Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 1 Dec 2020

Vol. 1001 No. 6

Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund Regulations 2020: Motion

I move:

That Dáil Éireann approves the following Regulations in draft:

Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund Regulations 2020,

copies of which were laid in draft form before Dáil Éireann on the 13th November, 2020.”

An important part of Government policy is to ensure that the horse and greyhound racing industries achieve their maximum potential and, in so doing, contribute to a balanced economic and social development across a wide geographic swathe of the country.

The horse and greyhound racing industries make a significant and valuable contribution to our economy. It is estimated that the thoroughbred industry has an annual economic impact of €1.9 billion, with direct and indirect employment of 29,000 people, while the greyhound sector provides an estimated 12,000 people with economic benefit. The thoroughbred industry, in particular, brings a high level of international blue-chip investment to Ireland.

Government funding, in addition to supporting these key industries, also presents an excellent opportunity to yield a high return for its investment, leading to a flow of income right through the economy. Support for certain strategic industries is important for future economic growth and can provide widespread benefits to our society as well as for our economy.

The Irish equine breeding and racing industry is extremely competitive at a global level. We are the third biggest producer of thoroughbred foals in the world, and estimates place Ireland only behind the USA as the biggest seller of bloodstock by public auction globally.

Successive Governments have acknowledged the importance of these industries and have supported them through legislation and policy initiatives. The support provided by public funds through investment in these industries has enabled Ireland to develop a world-class reputation for excellence in horse racing, greyhound racing and breeding.

The current Covid-19 pandemic poses particular challenges for Horse Racing Ireland, HRI, Rásaíocht Con Éireann, RCÉ, and industries as a whole. The Government plan entitled Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19 does not provide at any of the levels for a return to full commercial operations. This impacts significantly on the finances of HRI and RCÉ, both this year and up to the end of the time span of the plan in June 2021. It is essential, in these circumstances, that the additional Covid-related supports are made available to HRI and RCÉ, reflecting costs incurred in changes to the trading environment.

These industries received financial support from the State through the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund, under section 12 of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act 2001. My Department makes payments from the fund to HRI and RCÉ. In the period from 2001 to date, a total of €1.36 billion has been paid from the fund to the horse and greyhound racing industries, in accordance with the provisions of the Act. The cumulative upper limit on payments from the fund, provided for under the relevant regulations, has therefore been reached.

Exchequer funding provided from the fund is crucial to the survival and continued development of the horse and greyhound racing industries. In order to give effect to the provisions of budget 2021, this cumulative upper limit must be increased by regulation. The Estimates for my Department, passed by both Houses as part of budget 2021, include an allocation of €96 million for the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund.

In order to allow my Department to provide the moneys allocated in budget 2021, it is necessary to comply with a technical requirement to increase the cumulative limit. This is achieved by way of the regulations submitted to the House today.

The 2017 Deloitte report into the economic impact of Irish breeding and racing commissioned by Horse Racing Ireland, HRI, indicates that the total direct and stimulated expenditure of the Irish breeding and racing industry was €1.84 billion in 2016. In addition, it is estimated that there are 15,200 jobs at the core of the racing and breeding industry or in directly related industries. Horse racing generates a very significant return for the rural economy in Ireland and a positive international profile for our country. HRI's 2019 annual report indicated a successful year. The focus on ownership leads to a further increase in the number of horses in training and more horses competing.

With regard to the greyhound racing industry, according to the 2017 Power report, the greyhound industry provides and supports considerable employment both directly and indirectly. It is estimated that the industry supported 5,000 full-time and part-time jobs in the economy in 2016. In addition, there were 7,313 active greyhound owners.

There is a very valid and strong rationale for funding both industries in the way we do and for the increase this year, given the particular pressures Covid has placed on these industries. This will support them in their work.

This issue was debated at length at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Agriculture and the Marine last week. The debate was comprehensive. During that meeting I put on the record, as I will today, that Sinn Féin absolutely supports maintaining vibrant horse racing and greyhound racing sectors in Ireland. We recognise their value, in particular to many rural communities, and the great contribution they make to local economies which are, in many other respects, bereft of investment. That is not to say that we support the signing of blank cheques for any organisation. The Minister proposes that we increase funding to the horse and greyhound racing fund to €96 million. By any measure, that is a substantial investment on the part of the State. In 2014, the level of funding to these organisations was €54 million, which shows how sizeable the year-on-year increase has been.

At last week's meeting, I said that, while our support for the horse and greyhound racing fund was absolute, we also had questions in respect of the accountability and transparency mechanisms put in place. The Minister seemed to suggest that there is a contradiction in that. I do not believe it is contradictory for elected representatives to support a sector while wanting to ensure that the money provided to it is fully accounted for.

A number of questions still have not been resolved with regard to this funding. Why is this amount of funding to be provided next year? Why is increased funding being given to these organisations when so many other organisations in a variety of sectors are also struggling as a result of Covid-19 and would very much appreciate a similar and proportionate increase in their funding? Why is this level of funding required this year? Was the 2020 funding fully expended? Is the Minister satisfied that it was spent in the way that delivers the greatest benefits for our economy and our rural economy, the cited reasons for this funding? Is this to be the new baseline figure for these organisations' funding streams or is it simply emergency funding provided in the context of Covid?

The Minister has not indicated whether he is satisfied that the maximum benefit is derived from the way in which the money is spent. Last year, approximately €67 million was allocated to Horse Racing Ireland, which paid out €68 million in prize funds. Breeders, trainers and horse lovers in my county tell me that this prize money does not trickle down. A disproportionate share goes to those who are already successful in the industry. Has the Minister carried out an appraisal as to whether this is the best use of funds by Horse Racing Ireland?

Over the last week, the Minister was asked a number of times whether it is prudent simply to divide this funding in the ratio of 80:20 between the horse racing and greyhound sectors. He essentially told the committee that this is simply how it has always been done. I note, however, that in The Sunday Business Post, his Department confirmed that it had sought legal advice as to whether this should be the case. Rather than the Government being fully supportive of the greyhound sector, it was actually looking for a way to reduce the level of funding, or at least the increase in funding, for that sector. It is disappointing that the Minister did not inform the committee of that fact last week. I would like him to elaborate on his intentions in that regard.

If we are going to pay close to €100 million to one particular sector at a time when even the sectors that come under the auspices of the Minister's own Department, such as beef farming, sheep farming and dairy farming, are struggling, we have to be absolutely sure that the money will be well spent. There must be absolute transparency and full accountability. A full appraisal must be carried out to ensure that the money being invested is invested in the right way to ensure proper regional balance among the beneficiaries of the fund and to ensure that the principle of animal welfare is supported. We must ensure that we can stand over everything we do and every cent of taxpayers' money we spend with regard to many people's real concerns about animal welfare, particularly in the greyhound sector.

We will be supporting this increase for this fund for both the racing and greyhound industries, although it may be slightly wrong to describe the greyhound industry in that way as it is really more of a hobby. We give this support with many qualifications. I will speak on both horse racing and greyhound racing. The first qualification is that I do not have confidence in the Irish Greyhound Board, IGB, and have not had for years. The board was before a meeting of the Committee of Public Accounts attended by the Leas-Chathaoirleach and myself and it was an absolute circus. Not much has changed. Some of the same people are still there. I will mention one thing at the very outset. We did not support the Social Democrats motion last week but neither could we support the Government's countermotion because it was effectively written by the IGB, in which we do not have confidence. I have never implored the Minister but I implore him to look at the board of the IGB for us. It needs a complete overhaul. I know the Minister has a lot going on as regards Covid, Brexit and so on but the IGB needs a more hands-on approach from Government.

With regard to greyhound people, many of whom are working-class people, greyhounds are effectively their horses. These are some of the most decent and honourable people one will ever meet. There are some bad eggs who need to be removed. The comments made by a member of the board of the IGB regarding our colleague, Deputy Cairns, are absolutely disgraceful. They do not give the greyhound racing industry a good name. I presume the board and the Minister will deal with that matter. The Deputy can speak for herself but one cannot make comments like that no matter one's view on a given sector.

The issue of welfare is very important. The idea is that 10% of funding, which would be at least €1.5 million, goes towards welfare but that is not happening. Will the Minister show me that is happening? I do not compliment British authorities often but a greyhound trust needs to be set up. This should be separate from the IGB, although board members might sit on it to allow for crossover. The volume of greyhounds that needs to be rehoused is much larger than the volume spoken about. There is only one centre. I know where it is as it is in my county. There needs to be 15 to 20. That needs to be rolled out. When such centres are rolled out, people will be able to see that progress is being made in the area of greyhound welfare. That really needs to happen.

I know many people who work with greyhounds, who are active in this sector and who have put proposals to Greyhound Racing Ireland and the previous Minister that were never acted on. These proposals need to be acted on. This is a central issue. People cannot mistreat dogs. There has to be a proper welfare system in place that is funded. It is critical. Greyhound Racing Ireland gets a significant volume of funding but this does not transpire to the ordinary man and woman working in the greyhound area. That needs to be dealt with as well.

I have a range of issues relating to GRI and how it does its accounts, historical issues relating to the Indecon report and the whole issue of liquidising assets. The Minister will know about this industry. I do not want to see several racecourses getting liquidated to ensure current funding can go on. It is not good when a body is liquidising assets to fund current activities. In fact, it is awful. This needs to be dealt with.

I will say something about the horseracing industry. It is a critically important industry throughout the country. It employs many people, especially in rural Ireland, and it has tangibility in so many other sectors where other people are working. I wish to say this clearly: issues have been raising their heads. We need a sectoral employment order for people working in this industry. Too many people are not being well-paid. In some cases, they are not being treated well. They love horses and the horseracing industry. We have a good name abroad but we need to treat workers right. I implore the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to work with his colleagues in government to bring in a sectoral employment order in that sector alone to ensure all people who work in the industry are protected, paid proper wages and treated properly.

Since our motion last week to reverse the increase in funding for the commercial greyhound racing industry I have heard little legitimate defence of the sector from its proponents. I have seen no serious effort to address the loss-making nature of the industry or animal welfare concerns or even acknowledgement of them. Instead, I have seen attacks of a personal nature on those of us who do not want to see an increase of more than €2 million in funding for a sector whose custom and practices have been so discredited. Here is some of what was said about me: a member of Greyhound Racing Ireland, Wayne McCarthy, referred to me as an ignorant little girl.

Please avoid mentioning names. It is long-standing practice in the Dáil.

He is a board member of a State organisation whose wages are paid out of the staggering €19.2 million the industry will receive in 2021. He is paid by the taxpayer, by all of us. I was not deeply hurt or offended by the man's comments - I will not say his name from now on. My initial reaction was to ignore it. I instinctively felt it did not deserve any energy or thought. Indeed, I did not want to waste my speaking time addressing it today. Yet, when a Fine Gael Deputy apologised for liking these sentiments I could not avoid the volume of calls I was getting from the media for a response.

The unfortunate reality of this situation is that I was not deeply hurt or offended because I am used to these kinds of gendered comments. Rightly, I do not take personal offence. Yet, in reality too many women are subject to too many comments which seek to demean and belittle. This offends all women. In the past week, in the context of the Social Democrats motion to reverse the increase in State funding to the industry, I have been referred to as "airy fairy", "a dangerous, dangerous woman" and "a fool". It would not be appropriate in this Chamber to recite some of the other language used. Women everywhere experience the same kind of everyday sexism in different ways every day. We are tired of it. As the only female Deputy in all of Cork city and county I feel the need to address the sexism that we are all so used to. I feel the need to put it on the Dáil record that a board member of a State organisation spoke about elected women in that way in 2020. I feel the need to say there can be no excuse for this because there is no excuse.

I have no wish to use my speaking time on this issue addressing this everyday sexism. Women all over Ireland, including myself, wish we did not need to address this at all. Yet, there is no alternative when we cannot ignore it. When we address this everyday sexism, we are often met with more of it. We hear things like "angry feminist", "you are too emotional" or "you should calm down". When we think about it, we should all be angry, emotional and uncalm about the reality that half of the population are still disregarded, patronised and condescended in so many ways. Instead, many of us are numb to it and that is even worse. The House needs to send a clear message to everyone that there needs to be zero tolerance for sexism.

The member of Greyhound Racing Ireland also claimed my remarks were "waffle". I wish to put on the Dáil record that none of my remarks were waffle. The opposite applies: they were all fact, based on research, much of which was done by Greyhound Racing Ireland. He has not challenged any of those facts; he has only challenged my personality and pointed out my gender. I wish to take this opportunity to invite this member of the Greyhound Racing Ireland to take part in a debate about the facts I have raised relating to the greyhound racing industry, the viability of the industry, the animal welfare issues associated with the industry and the public disquiet about the State funding. I imagine a broadcaster would be happy to facilitate this and I would be happy to arrange it.

One important thing to note is that although the Social Democrats motion was defeated last week, we have another opportunity to finally put an end to the State turning a blind eye to the industry's flaws and more money at its failings. It says a great deal that the industry and public representatives simply do not have a legitimate argument - I have yet to hear one from any Member.

Last week, I highlighted many concerning aspects about this industry, including the frightening levels of animal cruelty, the extraordinary cost to the taxpayer and the staggering loss-making nature of the industry. There is extraordinary public support for an end to the State propping up this highly problematic industry and shielding it from commercial realities. The industry receives extraordinary sums of money from the public purse while breeding 6,000 dogs annually to kill them. The vast majority of the general public cannot understand why Government continues to blatantly ignore common sense on this issue. Not only does our Government plan to continue funding it - to my surprise this plan was supported by all Government parties, Sinn Féin and the Labour Party - it is also increasing funding by €2.4 million. This will bring the total allocation in the 2021 budget to €19.2 million. It does not have to be this way. It is scandalous, unacceptable and indefensible.

Anyone who watched the "RTÉ Investigates" programme on the treatment of greyhounds and the greyhound industry last year would have been rather sickened at the way greyhounds were treated. I imagine there are responsible greyhound owners in Ireland who would have been completely sickened by what they saw on that programme. Many people, including myself, would not have known how the greyhound industry was funded. The amount of money allocated since 2000 is staggering. More than €200 million has been granted to this industry. Obviously, €19 million has been allocated this year with additional funding of €2.4 million.

Deputy Carthy referenced an article in The Business Post reporting that the Government is seeking legal advice on decoupling funding for the horse industry from funding to the greyhound industry. Will the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine be investigating that? Will he seek more legal advice to try to decouple the industries? Does the Minister have personal confidence in board members of GRI, especially following the comments made about Deputy Cairns? Does the Minister have confidence in the greyhound industry as a whole in the short term or the long term? As a layperson, it seems this industry is not fit for purpose. It tolerates dire animal welfare standards that should not be tolerated, especially when the funding is given through the taxpayer via the Government. Does the Minister have confidence in GRI as it is now?

I am unsure whether the member of the Greyhound Racing Ireland will take up the challenge from Deputy Cairns for a public debate, but I know one thing: if the debate has already started, I think he is losing it heavily at this stage.

I intend to focus on the greyhound side of the funding. The proposal is for €96 million to go to the Horse and Greyhound Fund.

One fifth of that money goes to the greyhound industry, which is a little over €19 million. This industry cannot be separated in its format from cruelty to animals. Some 6,000 dogs are culled every year because they are not able to race at the level which the owners want them to and it is not therefore profitable. I understand that all but eight countries worldwide have banned it at this stage. We are one of those eight laggards which have not done so. What is the Government proposing to do? It is proposing to give the industry more money and increase its funding by €2.4 million. That will be €280 million since 2000 which has been given by the taxpayer and the State to the greyhound industry.

While State funding is going up, the industry itself is going down and is greatly waning in popularity. The figures I have for 2010 to 2017 indicate that the turnover of the industry went from €32.9 million to €22.7 million. It decreased, therefore, by about one third. From 2010 to next year, however, State funding will go from €11.9 million to €19.2 million, and that is an increase of more than 50%. The industry would not be able to continue if was not being propped up by the taxpayer and the State. An industry within which cruelty to animals is inherent should no longer be propped up by the State. There are issues concerning jobs in the industry. It is an important issue and the State should intervene there to provide training, the development of skills and alternative employment for people currently employed in the industry, if it is to go by the wayside. We should not, however, be propping it up.

The horse and greyhound industries are invaluable components of the economic, cultural, social and traditional fabric of Irish life. Those industries have served to deliver prestige to Ireland and they are recognised brand ambassadors in developing Irish tourism abroad. They have created economic ties and have allowed Irish people to forge international links which have serviced us through good times and bad. Through the generations, committed and passionate animal lovers and sports enthusiasts in the horse and greyhound industries have developed in Ireland, through years of selective trade, international centres of excellence which have become known throughout the world. State funding directed through Horse Racing Ireland and Greyhound Racing Ireland is designed to support these two sectors and provide for continued development in both industries.

The benefits of this are evident from a 2017 Deloitte report, which demonstrated that total direct and stimulated expenditure within the horse breeding and racing industry was estimated at €1.84 billion in 2016. This revenue supports more than 15,000 jobs in racing, breeding and related industries. Horse racing, in particular, generates significant returns to the rural economy. Many farmers are also owners of broodmares. I will introduce anyone who comes to my county of Waterford to the farrier, the vet, the fence builder, the tillage farmer, the tractor mechanic, the stable lads and ladies and the jockeys who depend greatly on this industry for their occupation and, for many, their sole income.

The greyhound industry also provides considerable economic benefits, along with direct and indirect employment. A 2016 survey reported more than 5,000 full-time and part-time jobs in the sector, with more than 7,300 active greyhound owners in Ireland. Greyhound ownership and racing, although most active in the rural heartlands of Ireland, also has urban-based breeders and supporters. I am sure most people in this House have at some time in their lives enjoyed a night at the dogs.

Both industries have been concentrating on furthering activities to improve and maintain the highest levels of animal welfare and care. There are always some people for whom profit is the only objective, even to the detriment of animal welfare. In greyhound racing, however, where this can be a more significant problem due to the lower cost of ownership, the sector is fighting back. Provisions in the new Greyhound Racing Act 2019 seek to improve standards on traceability and transportation and to provide financial support for injured animals, as well as promoting a new scheme to look at rehoming greyhounds after their racing careers are finished. The sector has been tasked with providing demonstrable change in respect of animal welfare and has appointed a new director of greyhound care and welfare to oversee these industry improvements.

New technologies are also creating new audiences for Irish horse racing and greyhound racing. Some parts of Asia have discovered Irish greyhound racing via satellite TV, following the success of Irish horse racing in developing a global following. This increased interest is delivering direct income to the Irish Exchequer through online betting tax receipts. This is, in turn, supporting the development of regional economic diversification in Ireland through beneficial income, enterprise and tax measures. The financial supports being announced to support these industries are entirely appropriate, given the decimation of income and gate receipts caused by the ravages of Covid-19. These industries provide long-term income to the State and the Government, in turn, will be a long-term beneficiary through the recovery of increased tax revenues from these sectors in the future.

The cultural implications in respect of supporting these sectors must also be kept at the forefront of our minds. Ireland is a world leader in these sectors, and as well as world-class standards in animal welfare and husbandry, we must also consider the welfare of the people who depend on these industries for their livelihoods, in addition to their amenity value. Too often in this country we speak about the cost of everything and we fail to recognise the value of anything, at times. The global leading position which these industries have developed for this country must be maintained and supported so that once Covid-19 has been consigned to the past, these industries may again flourish and contribute to the advancement of rural and regional Ireland.

I support this motion and compliment the Minister for putting forward this fund. We are global leaders in horse racing. We are very proud of that in Tipperary, and where Tipperary leads, Ireland follows.

Deputy Cairns has just left the Chamber. I have no truck with what somebody in the greyhound board remarked about the Deputy. It was horrible. Such comments are not needed in this time. We need support and regulations, however, and we must root out any semblance of cruelty to animals which exists. If Deputy Cairns is protesting again, I ask her to bring a greyhound, if she is talking about greyhounds, and not a lurcher.

I salute the men and women, and many women are involved, as well as families, involved in the greyhound racing industry in Tipperary. It is the vital lifeblood of the community. I refer also to the enjoyment given to others and the amount of funding raised at such events as nights at the dogs and race meetings, etc. We are going to cut off our nose to spite our face. As I said last week, are we going to be a utopian country? Will we be a wasteland, with no industry in rural Ireland? Will we all be smoking marijuana? Is that what we are aiming for? It is a silly, childish and pedantic way to look at an industry that is so vital to our economy. We must support it. Ní neart go cur le chéile i gcónaí. We must support the men and women in the industry. By all means, we must have proper regulations and we must reform the greyhound board, because that is badly needed.

I am delighted to show my support here today and discuss this important issue concerning the funding of the greyhound industry. Many people are running scared after last week's debate, where the opening statement and motion from the Social Democrats was very clear. That party did not want to see the increase in the budget for the greyhound industry by the Government this year and also wanted to phase out all funding by 2025, all based on a TV programme in 2019. In that opening statement, the Social Democrats ordered those of us who spoke in favour of our greyhounds to declare who lobbied us or what connections we had with the greyhound industry. I have none, but I was greatly insulted at the perception that a Deputy who would show support for thousands of caring greyhound owners would only do so for some ulterior motive. For God's sake, I ask the Social Democrats to show some respect to their colleagues here. I do not know what kind of politics they are used to, but it is not my type of politics.

To the Social Democrats, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, all parties which voted against funding for greyhounds last week, where a percentage of those funds was going towards animal care, I ask them to sit into their cars and come down to Kilcoe and to Collins's farm in west Cork - no relation, I add - where those people have had many greyhounds for a long number of years. I visited that farm yesterday and, to be honest, the best way to sum up the way they treat and care for their greyhounds is to say that it is truly awesome. Those people, along with other greyhound owners, are furious at the way they have been tarred with the one brush by the Social Democrats. I ask the Social Democrats to sit up and acknowledge the thousands of greyhound owners who care for and love their animals.

I would like to dispel some of the fiction that has been bandied about regarding greyhound racing. The Greyhound Racing Act 2019 is the first major upgrade since 1958, and it is welcomed. The general public who own greyhounds mind their dogs like children and would not tolerate any abuse of their dogs' welfare. A minority of people in all societies and sports abuse the system.

The Act will bring about traceability backed up by enforcement. The Irish Greyhound Board has an excellent relationship with the ISPCA and wants to continue that relationship.

The betting tax was raised from 1% to 2%, which now yields €95 million in taxes. The greyhound industry delivers an economic impact of €302 million to the national economy. The past two years - 2018 and 2019 - have generated €6 million and the Irish Greyhound Board qualifies for 20% of the greyhound fund.

I put it to the Minister that this is a sport for females and for males.

I am left on the hind teat all the time and have only a small amount of time.

I thank the Minister, Deputy McConalogue, for standing his ground and for giving the money to the greyhound industry. Like many other sports, the sector is in trouble because of the loss in gate receipts and other fundraising events it would have had.

I am sorry many lies were told by the Social Democrats around the funding and about the care owners take of their dogs. I did not meet one person in all of Kerry last weekend who was against giving the money to the greyhound sector. They had high praise for it and thanked us for ensuring the funding. For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Labour Party and Sinn Féin are lining up here together and questioning the money that has been given to this very worthwhile industry. The people in the industry are more than repaying the money with the jobs they provide, the betting taxes and other aspects they repay to the economy. We must support them further and ensure they are funded further in the coming years.

I note from the report of last week's meeting of the Joint Committee on Agriculture and the Marine that all bar one supported and approved the funding, having raised various queries and sought some assurances conducive to accountability measures and assurances from the Minister relating to horse and greyhound racing. The one objection, of course, was around the greyhound element of the funding, which is the democratic right of the person involved.

Like many others, these industries have been further supplemented this year owing to the pressures caused by Covid-19. Notwithstanding the figures of more than 15,000 jobs in the horseracing and breeding industry, and the 5,000 jobs associated with the greyhound racing and breeding industry, this fund underpins world-class and world-leading industries, as alluded to by many speakers here, which are the envy of many competing countries. It underpins economic activity across the State, bringing great joy and happiness, whether it is a business or a pastime, and whether it is viewed by supporters or benefiting the many charities and clubs by virtue of race nights and so on, as referred to by other Members.

I accept the issues raised around greyhound welfare at the joint committee and during last week's defeated motion cannot be ignored. They are not being ignored, however, with 10% of the €19.2 million budget, which is almost €2 million in funding, going towards improvements around greyhound care, improved traceability, and adoption programmes. The commitments remain conditional on improvements.

Nobody in opposition in this House or anywhere else has a monopoly on the right to raise issues associated with the welfare of animals. It was acknowledged by all parties during the course of negotiations for the programme for Government. This conditionality associated with the awarding of funds has been mentioned and is the case with this Government and the Minister with responsibility associated with it.

Of course, there are rogues in this industry. There are rogues in all industries. There are rogues in here too. The reporting of it has to be very careful also. As an owner, I was subject to ridicule for something that could not be substantiated but which made good press and good coverage, especially when it was associated with me and the role I was given initially in this Dáil.

The other issue raised at the joint committee last week was the financial strain associated with the greyhound racing industry. This cannot and should not be ignored either. It is and will be difficult to sustain the industry in its present form into the future. To protect the industry's long-term future and viability, industry participants, including the IGB, the stakeholders and the Department of Agriculture and Marine, should engage in a process to investigate and analyse the means and methods by which the industry can be sustained. This need not necessarily be in its current form of 16 tracks, which many in the industry realise and appreciate is not sustainable.

We, and the majority in this Dáil, are committed to the industry and to ensuring the Government plays its part in ensuring that it has a future. I want to ensure it has a long-term future too.

I thank everyone who contributed to the debate from different perspectives. I want to touch on the points made by Deputy Cairns on the comments she had to put up with, which were simply unacceptable. The Rásaíocht Con Éireann member who made those comments has apologised and withdrawn those comments. They were sexist and offensive. Deputy Cairns should not have had to experience them. I certainly will be writing to the chair of the board to express my repugnance at those comments, to remind all board members of their responsibilities for high standards, and to ensure there is no repeat of such instances in the future.

There has been a healthy debate. In my opening comments I outlined the fact the horse and greyhound racing industries support significant employment. The thoroughbred industry is worth €1.9 billion to the economy, with some 29,000 direct and indirect jobs benefiting from it. Nearly 12,500 people derive economic benefit from the greyhound industry. This is the fourth time in the course of one week that I have debated this particular fund and issues raised in both Houses of the Oireachtas and at the Joint Committee on Agriculture and the Marine. It has received thorough interrogation, and rightly so. I am aware Members have varying views on the matter. Due to the time today, I cannot address all the comments, but the issues received a very thorough airing in the committee.

Members on different sides of the House have different views House, and I come back on Deputy Carthy's view. There is a well-known saying, "To run with the hare and to hunt with the hound". That certainly represents Sinn Féin's view on the matter. After he voted against last year's level of funding, Deputy Brian Stanley said, shame on Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party which were successful in having the motion passed. He said Sinn Féin would not support such obscene levels of funding and yet this year Sinn Féin has no problem with funding it called obscene last year. Now it says it simply does not want the increase in funding. If the phrase, "To run with the hare and hunt with the hound" was ever apt, it is certainly so in this particular instance.

It would have been more appropriate if the Minister had answered a single question put to him.

Question put and declared carried.