Court hears Meade claimed security chief was 'planting stuff'

Michael Hickey: “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.” Alain Barr

Former Horse Racing Ireland board member Michael Hickey claimed in the High Court on Friday that Noel Meade made allegations to the effect that the regulator’s security chief Chris Gordon was planting incriminating evidence. 

Hickey is a former senior steward of the National Hunt Committee and was the then Turf Club’s representative on the HRI board at the time Meade made the remark at a meeting in 2015. 

Gordon is the chief security officer who initiated a defamation case against the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association, of which Meade is chairman, almost six years ago. 

It was also claimed by Hickey from the witness box on day 12 of the case that former HRI chairman Joe Keeling made derogatory remarks about the Turf Club.

Noel Meade: at the centre of the Chris Gordon defamation case CAROLINE NORRIS

Hickey told the court: “Mr [Neville] O’Byrne [the late senior steward at the Turf Club], Mr Meade and myself sat more or less the same side of the board table at HRI.

“During the course of a conversation before we went into this meeting, Mr Meade passed a remark about Mr Gordon that ‘the trainers can’t trust him.

In fact, we think he’s planting stuff.'”

What transpired through the rest of this meeting led to Hickey leaving in protest at remarks that were made by Keeling.

Hickey explained to the court: “I wasn’t in agreement with the meeting and a further derogatory remark was passed about the Turf Club by the chairman of HRI [Keeling]. 

“I asked him to repeat the remark, which he did, and I took offence to it and I gathered my stuff and I walked out.”

He added: “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Having just [heard] what Mr Meade said before the meeting and then to hear what the HRI chairman said, I thought it was very offensive.”

Asked what was said, Hickey claimed: “It was to do with the investigation. Mr Meade suggested there wasn’t a proper investigation carried out and the chairman interjected and he said, ‘I suppose the Turf Club didn’t want a proper investigation carried out in case they were found in the wrong,’ words to that effect.”

Hickey added: “I asked him to repeat it and he repeated it.

He rang me that evening and he apologised.”

It was also claimed by Hickey that Meade made his feelings known about Gordon some months earlier, at a HRI board meeting on May 25, 2015.

Hickey claimed: “He stated that the situation had gotten out of control as regards working with Mr Gordon, that the trainers found it impossible to work with him.”

Earlier this week, Denis Egan told the court of a conversation he shared with Dermot Weld on August 23, 2014, where the trainer relayed information to the IHRB chief executive about a petition which IRTA boss Michael Grassick was allegedly circulating among trainers.

The existence of the petition, which, it is claimed, called for the removal of Gordon, is denied by the IRTA but Hickey reiterated assertions made by Egan by giving evidence of a conversation with Weld on the same evening.

Hickey said: “I got a call on Saturday evening [23 August, 2014] from Mr Weld and he relayed to me the fact that he had been asked to sign this letter. He didn’t intend to do it as he’d nothing against Mr Gordon; in fact, he always found him very helpful.”

Asked if Weld had said what was in the letter, Hickey responded: “It was about a petition to get rid of Mr Gordon as the main security officer because the trainers couldn’t work with him. I believe it was the same night that he rang Mr Egan after he was speaking with me so it would have been on August 23.”

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