Discussions over the salary began last June with the Department of Agriculture sending a copy of a draft contract for Ms Eade to officials in the Department of Public Expenditure the following month.

It said a salary of €190,773 per annum would be awarded but that this would be phased in over a three-year period.

In the first year, the new chief executive would be paid €174,773, in year two a rate of €182,773, and for years three to seven, the higher amount would apply.

The contract also said a car allowance of €13,150 along with reasonable mileage would be paid to their new chief executive.

In an email, the Department of Public Expenditure told a senior official in the Department of Agriculture that revised rates of pay for such roles had been agreed by government in 2011.

A message from Kieran Dollard of their Senior Pay Policy unit said: “In relation to Horse Racing Ireland, the range was determined as €137,356 to €164,231, the lower point of the range intended as the starting salary for new appointees.”

It said the fact that the then chief executive Brian Kavanagh was on a higher salary was because he was “already in situ” prior to the government decision.

They asked for a “robust and detailed” business case to be provided to justify why the rate that was agreed in 2011 should not apply to the post.

A copy of that business case said HRI had carried out their own independent review which found chief executives in similar roles were paid between €172,000 and €232,000.