I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. I know that she is very much acquainted with the issues relating to it but, for the consideration of the House, I would like to provide some background information.
In February 2011, Dublin City Council, DCC, took over responsibility for the licensing of horse-drawn carriage operators and drivers from the Garda Carriage Office. This was achieved through by-laws enacted under Part 19 of the Local Government Act 2001. The latter provides a general power to a local authority to make by-laws in relation to its own property or services or to regulate matters of local concern. It is under this Act that local authorities can choose, using by-laws, to regulate horse-drawn carriages that operate for hire or reward within their functional areas. These by-laws allow relevant local authorities to set their own rules and stipulations to govern such operations.
In 2018, DCC became aware that - specifically in the context of Dublin - this legal basis for making such by-laws could be uncertain. Local authorities may not make by-laws for purposes provided for elsewhere in legislation and the Dublin Carriage Acts 1853 to 1855 had previously vested the power to regulate horse-drawn carriages in Dublin with the Dublin Metropolitan Police Commissioners, the predecessor of An Garda Síochána.
My Department examined this issue and, following legal advice, is now of the view that the Dublin Carriage Acts 1853 to 1855 remain in force and preclude DCC from enacting the relevant be-laws.
Having given this matter careful consideration, I formed the view that the operation of horse-drawn carriages for hire or reward is best regulated by local authorities. I understand that DCC first became aware of the present legal issues during a routine review of the by-laws that considered, inter alia, whether there was need to strengthen measures to safeguard the welfare of horses used to draw carriages.
Animal welfare issues are a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The Control of Horses Act 1996 allows local authorities to introduce by-laws designating certain areas as control areas for horses. DCC has designated its administrative boundaries as such a control area under its Control of Horses Bye-Laws 2014. These by-laws require horses to be licensed and set minimum standards for the keeping of horses within the control area.
Regulations for horse-drawn carriages for hire or reward should be aligned with any horse welfare obligations imposed by local authorities. Accordingly, I am of the view that horse-drawn carriages for hire and reward should be regulated by local authorities.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
As I mentioned earlier, legal advice provided to my Department suggests that a simple repeal of the Victorian legislation alone may not be sufficient to enable DCC to enact by-laws for horse-drawn carriages. On foot of receipt of that advice, my Department is now working with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government to identify how best to empower DCC to regulate this matter in Dublin, just as other local authorities elsewhere regulate it.