I want to thank Senators who contributed to the debate on this Bill. There was unanimity on all sides of the House about the desirability of establishing a development programme for the non-thoroughbred horse industry. There were very positive contributions by all Senators concerned. Apart from the overall development, there were some suggestions with a great deal of flair attached to them. I mention in particular Senator Magnier, who suggested that the presidential escort be re-established and that the colour provided by this escort and the trappings surrounding it would not alone show off the country to good effect but would be a great advertisement for the Irish horse. I will bring the suggestions and recommendations made by the various Senators to the attention of the Minister and the officials in the Department.
There was a genuine concern for the non-thoroughbred horse industry. It was realised that the industry had gone into decline, and particularly the foundation stock of the Irish draught sector. The number of foals last year, for example, was less than 100. That is getting very near extinction for a long established and traditional breed in Ireland. It is the foundation stock for our whole sport horse industry. It is about time we put a development programme in place, not alone to resuscitate this industry but to get it on a very sound footing.
The point was made by several speakers that the Irish horse is much more than just a sector of Irish agriculture and a natural resource industry. It reflects well on the country. It is one of the few distinctly Irish assets we have that we can be proud of internationally. We perform well in international arenas with the Irish horse. I know from travelling to other countries on industrial and food matters that often in the managing director's office I am asked: "Tell me about The King of Diamonds. Is there much of that strain left in the country?" Often they would have more knowledge than myself of the attributes of the King of Diamonds and other very famous stallions and bloodlines in Ireland. That is particularly true in the United States, the UK and in Germany. In Germany they have the highest regard for the various attributes of the Irish horse and are very familiar with it. It does a tremendous amount of good for Ireland's reputation as a country taking its place in the international arena. I want to assure Senators that I will have full regard to their contributions.
Concern was expressed by Senator Connor and a number of others in the House in relation to the advisory committee and the horse industry. Rightly, it was pointed out that this should not be a committee for party hacks, county managers, county librarians or anybody like that but should be composed of people who had made a contribution to that particular industry, people who are renowned not alone in Ireland but internationally for their expertise and the knowledge they have built up over generations as practitioners in the various sectors of the sport horse industry. Regard will be paid to that. I mentioned that in my speech, that they will be people of the very highest calibre.
There are a number of interests in the sport horse industry in Ireland. Those interests — about seven or eight of them altogether between riding schools, Irish draughts and various other organisations — have been asked to nominate a suitable person or persons for the Minister's appointment. It is envisaged that the Minister will make a number of other appointments, including somebody from the Department of Agriculture and Food itself.
The suggestion made by Senator Robb that we should have a look at somebody from the north of Ireland will be brought to the Minister's attention by me. At the Horse Show here each year, and indeed at various shows around the country, breeders from the North participate and are long-established participants. In fact, the Irish Horse Register is maintained jointly by the Department of Agriculture here and the Department of Agriculture in the north of Ireland. There is therefore already a tremendous amount of interaction between both Departments and both areas. Veterinary surgeons from the North take part in the inspection of stallions for the approved stallion list. There is therefore a lot of liaison between north and south. It is a worthy suggestion that we think about someone from that area to represent on the advisory committee the people concerned.
Senator Hussey was concerned about headage payments. One of the things done in the development programme is to make headage payments available not alone in the severely handicapped areas but in all the disadvantaged areas where the beef cow scheme applies. That is at the £70 higher rate for all disadvantaged areas, including severely handicapped and less favoured areas. I am not quite certain what the position is in relation to the off-farm income. I tried to make contact with Castlebar where they deal with the off-farm income matter, but it was too late in the evening. There is no reference in my notes to off-farm income, but I will communicate with the various Senators who contributed in relation to that matter.
The committee will have sub-committees to advise the Minister on matters like inspection. Senator M. O'Toole expressed grave reservations about the abolition of the 1934 Horse Breeding Act. He was fearful of the fact that animals that would not be up to standard in relation to conformation and other physical attributes would, having failed the inspection, return to their farms and become part of the reproduction system. One needs quality in whatever area of activity one is involved in. Certainly in the horse industry people are not interested in poor quality hacks of any kind. We need to have superior quality in Ireland. The advisory committee will be asked to address that problem urgently. The Bill has made progress through the Dáil and will be coming to the Seanad very shortly. Senators will therefore have another opportunity to contribute on that matter very shortly.
Reverting again to Senator Magnier's suggestion in relation to the composition of the advisory committee, he made suggestions in relation to the National Stud. That matter has not been addressed so far. The merits or otherwise of having the National Stud represented on the advisory committee is something that I will bring to the attention of the Minister and the Department.
I think that covers most of the matters raised. There was unanimity in relation to the development of the horse industry. The opportunity was taken in this debate on the dissolution of Bord na gCapall to have those expressions of views made. There was also a suggestion that the Army should become involved to a greater extent through the Army Equitation School. I will bring that matter to the attention of the Minister for Defence, whose responsibility it is in the first instance.