The organisation in charge of defending Ireland’s stable staff has denied allegations that racetracks offer “limited and poor-quality food options” to those who work at racing events.

The Irish Stable Staff Association (Issa) has come under fire from independent Kildare councillor Fiona McLoughlin-Healy for complaints she has received alleging the group has failed to address catering issues with tracks.

The Curragh, Leopardstown, Downpatrick, Navan, and Fairyhouse, according to McLoughlin-Healy, are prime examples of racetracks that treat their stable staff well. However, he added that some other tracks “regularly feature deep fried food or buckets of curry being carried between kitchen and canteens.”

Issa Chairman Bernard Caldwell claims that he regularly examines the food options for dependable staff and is of the opinion that the vast majority of restaurants are doing an adequate job of providing for the needs of important industry workers.

Following a grooms’ protest at Kilbeggan this summer over the lack of free bottled water, Issa, the Association of Irish Racecourses, and the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board met in July and agreed to create new minimum standards for racecourse catering facilities for stable staff.

Responding to McLoughlin-Healy’s claims, Caldwell said: “We don’t live in a perfect world but over the past couple of years we’ve made great progress in improving the facilities for stable staff on tracks throughout the country.

“Most tracks nowadays make a contribution towards food for stable staff when technically they are not obliged to do that. However, with our good relationship with management of most tracks, we have managed to secure a lot of [food] vouchers for stable staff.

“That means the money they get for their food [from trainers] goes into their pocket tax-free. I can’t tell any manager they have to give free food, especially when the vast majority are usually very decent to us.”

A statement from Horse Racing Ireland said in conjunction with the IHRB, it has “utilised regular racegoing staff to review the racecourse catering provisions for both jockeys and stable staff in recent months”.

Caldwell added: “The racecourse of the year from the point of view of stable staff was Downpatrick, where soup, toasted sandwiches, snacks, tea and coffee were provided for free. Some tracks like the Curragh and Leopardstown offer hot meals, which is different but also fine, so defining what is proper food for staff isn’t just one type of catering option.

“Every track also has a health and safety officer who visits, and they are very strict about the food provided. We’re a very strong organisation and the sources McLoughlin-Healy’s got her information from don’t appear to be giving her the full story.”

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