What a Bunch of Fucking Chancers, One Law, for them, and Bluff and Bullshit for the Irish People?

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TDs’ VIP day at races courtesy of bookies BEFORE vote on gambling regulation

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26/05/2022

Several Government TDs and senators were given VIP treatment at an event hosted by the gambling industry in a hospitality tent at the Punchestown Race, it can be revealed.

It comes as the Oireachtas is preparing to regulate gambling for the first time after more than a decade of promising to do so, amid a major pushback from the industry. The Punchestown event has not been logged on the lobbying register.

The TDs and senators were treated to a two-course meal and free bar for the day at the Punchestown races on April 28. They were all guests at the corporate hospitality event, at which the Irish Bookmakers Association (IBA) paid for three tables in the tent. Representatives from a major gambling company were also in attendance.

Jockey Shane Fitzgerald is unseated from Grange Walk as they compete in the Pigsback.com Handicap Chase on day three of the Punchestown Festival at Punchestown Racecourse in County Kildare, Ireland. Picture date: Thursday April 28, 2022.

Among those attending was Fine Gael TD for Wexford and former defence minister Paul Kehoe. When contacted, he refused to comment and insisted that he was there in a personal capacity.

‘I’m not squealing on anyone else who was there,’ the former Fine Gael chief whip added. The others who attended included Fine Gael senator and former social protection minister Regina Doherty, Fine Gael TD for Clare Joe Carey, Fianna Fáil TD for Tipperary Jackie Cahill, Fianna Fáil senator Paul Daly and Fine Gael senators Garret Ahearn, Martin Conway and John Cummins.

Fine Gael TD for Clare Joe Carey was at the event

Ms Doherty is also leader of the Seanad – a role that comes with an allowance of €21,525 and two civilian drivers – and serves as the Government’s spokesperson in the Upper House. Former Fine Gael jobs minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor attended the event but declined to comment when contacted.

Several other former Oireachtas members were also in attendance including former Fianna Fáil TD for Cork East Kevin O’Keeffe, who also declined to comment.

Pic: Collins

Lobbying rules state that communications with a designated public official, such as a TD or senator, regarding proposed changes to legislation should be recorded on the register.

One of the politicians who was in attendance, who wished to remain anonymous, said that one of politicians was introduced to a senior figure from the major gambling firm at the event, and that the pair spoke for ten minutes.

09/02/2022 Senator Regina Doherty speaking to the media in relation to the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill 2022 on The Plinth Leinster House Kildare St Dublin today.Photo Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photo Agency Dublin

The source said that while they were guests of the IBA, the Gambling Regulation Bill was not discussed at the event.

‘We didn’t talk about work. Maybe they butter you up in the hope it pays off later,’ the source said. Sources at the event have told that there were 80 tables in the tent at the racecourse, with the other tables purchased by separate corporate entities.

Runners and riders in action as they compete in the Specialist Joinery Group Handicap Hurdle on day three of the Punchestown Festival at Punchestown Racecourse in County Kildare, Ireland. Picture date: Thursday April 28, 2022.

Both Mr Daly and Mr Cummins lost their respective party whips for several months after attending the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in Clifden, Co. Galway, during lockdown restrictions.

Mr Daly was the Fianna Fáil group whip in the Seanad before being disciplined over his attendance at the dinner. Neither Mr Cummins nor Mr Daly were contactable yesterday for comment.

Senator Martin Conway

The attendees were hosted by Sharon Byrne, chairperson of the IBA, who was with them throughout the day.

Ms Byrne said that the IBA regularly attends and supports Irish horse racing events.

‘On the occasions where we secure hospitality, we invite guests and colleagues, who would enjoy a day at the races, to join us. Our guests vary each year and range from greyhound breeders, professional colleagues, industry stakeholders and IBA members, to politicians who are local to where the event is being held as well as those with a known interest in the sport,’ she said.

Garret Ahearn

Spokespersons for both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil declined to comment last night.

The Gambling Regulation Bill is being prepared to be introduced to the Oireachtas, having just undergone pre-legislative scrutiny. It proposes to regulate the gambling industry for the first time. It also proposes to establish a gambling regulator which will license gambling operators trading here and have the power to impose fines for breaches of legislation.

And last week, the Oireachtas Justice Committee recommended that the Bill go further than initially proposed.

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