The organisers of the Galway Races have announced that this year's festival will not go ahead in its traditional form, in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

In a statement this evening, the manager of Ballybrit racecourse, Michael Moloney said the event could not be open to the public, given the ongoing health concerns around large gatherings. 

Mr Moloney said efforts were continuing to try and stage the event behind closed doors. He said this would depend on Government policy and the approval of racing authorities. At present, plans are centred on this scenario. However, it is likely to be a number of weeks before there is further clarity in this regard. 

The 2020 festival was due to be held from Monday 27 July to Sunday 2 August. One of the biggest social events in the country, the Galway Races attracts thousands of visitors to the city each summer. 

Customers who have already paid for admission tickets and corporate hospitality can avial of full refunds. 

In the statement, Mr Moloney said: "We know this will be a huge disappointment for all our racegoers that attend year on year.

"It may prove possible to run the Galway Races behind closed doors, dependent on Government policy and the approval of Horse Racing Ireland and Irish Horse Racing Regulatory Board.

"This would be for the benefit of the racing industry, our valued partners and our television audiences at home and internationally. We are currently planning for this scenario and we will update you on progress as and when we can."

"We would like to sincerely thank you for your support and understanding during this unprecedented time.

"Our thoughts are with all those affected as a result of Covid-19. We offer our deepest gratitude to staff at the HSE, front line workers and members of our community nationwide for their dedication and perseverance.

"We look forward to being able to welcome you all back to Ballybrit when it is safe to do so. For now, please look after yourselves. Stay safe and healthy."