That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to prohibit sulky racing where no lawful permission has been granted.
I am pleased to introduce this Private Members' Bill. The Bill has one simple aim: to prohibit sulky racing where no lawful permission has been granted. The primary motivation behind it is to address the growing health and safety concerns not only for the public but also for the horses and young passengers concerned. Recently we heard how a heavily pregnant woman was driven off the road after encountering a sulky race between Mallow and Cork on a Sunday morning as she travelled to work. We also read about the tragic case which led to the death in February 2016 in Clondalkin of Seán Doyle aged just 12, God rest him. Seán was thrown under a truck after being involved in a sulky accident and his own family have said they hope stronger regulations can prevent further loss of life.
The Bill essentially seeks to address some of the deficiencies in existing law. Currently, it is very much a matter for local authority by-laws. Indeed, my county, Tipperary, and the adjoining counties of Kilkenny, Limerick and Waterford all have different by-laws. They are all over the place. They have proven utterly insufficient to grapple with the scale of the problem. We need a national and unified approach. My Bill will grant local authorities all the powers necessary to enforce this law, and those found in breach of the law could potentially face a €5,000 fine or a term of imprisonment not exceeding six years.
I am not a killjoy nor am I anti-sport, but this is a huge issue in Munster, Dublin and elsewhere. Sulky racing needs to be regulated. Accidents have happened and I have been contacted by several people over recent years who have been forced off the road or who have been crashed into by sulkies. It is a major issue on the old N8 which is now underutilised because of the new M8 motorway. Sulky racing takes place regularly on the road. The entire road is taken over without permission, as was the case in the incident involving that unfortunate lady on the Cork-Limerick road recently. Other motorists should not be forced off the road.
Animal cruelty is also an issue that has come to light in Tipperary. I love the horses and Tipperary is famous for, and very proud of, its horse racing industry. I have written to the Turf Club to see if it could provide racing tracks for this activity, as is the case in other countries. The horse is an animal that normally likes a bit of sand on a track or a field in which to run. It is harmful and damaging to their legs and other parts of their bodies to run on tarmac. In a number of incidents, horses were driven to death and left to die on the road. People were appalled by this.
There are, therefore, a number of issues and I ask for support for this legislation. I do not say it is perfect. It could be amended but a national formula is needed to deal with the serious problem of unlicensed and unlawful sulky racing. It is probably not insured most of the time either.