Greyhound Industry (Doping Regulation) Bill 2006: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I wish to share time with Deputy Jim O'Keeffe.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to introduce the Greyhound Industry (Doping Regulation) Bill 2006. This three-hour debate will provide an opportunity for me and Members on all sides of the House to voice our views on this important Bill and other issues concerning the greyhound industry.

I had the privilege of being responsible for Bord na gCon when I served as a Minister of State at the then Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry from 1994 to 1997. It was a very exciting time for the greyhound industry after the downward cycle in the previous ten to 15 years when attendance figures slumped to approximately 580,000 from over 1 million in the late 1970s. With the aid of increased funding made available by the then rainbow Government, significant improvements in customer facilities and track surfaces took place in racing tracks across the country. In 1995, a new grandstand restaurant, hospitality suites, kennels and full bar facilities were provided at Shelbourne Park. These cost approximately €3.25 million, which was good value for taxpayers' money at that time.

This new development, complete with a strong marketing campaign made an immediate impact and Shelbourne Park became the place to go for evening entertainment and corporate functions. This was the catalyst the industry needed at the time and it resulted in remarkable increases in attendances and tote betting at Shelbourne Park. This model became the example to which the rest of the country aspired. A new grandstand restaurant and bar facilities were opened in Tralee in May 1997 at a cost of €2.3 million. This has been a major success, is part of the tourism infrastructure of Kerry and provides state-of-the-art facilities for owners, trainers and members of the public. New kennels were provided there recently for the comfort of the greyhounds.

I was involved in the relocation of the greyhound stadium in Cork, which resulted in the first new greyhound stadium to be built in the country since the late 1950s. I was also instrumental in the decision to retain Harold's Cross as a greyhound stadium. Before I was given responsibility for the industry, a decision had been made to sell off Harold's Cross and to centralise all greyhound racing in Dublin at Shelbourne Park. I did not agree with this strategy, however, and ensured that it did not proceed. It is heartening to see how well Harold's Cross is doing. A later major investment in Harold's Cross came mostly from the sale of some of the land there. At the time, Harold's Cross would have made very little money compared with what it makes now. It is an outstanding facility and serves as a community centre for that side of the city.

Between 1994 and 1997, the rainbow Government reduced VAT on greyhound feed from 21% to 12.5% and introduced an exemption from tax on income from stud fees in 1996. Between 1995 and 2005, attendances grew from 580,000 to 1.39 million, a return to the levels of the late 1970s. As a result, totalisator betting increased from €6.7 million in 1995 to €51.3 million in 2005 and bookmaker betting increased from €22.2 million to €90.5 million in the same period.

Prize money has increased from €1 million to €11.4 million and sponsorship from €600,000 to €1.9 million. The number of registered owners increased from 8,277 in 1996 to 9,989 in 2005, which reflects the growing popularity of greyhound racing. It is heartening to see many syndicates made up of men and women who buy dogs, come to the track to support them and have great fun in the process. This is a trend across the country and represents a good way to keep people occupied and promote to social interaction. Greyhound centres are good social centres for their communities.

The greyhound industry, including the rearing and training of greyhounds, contributes in excess of €300 million to the economy and is an important source of income for many families, particularly in rural areas. It provides a considerable supplementary income to many farm families.

This dramatic improvement has taken place in Ireland since 1995 while the industry has declined in the UK and the USA. Receiving Government support has helped, especially with the introduction of the horse and greyhound racing fund in 2001. That was a major departure because it ensured guaranteed funding for the greyhound industry in the future. Bord na gCon received 20% of the total fund, which has contributed to the increase in prize money and to the capital development throughout the country.

The appointment of Pascal Taggart as Chairman of Bord na gCon in late 1995 was an important development. In the past 11 years, he has given his time to Bord na gCon free of charge. He declined to accept a director's fee or travelling expenses and must be recognised for that and for his contribution to the spectacular growth of the industry since 1995. He remains the chairman 11 years later, having been appointed by the rainbow Government, not on political grounds but on the grounds that he had business acumen and was supportive of the greyhound industry.

His predecessor, Kevin Heffernan, carried out a root and branch review of Bord na gCon in late 1994 and early 1995. He proposed the structures, which are still in place, to enable the industry to progress. The chief executives, Seán Collins and Michael Field, who served while I was Minister of State were very supportive. When I served in a junior ministerial capacity and, as a Deputy representing north Kerry, made proposals regarding the track in Tralee, there was a concern that there might not be money available to facilitate such a development. The then chief executive, Seán Collins, was very supportive of this proposal, as was Michael Dowling, who was Secretary General of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry at the time. We sourced the first €500,000 to get the project off the ground from various funds and savings in the Department. They, together with the staff and board members of Bord na gCon, can all feel justifiably proud of this success story. I acknowledge also the efforts and support of the former Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Walsh, and the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy O'Donoghue, for the industry.

In late 1996, the Government also approved my proposal on new greyhound legislation. When I left the then Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry in 1997, drafting of the Bill was well advanced. The Bill provided for a new greyhound racing authority to replace Bord na gCon. The board was to be larger than the existing board and broadly representative of the various interests of the industry. The Bill also proposed to establish a new independent control and appeals board, with a legal person in the chair and a veterinary expert on it.

Other sections of the 1958 legislation the Bill proposed to update included aspects relating to ethical standards associated with membership of the authority and the duration and number of times an individual could serve on the board, including the chairman. It was also intended to appoint an individual, or individuals, to the board who may not have been involved in the greyhound industry but who had a business, legal or marketing background. The Bill would also have assured gender balance on the board. When the rainbow coalition left office, there were three women on the board. Now there is none, which is a sad reflection on the Government's stated commitment to ensuring gender balance on State boards.

The incoming Government dropped the legislation in 1997. Elements of the Bill were included in the Horse and Greyhound Racing (Betting Charges and Levies) Bill 1999 and the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund Bill 2001. However, the Bill would have led to a comprehensive updating of the 1958 Act which, as the Minister accepted in the Dáil last week, needed major amendment and updating. Unfortunately, it has taken almost ten years for the Government to acknowledge this fact.

The Bill I am introducing represents one of the initiatives contained in the proposed 1997 legislation. It is essential the industry is governed by an effective regulatory structure which has the confidence of all involved. Greyhounds must be allowed to compete on their merits. Trainers and owners must be allowed to compete in the knowledge that their animals will only be beaten on merit and not by a greyhound that has been given a performance enhancing substance. Similarly, people betting on greyhound races must be confident the greyhound they back will perform on its merits. There must be no room in the industry for cheats. For animal welfare reasons, greyhounds should not be raced if they require painkillers or other drugs to boost performance.

Since 1995, Bord na gCon has striven to improve its control procedures. In 1996, the board employed a regulation manager to oversee a radical improvement in the implementation of its control regime. In 2005, it spent approximately €2 million, a substantial part of its budget, on regulation. In 2000, the board tested 1,000 samples with a positive rate of 1.4%. In 2005, some 6,000 samples were taken, with a positive rate of 1.13%. Although this compares favourably with the World Anti-Doping Agency, which tested a total of 2,000 athletes in 2004 worldwide, both in and out of competition, it represents less than 4.5% of those runners competing — an average of 2.5 greyhounds out of 60 taking part on a normal track night.

The board currently tests two randomly chosen samples at each track on each night of racing. This process is supervised by a control steward assigned to each track. The samples are selected randomly from the race card, usually by a draw made by a member of the public. On occasion, testing is carried out by a stipendiary steward and an outside testing team which usually takes pre and post-race samples of a number of races on nights when there is major prize money at stake, usually high profile events.

The urine collection container is usually given to the handlers of the greyhound who collect the urine. They must sign a form indicating their satisfaction with the procedure and stating whether or not they want the sample split. The samples are then sent to the national greyhound laboratory in Limerick by registered post for analysis. Negative samples take two weeks to certify and positive samples usually take four weeks. If the sample is positive, the trainer is informed by letter and asked to provide an explanation for the presence of a prohibited substance.

A letter is also sent to the track control steward directing him or her to initiate an inquiry into the case. The regulation manager in Bord na gCon then submits a report to the control committee, including all documentation, for decision. The committee, consisting of the chairman of Bord na gCon, the chief executive and three board members, then decides on the penalty to be imposed on the individual. First time offenders have the option of accepting the findings of the test, a small fine and forfeiture of the prize money or of appearing before the control committee to present a defence. This arrangement has had some success, but it is obvious from recent events that it is not foolproof and people are questioning it. I understand, from the leaked reports I have seen in the newspapers, that the Dalton report will address this issue. If the leaks are correct, and I presume they are, the report proposes something similar to what I propose in this Bill. Perhaps Mr. Dalton read my Bill.

A number of people have expressed concern about the procedures in place for the testing of greyhounds in Ireland. They feel that because they have been in place for some time, it is now appropriate to update them. They are convinced that if we are serious about zero tolerance regarding drug use, we must ensure that our drug testing systems are credible, comprehensive and independent and act as a deterrent to anyone tempted to breach the rules.

The receptacles for taking samples are outdated and are not in keeping with modern standards owing to their design. Horse racing uses the ladle method which is more tamper-proof.

The current system for drug testing racing greyhounds has in place a duplicate numbering system whereby one label is placed on the bottle that contains the urine sample after the handler has taken the sample from the greyhound and the other is part of a form signed by the handler in the presence of the person appointed by the board, who also signs that he or she has received the sample. The administrator or steward appointed by the board is obliged to offer the facility to split the sample so owners can also get it tested independently should they wish to do so.

Ireland allows persons taking samples from their dogs to walk freely into the middle of the track. The system in other countries is far superior with an area such as a sand pit reserved for the taking of samples. Sometimes when people walk into the middle of the stadium to collect a sample it could be the middle of winter and dark. This does not look well. In tracks in other countries a sandpit is reserved where people can see the sample being taken. That should be the practice here.

As the receptacle that contains the urine sample is not sealed, other than by a screw top, it could be open to tampering between the time the sample is taken and the time it reaches the area of administration, which is usually the staff canteen or a crowded weigh room. These bottled samples are placed in a small container, which has a screw cap, but as there is an abundance of them around the track, it is possible that a person could open them and swap a sample. The current system where there is no tamper-proof seal on the urine sample after it has been collected leaves the system open to tampering of samples by unscrupulous persons and would undoubtedly be open to legal challenge. We should remove that doubt. A facility such as a testing station that is locked all the time should be made available at all tracks, like a proper vet's room. In Ireland, no track has an area reserved for the sole purpose of administering testing procedures.

I understand stewards employed by the board do not have the power to randomly test a greyhound they deem to have run above or below form on any night and cannot test a greyhound the morning after a race. Will the Minister clarify that?

There is no testing carried out on greyhounds in semi-finals, which may encourage the use of illegal substances. This is on account of the length of time it takes for a sample to come back and because if the final of the race is the following week, it could be held up by a potential court case. It is a flaw in the system that dogs in semi-finals are not tested. The board, to its credit, tested the losers in the quarter-finals and semi-finals of last year's Irish Derby. Random testing should be the norm in Ireland but it is not. It would be far more advantageous to the board if stewards had the power to test greyhounds on spec. Post-race testing has been introduced in recent years to combat the alleged use of hard drugs. Given that some drugs enhance performance in seconds rather than minutes, they do not show up in urine samples for approximately 30 minutes, thereby making post-race tests useless. That is why there should be tests on the mornings after competitions and at various other times. I am also concerned that there is no testing at trials in Ireland.

Samples are placed in screw-cap containers which do not have seals, thereby defeating the purpose of taking samples in the first instance. The samples are transported by car and posted to head office without a chain of custody or an appropriate type of seal. The container carrying all the samples is screw-sealed, but there is nothing to stop anyone from changing the urine and replacing the samples in another container. Although there is a numbering system on the bottles containing the urine, there is no numbering or seal on the containers in which the samples are transported from the track to the post office. Although the integrity of the people involved is not in question, this system leaves them open to legal challenge. We are aware that cases have been taken on the basis of problems with the carriage of samples. It happened in a celebrated case in about 1994.

I refer to arrangements in other countries for the sake of debate, in support of my argument and to highlight some of the weaknesses in the Irish system. There are individual trainers, owners and agents in Ireland, whereas at tracks in the United States there are kennel owners who supply greyhounds for racing at each track. Greyhounds in that country are kennelled two hours before racing and nobody other than members of staff of the tracks is allowed near the dogs. The track staff who parade the greyhounds for racing are responsible for the care of the greyhounds to which they are assigned for each race.

It was recently announced that a new racing commission is to be established in England to deal with matters relating to the misuse of prohibited substances there. I am sure the Minister is familiar with the commission. Under the English procedure, which is to be commended, heavy fines or total disqualification are used to reprimand those who breach any rule concerning drugs. Samples are taken in a railed area in full view of the public prior to racing, which is an excellent method because it removes the risk of tampering with samples. Authorised track personnel, rather than handlers, take all the samples in England. The "flying squad" that is in operation in the UK carries out random testing on many sports at any time, day or night. The "flying squad" found that certain samples taken from greyhounds did not test positive unless taken after races. Post-race testing did not start here until 2005 and then only in a very limited form.

A leading Irish trainer received a substantial fine last year for using nandrolone in England, where it is prohibited. It is not a banned substance in Ireland, however. It is time to put in place an international agreement to standardise control procedures in various countries. There is a particular need for a bilateral agreement between England and Ireland, given that many English dogs race in Ireland and many Irish dogs race in England. We need to standardise all our procedures. Substances which are banned in England should be banned here and vice versa. I understand that a high profile trainer who was banned in the UK for using drugs got a licence to train in this country. When he returned to the UK, he was banned for a second time for the use of drugs, but he returned to Ireland to resume training here. He has never been detected for the use of drugs here. Perhaps he did not use any substances which are prohibited here. Some drugs which are being used here may not be allowed in England.

In Australia, guidelines are given to stewards and trainers on their rights and on how they should implement the rules. The stewards' rooms there are equipped with video recording. Nobody is allowed to refuse to co-operate with the system. Stewards have the right to question owners or trainers at any time and to issue on-the-spot fines to people in respect of dogs. I understand that under the system introduced in Australia, the samples from dogs which were tested on the Saturday night are back by the Monday morning. Any greyhound found positive in a semi-final is automatically disqualified from the final. Legislation is in place to ensure that nobody can challenge this rule. Drug tests are carried out by authorised people and are taken in a ladle, just as they are by the horse racing authorities here. The samples which result are untouched by hand. It is obvious that Bord na gCon's drug testing procedures need to be updated and made more comprehensive. If that requires more finance, I suggest it should be provided.

An independent body that is responsible for the independent regulation and control of doping and illegal drug use in the greyhound racing industry needs to be established. The Bill I am proposing this evening seeks to achieve that objective. I recommended this approach in a Bill I had ready for publication in 1997. I have repeated the view I expressed in several public statements when I was Minister of State on many occasions in this House since then. I have said many times that an independent control procedure is needed. If this legislation had been accepted when I proposed it in 1997, we would not now have the debacle in Bord na gCon. The industry has definitely been affected by the delay. Last week, when the House discussed the crisis that followed the Supreme Court decision, the Tánaiste accused the Opposition of failing to come up with a solution. The Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, cannot point the finger at the Opposition in this instance. We were ready to put a Bill in place almost ten years ago and we have proposed since then that it be accepted, but we have been ignored.

I spoke in this House on 17 June 1999, which is almost seven years ago, during the debate on the Horse and Greyhound Racing (Betting Charges and Levies) Bill 1999. I said:

Control is most important and recent events in athletics demonstrate that people are much more conscious now of true and genuine performances. I question the application of control in the greyhound industry in terms of its effectiveness and the implementation of procedures. There is a need for manpower to carry out more spot checks. It is most important that the Minister introduces legislation to set up an independent controls board. If he does not do so, I will introduce a Private Members' Bill in an effort to do so because controls are important to the credibility of the greyhound industry.

I signposted my intention to introduce legislation a long time ago. The Minister said during the subsequent Seanad debate on the Bill that he could introduce an independent controls body, but he did not do so thereafter.

I appeal to the Minister to consider seriously accepting this well thought-out and balanced Bill, which will ensure that the members of the control group, or "an comhlacht" will be totally independent of Bord na gCon, will have legal and veterinary expertise and will have a good understanding of the greyhound industry. The establishment of such a group would ensure that all decisions on doping would be published and would not be questioned. It would avoid any conflict of interest on the part of board members who might be acquainted with or have associations with greyhound trainers or owners. Ireland is a very small country and everyone in the greyhound industry knows everyone else. They are very familiar with each other — it is a very closely-knit community. The Government's failure to remove control and responsibility from Bord na gCon has placed the people to whom I refer in a compromised position. We will debate the Dalton report in the weeks ahead, after we have seen its contents. If the sentiments of the legislation I am proposing had been accepted in the late 1990s, we would not be facing the current crisis and debacle.

I compliment my Kerry colleague for introducing this worthwhile Bill. I must also declare an interest, having been a part-owner of a few dogs. However, as I have no personal knowledge of the matters under discussion, I have taken the precaution of speaking to some people who appear to be extremely knowledgeable in this regard and I was rather surprised by their conclusions. While Shakespeare wrote about something being rotten in the state of Denmark, my contacts allege that something is extremely rotten in the state of the greyhound industry. They claim that a considerable amount of doping takes place. I am unsure whether it is rare, regular, rife or rampant, as I have heard all four opinions from different sources. However, as doping does take place, Members have a duty and responsibility to establish what can be done about it. From such a perspective, this Bill constitutes an extremely constructive suggestion.

If the Bill is not accepted, the people involved in the industry should be consulted. I have been told, in graphic detail, that some handlers have a supply of cocaine in one pocket and bread soda in the other, and that this potent cocktail is a common weapon in the doping armoury at our greyhound tracks. I have also been assured that other drugs are employed. One of my informants mentioned that Viagra was commonly used, albeit not for the purpose for which that drug was originally designed.

Does it enhance performance?

Members have a job to do and must confront and face up to the problem.

As for the question of greyhound dope testing, I have been told it is a joke. I have been told that picking a couple of dogs at random at a greyhound meeting is utterly inadequate. Furthermore, I have been told there are many ways of voiding and avoiding testing procedures and that doping samples are easily tampered with. One method involves dipping some bread soda into the urine, although I am unsure exactly how that works. Nevertheless, I have been assured the current system is quite ridiculous. A problem exists which is not being dealt with properly under the present regime. Consequently, the duty of Members as legislators is to take the matter in hand, as Fine Gael has done.

I know of the interests of the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy O'Donoghue, in this area, as I knew of the interests of my constituency colleague, the former Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Walsh. However, this problem has not been tackled and responsibility for that must lie with the Government. Hence, the controversy does not concern the row between the Minister and the chairman of Bord na gCon, Paschal Taggart, which is a matter for them to resolve and settle between themselves. The issue concerns the overall health of a most important industry.

I have seen leaks from the Dalton report, which is lying around, in the newspapers. While I do not know who takes responsibility for the leaks, the Government certainly does not take responsibility for anything. However, as far as that report is concerned, I say publish and be damned. It should be released in order that people will learn of the views of a respected retired civil servant on this issue. Above all, there should be openness and transparency.

I do not know whether the Minister presides over a rotten system. However, if it is perceived to be so by many, Members should face both the reality and the perception once and for all. This is a basic duty for Members. From such a perspective, it is clear the present role of Bord na gCon in regulating the entire industry and having responsibility for doping simply is not working. This issue has been confronted in other countries and procedures have been put in place which work to a far greater degree than is the case here. There must be integrity and fair play in the greyhound industry.

Luckily, given the new facilities which have been developed in the past ten years or so, more and more people flock to our race tracks. This is a positive development which I love to see, and I go to meetings myself. At a minimum however, customers and backers should have confidence that the greyhounds which they will back will win or lose fairly. Currently, that is not the perception, and there is a problem which must be dealt with. One way to do so is to accept the Bill proposed by Fine Gael.

I also welcome the publication of this Bill. Bord na gCon is a commercial semi-State body which is responsible for the control and development of greyhound racing. A total of 17 tracks are licensed in the Republic, of which nine are owned by the board, with the remainder in private hands. It is important to note that the aforementioned nine tracks were purchased by the board at a time when it was not in receipt of State funding. While the board could have invested money in the development of the industry, it chose to purchase stadia such as Shelbourne Park, Harold's Cross, Cork, Limerick, Tralee, Galway, Clonmel, Waterford and Youghal. It did so out of concern that such tracks could have been sold on by private enterprise for development. Hence, it is important to acknowledge the board's foresight in purchasing these tracks at the time. The board is subject to the Freedom of Information Act and the industry now has prize money of more than €11 million, as well as sponsorship of slightly less than €2 million.

There are two aspects to greyhound racing. The first is the sporting tradition which is associated with many families. Members are familiar with people who are seen regularly late at night and early in the morning, exercising dogs on our roads. This aspect is extremely important. Members should not forget that it provides a pastime for many people, as well as an element of exercise for some who might not otherwise engage in it. This tradition has been associated with several families through the years and Members are familiar with many of the stories told. As the modern world might in a sense undermine this industry, perhaps the Minister will examine the concept of making a few feature films from the stories which surround the greyhound racing industry.

We did so with "Lassie".

They would be more successful than "Lassie".

We did it with a sheepdog.

The Minister might examine the possibility of finding some funding for such a purpose.

The other aspect concerns its importance as an industry in this country.

I discussed this matter with Deputy Wall earlier and we recalled a few great characters from our localities, such as the late Jim Byrne, a county chairman, and a former Army officer, Mick O'Farrell. The latter used his greyhound to telling effect after running into trouble with the Defence Forces authorities for having kept the dog within military quarters. He aptly named his next dog Command Adjutant, after the individual who was responsible for administering discipline in the area. There is a lesson to be learned in this respect. If the problems surrounding the industry are not resolved in the immediate future, some greyhounds with telling names may run at Shelbourne Park or wherever.

As for the industry, this year approximately 1.5 million people will attend a race meeting. Gate receipts and levies on bookmakers are used for reinvestment in the facilities. Greyhound racing is attractive for many people whom one might not necessarily associate with it. It can provide an excellent family entertainment day and many political parties carry out fundraisers at the various race meetings.

One of the main attractions is that the time between races is very short. While the amount of money betted is not phenomenal, many people place a lot of small bets. Moreover, the facilities at many racetracks are excellent and have improved dramatically in recent years. One must thank the chairman and the board of Bord na gCon in recent times for investing this money in the facilities. They are second to none and leave many other sporting organisations in the shade in terms of what they offer to people. For the industry to thrive, it is important the public has faith in racing's integrity. While people might associate bookmakers with horse racing, much of their turnover comes from greyhound racing. Moreover, the numbers of spectators who attend greyhound races is almost on a par with those who attend horse racing.

In recent years, the industry has globalised and Irish racing is now available in the United States. Consequently, it is important to send out a message that Ireland has a well-run system. This is why this Bill is extremely important, as no group can self-regulate. Deputy Deenihan's Bill should be accepted by the Minister. If he does so, and I expect he will at least accept its principles, it will lead to a situation whereby people will not be put in difficult positions and will not be compromised. When such people will make a decision in what they consider to be the industry's best interests, it will not be open to misinterpretation by some.

Modern greyhound racing has its origins in coursing and the first recorded attempt to race greyhounds on a straight track occurred in 1876. The sport developed in its current form in 1912, following the invention of the modern hare by O.P. Smith. It only took off in its current form in Ireland in 1927. Deputy McCormack thinks it has been in use longer but that is not the case. Between 1958 and 1989 Bord na gCon received no State funding to augment prize money, with the exception of one grant of £50,000. I support the Bill. It is important that an independent body be established to ensure the integrity of the industry.

One learns something new every day and I did not realise until this evening that Viagra enhances a greyhound's performance. They must not be giving it to the greyhounds in which I have an interest.

The Minister should try some.

I wish to share time with Deputies Wilkinson and Cregan.

All of us in the House are in agreement that it is important that the greyhound industry is governed by the most effective regulatory regime and that this regulatory structure provides the necessary transparency to ensure confidence in its integrity procedures by all those involved in the industry. Deputy Deenihan will be aware that this is one of the issues which has been addressed in the Dalton report. I have made it clear throughout the process that, given the nature of the issues under investigation, it was essential that the investigation should be carried out in a thorough manner with due regard for the rights of all the parties involved. Because of this, I have taken the line that it would be entirely wrong to address the issues highlighted by Mr. Dalton until his investigation had been completed. I am, therefore, somewhat surprised that Deputy Deenihan should propose the Bill at this stage, given our exchanges in this House last week when I replied to parliamentary questions on the matter.

I will recap the circumstances that have given rise to concerns about the approach of Bord na gCon to dealing with certain sensitive issues, which resulted in the current controversy and which, presumably, have figured in Deputy Deenihan's decision to activate his proposed legislation at this stage. On 26 January last, the board of Bord na gCon decided to terminate the employment contract of its chief executive. This was the culmination of a series of events surrounding the chief executive, which included a direct communication from him to me alleging shortcomings in corporate governance practice at Bord na gCon and that procedures dealing with doping infringements by the doping control committee were not in accordance with best practice.

On 1 February 2006, I requested Mr. Tim Dalton, former Secretary General of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, to carry out an independent assessment of issues relating to corporate governance in Bord na gCon as well as its management of positive tests for banned substances. The terms of reference of the independent investigation were to review the allegations of shortcomings in corporate governance practice at Bord na gCon made by the chief executive in his letter of 18 January to the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism and the response dated 30 January 2006 of the chairman of Bord na gCon to these allegations; to take into account the possibility of legal proceedings taking place, to examine the circumstances surrounding the decision of the board of Bord na gCon on 26 January 2006 to terminate the contract of employment of the chief executive of Bord na gCon with immediate effect; to report, when and if possible in light of the said legal proceedings, his findings to the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism and, in any event, to advise on actions considered necessary to ensure adherence to best corporate governance practice; to consider the way in which Bord na gCon procedures dealing with doping infringements are carried out; to comment on the adequacy of existing procedures; and to advise whether changes or modifications should be put into effect.

I received Mr. Dalton's draft report at the end of April and my Department immediately sought guidance from the Office of the Attorney General on how to proceed with the issues raised in his report. The Attorney General advised that to ensure the principles of due process were observed, all parties mentioned in the report should be afforded the opportunity of commenting on the references made to them. Accordingly, these parties where given copies of the relevant extracts from the Dalton report on a confidential basis to afford them an opportunity to submit observations on the report to my office by close of business on Wednesday, 31 May. A total of nine submissions were received by that date and these are being evaluated by Mr. Dalton. I understand he will complete this process in a day or two and will decide to what extent it will be necessary for him to revise his draft report.

As soon as Mr. Dalton has completed his work, I will arrange for further consultation with the Attorney General's office to seek confirmation that the requirements of due process have been observed in full. It is my intention then to present proposals to my Cabinet colleagues for dealing with the recommendations made in the Dalton report and to seek approval for the publication of the report, hopefully, next week. I emphasise the importance I attach to strict adherence to due process. It is for this reason that I consider the timing of Deputy Deenihan's Bill to be particularly ill-judged.

It is unfortunate that parties to the investigation have not observed my frequently expressed requests to them to refrain from comment, as a number of the issues in the public domain have been taken out of context and they are being presented in the media in a manner that does little to inspire continuing public confidence in this very important industry. I will deal fully with all these issues as soon as I am in a position to do so and my objective will be to provide assurance that the industry is being soundly and responsibly managed.

While I am not prepared to go into detail at this stage on Bord na gCon's current doping control procedures for greyhounds, I assert the importance I attach to ensuring the integrity of our drug control procedures not only in the greyhound sector, but in sport in general. Ireland has an excellent record internationally as a country where sport, in all its wide variety, is highly valued and pursued with enthusiasm, good nature and a sense of fair play and honesty. Deputies will be well aware of the high regard in which our national anti-doping programme, operated by the Irish Sports Council, is held throughout the world. WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, is using Ireland's anti-doping rules as a model of good practice for other countries to follow.

We pursue success in Irish sport, but we seek to achieve it in a fair and honest fashion where competitors, spectators and the punter can feel confident the highest standards of integrity are maintained before, during and after the match, event or race. While responsibility for ensuring such standards has to be shared by everyone in the sport, it is up to the appropriate authorities to ensure fair systems, effective structures and transparent procedures are put in place to ensure compliance by all concerned. While we expect the highest standards and probity from competitors, trainers and coaches in sport, because of human frailty we need to have appropriate systems and sanctions in place to catch the cheats and administer effective and painful penalties to help prevent further transgression. Such high standards of behaviour and practice at the track and in the anti-doping system is of vital significance in the sport of greyhound racing, given the scale of activity and the money involved.

The greyhound industry in Ireland is a significant contributor to the economic well-being of all those involved and contributes in excess of €300 million in revenues on an annual basis. The industry, with the support of the horse and greyhound racing fund, which was introduced in 2001 under the Government parties, has undergone significant transformation in recent years. In the five years to date, the fund has provided guaranteed funding to Bord na gCon and Horse Racing Ireland, which, by the end of 2005, amounted to €261 million and €65 million, respectively. This funding, which is generated by and large from off-course betting tax, has been well invested, leading to undeniable benefits for both sectors and has marked a revival of interest in both sports, to the benefit of the entire economy. Over the years, this fund has not only helped towards providing some top class racing venues and facilities, it has also underpinned significant employment in both industries and the prize money it has facilitated has been an important boost for both horse and greyhound breeding and, thus, for the rural economy.

The fund was extended by the Government in 2004, with the agreement of the House, up to and including 2008 with its limit increased to €550 million. The fund has contributed in excess of €25 million to Bord na gCon's capital development programme, which has transformed all aspects of the industry in recent years. For instance, total betting in 1995 increased from €28.9 million to €142 million in 2005. Most importantly, the prize money distribution to owners increased from €1 million in 1995 to €11.4 million in 2005, with a further 7% projected increase in the current year. The state of the industry has also been positively recognised by sponsors with track attendances at 1.4 million in 2005. The industry has achieved great success with its intertrack product, which generates a turnover of €7 million per year. The next phase of the board's plans will involve the development of an Internet platform with live race streaming, which is scheduled for 2007. Total capital expenditure between 1995 and 2004 exceeded €85 million and included the redevelopment of Shelbourne Park, Curraheen Park, Harold's Cross, Lifford, Dundalk, Tralee, Mullingar, Newbridge, Waterford and Galway tracks. The board also hopes to embark on the second and final phase of its development plan, which will include projects at Limerick, Kilkenny, Clonmel and a number of other locations.

The extent of the industry places a demand on Bord na gCon to operate in accordance with best practice in every area. Bord na gCon is governed by the provisions of the Greyhound Industry Act 1958 and is the statutory agency responsible for the promotion and development of greyhound racing in Ireland. The Act confers on Bord na gCon wide powers to regulate all aspects of greyhound racing, including integrity management and anti-doping controls. In that context, Bord na gCon commits approximately €2 million per year to effect its regulatory responsibilities. In 2000, the board tested approximately 1,000 samples, with a positive rate of 1.4%. By 2005, this had increased to 6,000 samples, with a positive rate of 1.13%. The board currently tests two randomly chosen samples at each track on each night of racing and this process is supported by pre and post-race testing conducted for all runners in major finals and on other random occasions throughout the year.

In the past five years, the board has more than doubled the personnel resources in its laboratory to cater for the increased level of testing and has invested approximately €500,000 in laboratory equipment to ensure that it operates to the highest international standards. The board's laboratory is the only dedicated greyhound testing laboratory in the world to achieve an ISO 9000 accreditation. However, there can be no room for doubt in this industry and I assure Deputies that I will put the most rigorous practices in place to control doping.

In respect of Horse Racing Ireland, which is the statutory body responsible for the horse racing industry in Ireland, all drug testing on horses is carried out independently of HRI by the Turf Club. HRI allocates funding to the Turf Club in respect of this. Some 3,000 samples are tested each year, including the winner and the first four finishers in grade one races. Poorly performing favourites are also tested and there is random testing in point-to-point races. Details relating to all positive tests, which amount to fewer than ten per year, are published.

In conclusion, I restate my disappointment with Deputy Deenihan's decision to propose his legislation at this stage, given last week's exchanges in the Dáil, during which I made it absolutely clear that the individuals mentioned in the Dalton report would be allowed due process and sufficient time to submit their observations. The introduction of this Private Members' Bill can only damage the process of allowing due process to all parties to the Dalton inquiry.

This Bill has nothing to do with the Dalton report. The Minister has not addressed the Bill whatsoever.

It smacks of political opportunism on the part of the Deputy and seems to be contrary to the spirit of impartiality, openness and fair play that he appeared to espouse when preparing the Bill.

I was not being politically opportunistic in introducing this Bill.

The Minister without interruption.

While I can understand his interest in promoting this issue, I must urge him not to press this draft Bill to a vote.

No other opportunity was available to me between now and the summer. I would have to wait until next September if I did not take advantage of this opportunity.

I ask the Deputy to allow the Minister to continue.

I would be happy to engage with him on aspects of his proposal if and when I am in a position to do so but if he forces a division on the matter at this stage, I will have no option but to oppose it.

The Minister accused me of political opportunism but did not once refer to the contents of the Bill.

I have no control over the Minister's reply.

It is no way to address a Private Members' Bill to which I devoted months of my time in order to solve a problem.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. It is a pity that the issue of doping should arise in a sport that has made such strides in recent years. Although I was interested in greyhound racing in my earlier years, I have missed out in more recent times, probably as a result of my political commitments. I recently attended the opening ceremony of the Waterford dog track, during which the Minister acquitted himself well. I was amazed at the changes that have taken place in the sport and to see the people and families who came to the track for a night out, a meal and some wonderful entertainment. It is a great sport but we must face the problem of doping.

I come from a county which is famous for greyhounds. Many Deputies will remember Master McGrath and I am sure the ballad was often sung late at night to commemorate the wonder dog born a short distance away from where I live. There is a great tradition of greyhound racing in the area, with tracks in Youghal, Cork, Clonmel and Waterford. Many town and rural dwellers keep a dog or two for entertainment.

In past years, when one would hear stories of people trying to slow down a dog, the greatest attempt at doping involved a pound of sausages. If an extra yard was wanted, a drop of poitín was rubbed into the dog's tail. I do not know the effect of either tactic.

As long as the dog did not drink it.

It is a pity that this serious issue has arisen. During the last Olympic games, Ireland was thrilled to see a horseman win an Olympic medal but doom and gloom set in after certain allegations were substantiated. It was a grave disappointment to the people of Ireland, so I commend the Minister on his efforts to resolve this issue. While it will not be easy to do so, it is very important that something should be done.

A range of fund-raising events are held at race meetings. How many schools have raised thousands of euro from a night at the races? However, we live in a serious world and problems have to be resolved.

The Minister is opposing this Bill because it would be premature to accept it prior to the finalisation of the Dalton report on certain matters affecting Bord na gCon.

On 26 January, the board of Bord na gCon decided to terminate the employment contract of its chief executive. This was the culmination of a series of events surrounding the chief executive, which included a direct communication from him to the Minister alleging that there were shortcomings in corporate governance practice at Bord na gCon and that procedures dealing with doping infringements by the doping control committee were not in accordance with best practice.

On 1 February, the Minister established an independent investigation, to be carried out by Mr. Tim Dalton, former Secretary General of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, into issues pertaining to corporate governance in Bord na gCon, as well as its management of positive tests for banned substances. The terms of reference of the independent investigation were to review the allegations of shortcomings in corporate governance practice at Bord na gCon made by the chief executive in his letter of 18 January to the Minister and the response of the chairman of Bord na gCon to these allegations; to take into account the possibility of legal proceedings, to examine the circumstances surrounding the decision of the board of Bord na gCon to terminate the contract of employment of the chief executive of Bord na gCon with immediate effect; to report, when and if possible in light of said legal proceedings, his findings to the Minister; to advise on any actions considered necessary to ensure adherence to best corporate governance practice; to consider the way in which Bord na gCon procedures dealing with doping infringements are currently carried out; and to comment on the adequacy of existing procedures and advise on whether any changes or modifications should be put into effect.

At the end of April, Mr. Dalton presented his report to the Minister and guidance was immediately sought from the Office of the Attorney General on how to proceed with the issues raised. In accordance with the Attorney General's advice, copies and, in some cases, extracts of the Dalton report were sent to persons referred to in the report on a confidential basis to afford them an opportunity to submit observations on the report to the Minister by close of business on Wednesday, 31 May 2006. These submissions have been made available to Mr. Dalton to allow him to finalise his report following which the Minister will present proposals to his Cabinet colleagues for dealing with the recommendations made in the Dalton report. The Minister will seek approval for the immediate publication of the report.

The Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, made it clear as recently as last week when answering parliamentary questions, that all those mentioned in the Dalton report would be allowed due process and sufficient time to submit their observations. He stated he does not intend to comment on any aspect of the Dalton report until it is formally in the public domain. The introduction of the Bill is premature. The Minister is deeply interested in seeing that things are done well and properly and that a sport that has been immensely beneficial to the rural and national economy is put on a good, sound footing. Everything that can be done to eliminate doping in this sport will be done. It has given entertainment and pleasure to many people. A wonderful tradition exists in Irish greyhound racing and it will be maintained. With the changed population attending the racing tracks, for example families on a night out and having a meal, it is important that this happens. I support the Minister in his efforts.

I welcome the opportunity to comment on the greyhound industry. While I do not doubt Deputy Deenihan's sentiments and belief in the industry, the Bill is premature and opportunistic and puts us at risk of talking down the industry. We should talk it up and be more positive. The recent controversy resulted in an independent inquiry. The Minister appointed Mr. Dalton, an eminent retired civil servant, and when he reported to the Minister last April, his Department immediately sought guidance from the Attorney General's office on how to proceed.

In accordance with the Attorney General's advice, copies and, in some cases, extracts of the Dalton report were sent to persons referred to in the report on a confidential basis to afford them an opportunity to submit observations on the report to the Minister by close of business on Wednesday, 31 May 2006. These submissions have been made available to Mr. Dalton to allow him to finalise his report following which the Minister will present proposals to his Cabinet colleagues for dealing with the recommendations made in the report. The Minister will seek approval for the immediate publication of the report. That is due process and must happen.

I praise the Minister for his personal interest not only in the greyhound industry but in sport in general throughout the country. Yesterday we saw his significant commitment to sport and how he has ensured he has provided substantial financial resources from the Government for sport throughout the country including the greyhound and horse industries, GAA, rugby and many others, including local and voluntary organisations. That is to be commended. I also commend the chairman and members of Bord na gCon for the fantastic and positive strides they have made in recent years towards putting infrastructure in place in many tracks throughout the country leading to extensive participation by the general public in greyhound racing, as has been mentioned by my colleagues. Many social occasions take place at greyhound racing tracks, including fundraising for voluntary clubs, schools and political and other organisations that depend on fundraising events. Greyhound racing is a great occasion and its use as a venue for fundraising is to be welcomed. Some 1.5 million people attend race nights because they have proper facilities and infrastructure. That has been done by this Government and this Minister and we should not lose sight of that.

That is an exaggeration. Fine Gael built Shelbourne Park.

I will be parochial briefly. Unfortunately many of my local fundraising events have to take place in Curraheen Park in Cork or in Tralee.

We provided the stadium in Tralee.

We travel in strong numbers to both venues to support the various events that take place. Thanks to this Minister and Government we look forward to a new, state-of-the-art greyhound racing track in Limerick. We have a fantastic tradition of greyhounds in Limerick including trainers, breeders and many thousands of participants through the years. We have difficulties with facilities and it is not attractive to people to fundraise there. However, it is still strongly supported in an effort to ensure the decision by the Minister will happen, which has occurred and is welcome. Although the Minister was criticised and castigated recently by a failed politician and self-appointed journalist, the people of Limerick welcome his commitment to the greyhound industry in Limerick by ensuring we will have a new, state-of-the-art track. I distance myself from remarks that have been made by a self-appointed journalist who several times tried to get a mandate from the people of east Limerick and failed miserably. That speaks for itself.

It is an opportune time to speak positively about the industry. I listened to people tonight talk about the membership of Bord na gCon. It is important to take the opportunity to encourage the Minister and impress on him the importance of appointing a woman to Bord na gCon. Gender balance is important in keeping with Government policy.

I appointed three women to the board in my time.

I am sure the Minister will be open to this. He is a good listener and will not be found wanting in this and will hopefully appoint a woman to the board.

I want to speak about the horse and greyhound racing fund and its importance in enhancing the infrastructure of this industry throughout the country. The horse racing and greyhound fund was established under the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act 2001 to give support to both racing industries. Under the provisions of the Act the fund received a guaranteed level of finance based on excise duty on off-course betting in the preceding year subject to a minimum level based on 2000 with the amount adjusted for inflation. Any shortfall in the amount generated by excise duty is made up by direct Exchequer intervention. In accordance with the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act, 80% and 20% of the fund each year are distributed to Horse Racing Ireland and Bord na gCon, respectively. The fund is not earmarked for specific purposes but gives people discretion to spend it as they see fit, which they are able to do and on which I compliment them. Since 2001 the fund has been used by both bodies to increase prize money levels, which is important for the trainers and owners who invest much of their hard-earned money and take a gamble, as we all do from time to time. It is important that risk is recognised, and it has been through this fund. It has also been used to meet administration of integrity costs alongside a capital investment programme that has underpinned growth in both sectors. I welcome the Minister's comments asserting the importance he attaches to ensuring the integrity of all drug-control procedures not just in greyhound racing but for sports in general and I quote his words from tonight's speech: "Ireland has an excellent record internationally as a country where sport, in all its wide variety, is highly valued, and pursued with enthusiasm, good nature and with a sense of fair play and honesty". That is important. We all look for that in the sports we support and in which we participate. The general public asks for no less of us. We have to have fair play and honesty in whatever we compete in. The Minister added:

Deputies will be well aware of the high regard in which our national anti-doping programme, operated by the Irish Sports Council, is held throughout the world. Indeed the World Anti-Doping Agency is using Ireland's anti-doping rules as a model of good practice for other countries to follow.

We have had a controversy and a debacle. The Minister has acted quickly, efficiently and properly to take this on board and to investigate and appoint an independent adjudicator who has held a thorough and full inquiry. Due process must be given to all parties concerned. It is important to recognise that some of the people who have been tarnished or damaged have made a valuable contribution to greyhound racing.

Where did the leaks come from?

I wish to put that on the record. Mr. Dalton has observed due process in dealing with all parties. Fair play is fine play.

What about Government leaks?

He listens to the stories and then adjudicates. I have full confidence in the manner in which the Minister has handled the matter. The result of the inquiry and the enactment of Mr. Dalton's recommendations will stand the industry in good stead. This industry will go upwards and onwards.

This Bill will be one of the recommendations.

I welcome the motion and commend Deputy Deenihan on tabling it. No right-thinking lover of sports should tolerate doping. Doping and drug abuse pose the greatest threats to the integrity of sport. From athletics to horse racing to Gaelic games, the use of performance-enhancing substances stands alone as the biggest scourge on the participation of young people and attendance at sporting fixtures. Ireland's two most recent achievements at the Olympic Games, at Atlanta in 1996 and Athens in 2004, were tarnished by allegations of drug abuse. Sport in Ireland is vulnerable to allegations of doping of humans and animals.

The effect of such allegations should not be underestimated. Forty years of cheats being caught has ruined the reputation of the Olympic Games, the European Championships and the Commonwealth Games. The use of performance-enhancing substances has ruined the spectacle of the games and in some cases athletes have been sent home before the games commence, undermining the competition.

All competitions are televised, benefiting organisations that try to entice young people to participate in sport. However, this is undermined by the prominence of drugs in these games. Instead of the success of the competitor being highlighted, drugs are seen to dominate. This aspect will rear its ugly head at the next Olympic Games, causing major problems. Every gold medalist in these games is now suspect. Given the extensive list of those who have been caught, suspicions exist, to the detriment of sport. The viability and integrity of international sport has been damaged, particularly in respect of athletics. The issue of doping must be confronted.

I recognise the efforts made in recent years in this country. It was pleasing to read the Irish Sports Council anti-doping report of 2005 and to note that no Irish athlete tested positive for a banned substance that year. We should use this in advertising sports. A strict anti-doping regime exists in Ireland and I hope that this will continue. The confidence in the Irish Sports Council anti-doping programme will be a positive measure rather than finding someone who took drugs to falsely give the impression of being a better athlete. Testing and monitoring of athletics has become more stringent. I do not underestimate the task of weeding out those who resort to cheating but the recent report was positive news in a depressing international outlook.

The spotlight has been placed on doping in the greyhound industry in recent times. These events led to the commissioning of the Dalton report by the Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism earlier this year. Despite this report being complete, the people mentioned in the report being made aware of its findings and large sections appearing in the newspapers, it has not yet been published.

I am disappointed to hear the criteria announced by the Minister. If this had been done during Question Time two weeks ago, we would feel more confident in the structure. Instead, a drip-drip system of leaks occurred and Opposition spokespersons were given no indication of when the report would be seen besides the Minister's announcement of the final date for submissions. The Minister should have explained the procedure and announced a timeframe. That this did not happen is to the detriment of the industry, the Minister and Bord na gCon.

No one would deny due process to a person in this situation because of the importance of the industry. Announcing a timetable would allow us to look forward to each section of the report and speak to those who make representations to us on this matter, highlighting due process, the timetable and the debate on the report in the House. Will no action be taken on the Dalton report before the summer recess? The report will be published next week, allowing a real debate. Much interest has been generated by this matter.

From my involvement in syndicates, I see many young people are attending race tracks and joining syndicates. Bord na gCon and various Ministers must be congratulated on the amount of money allocated. I remember going to Newbridge when one needed two coats to break the wind blowing in from the Curragh. Now, Newbridge race track brings a new dimension to entertainment for young people. Many young people regularly attend at the weekend and experience the wonderful achievement of having a dog run, creating a new level of interest. Some 1.5 million people have attended race tracks over the past year and we will see an increase in this. We must use the Dalton report as a marker. It will indicate that this sport is beyond reproach and will not be caught in the conundrum we see at international level in other sports. With the horse racing industry, we have seen the matter dealt with by an independent body. We wish to see a similar independent body applied to the dog racing industry.

We should all work together to ensure that the 17 tracks will be successful and that there will be interaction between the tracks. I stated in the Chamber on numerous occasions that there should be a competition that would involve all the tracks competing against each other. I do not see a reason this cannot be done.

I know, for example, people from Waterford with dogs racing in Newbridge and people from Newbridge with dogs racing in Mullingar etc. The home turf is these people's own track. In that regard, I am sure interaction between the tracks can take place. Such a competition might conclude with a final meet in Shelbourne Park. It would create a wider image and support group than we have now. I can imagine a derby night in Shelbourne Park if such a mechanism was put in place. There is no reason it should not be done.

Last year a great number of people attended greyhound tracks around the country and a large amount of money was put through horse and greyhound racing. We were fully supportive of that, as we can see what it can do in the overall context of the greyhound and horse racing industry, and how it affects employment. I would like to know the number of people employed in the greyhound industry. I do not know if it has been calculated, but the number is growing by the week. Different studs are being created, training tracks are being used and trainers have to hire staff to help to train dogs. That was unheard of until now. Such action is continuing to develop the industry.

There should be a relentless drive for transparency. Whether it comes about in this Bill, which I support, or legislation put forward by the Minister after the Dalton report, we must have transparency as a matter of urgency. We have heard different aspects of the methods being used with regard to drug testing and the use of drugs to enhance greyhound performance. Nobody wants such drug-induced enhancement and it is not part and parcel of the sport we want to enjoy.

We must ensure that people get a fair crack of the whip and, if a dog is backed, that it has an equal chance of winning. With my knowledge of greyhounds, it may not be the dog one thinks will win that will pass the post first. Although it will have a chance going into the box, it might not always come out of it favourably. The element of chance is still there.

With regard to preparatory work, the Minister has stated that if the Bill is pushed to a vote tomorrow, he will oppose it. If that happens, I hope that in the short term, as a result of the Dalton report, we debate it next week. It should be an intensive debate over a shorter period of time. I hope the legislation needed to provide independent and transparent investigation of drug misuse in the sport will be put in place as soon as possible. It is imperative that is done.

There are one or two international meetings in the year. There is one after the derby in Dundalk, for example. There is an ideal opportunity to develop this further. The stadia here are now a major factor, and I was recently in Shelbourne, Newbridge, Galway etc. Much work is being done in every area. There is now no fear of using those facilities with regard to attracting tourists, especially English tourists. We have always discussed the problem in getting tourists outside the Pale, or outside Dublin. We have an ideal opportunity to do this because of the interest that English people have in the greyhound industry.

We can try to build in a more international dimension to some of our race meetings, as we have done with the horse racing industry. We now have the Galway races, Punchestown and other festivals. We must build up similar events in greyhound racing. If one goes to the greyhound track on the Friday and Saturday after the Galway horse races, there is a huge attendance. These people know that when they go from the horse racing track to the greyhound track, there will be fully equipped restaurants etc. there. This interlink should be developed. On its own, the international dimension of the greyhound industry can be developed further.

Another issue has raised its head in recent weeks — I put down related questions to the Minister and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government — that is the unfortunate matter of when greyhounds retire. Money has been made available by Bord na gCon to some of the agencies which deal with retired greyhounds, but it is not enough. These agencies are very anxious for money. Perhaps something can be done by the Department in this regard.

I think that the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, through local authorities and dog shelters, should act in this area. It has told me it cannot, that the matter is for Bord na gCon. Bord na gCon has stated it does not have enough funding for the issue, and that may be the case. The issue should be addressed as some of the retired greyhounds may be exported. Over a number of years, we have seen dogs being ill-treated after being moved or exported to some of the lesser-known tracks across Europe.

I will speak on the advantage the tracks have provided with regard to charity nights. Schools, sporting organisations and some political parties have used such events. They have generated an interest among people who may never have gone to the dogs, but go to such an event. They may then be attracted to greyhound racing. They may become involved in a syndicate or go on to purchase a dog.

This reflects on what this Bill is about. The Bill must ensure that fair play and transparency are part and parcel of the greyhound industry. I hope the debate we have had this evening and the debate we will have tomorrow will lead us to make the definitive decision that legislation on this aspect of the sport is required in the short term rather than the long term. One would expect to see legislation, or at least the heads of a Bill, being prepared and put in place as a result of publication of the Dalton report next week. I hope to see those before the end of this session of the Dáil.

Section 6 and section 18 are the most relevant in the Bill. Section 6 sets out the general functions of the board in controlling doping in the greyhound industry and in making regulations to perform that function, as well as the position of an appeals court in this respect.

Debate adjourned.