Bord na gCapall (Dissolution) Bill, 1988: Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The purpose of the Bill is to repeal the Horse Industry Act, 1970, and to wind up the affairs of Bord na gCapall. Part III of the 1970 Act dealing with the licensing of riding establishments was never brought into force. A voluntary registration scheme is now run by the Association of Irish Riding Establishments and has proved very successful.

In the context of the 1987 budget the then Government decided to abolish Bord na gCapall because continued expenditure on the board could not be justified in the current financial situation. The essential functions of the Board, that is the maintenance of the Irish Horse Register and the list of approved stallions, have since been carried out by the Department of Agriculture and Food. The Register is the stud book for non-thoroughbred horses and its maintenance is fundamental for continued breed improvement in the industry.

In 1966 a survey team established by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries recommended the establishment of an Irish Horse Board to co-ordinate the activities of the various associations dealing with equestrian matters and to set up a national training centre for riders and instructors. Bord na gCapall was established with high hopes following enactment of the Horse Industry Act, 1970. It was anticipated that it would be the beginning of a well organised and properly motivated programme to promote and develop the non-thoroughbred horse industry.

One of the board's earliest achievements was the setting up of a farriery apprenticeship scheme under which a number of young people became qualified farriers. The Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association and other interests have now organised a new farriery apprenticeship scheme. This move is welcomed and it is hoped that it can be further developed to meet the demands both of the thoroughbred and non-thoroughbred industries. Under the board's tutelage a number of people were prepared for and passed their Equestrian Science examinations. This function has now been taken over by Teagasc.

The board's most important and significant achievement, however, was the foundation of the Irish Horse Register in 1974. This incorporated the approval of stallions for breeding and was essential for maintaining the high standard of the Irish sport horse. During the board's existence the number of sport horses increased by 50 per cent (21,000 to 34,000) and the value of exports reached £4 million in 1988.

This is not to say that the board's story was one of unending success. Indeed had it achieved the goals for which it had been set up we would not now be proposing its abolition. I do not wish to hold up the House alluding to the failures of the board, facts which are common knowledge to all concerned.

In 1983, following considerable adverse publicity, the Bord was restructured and staffing levels were reduced from 34 to 15. Following the then Government's decision to abolish the Bord, these remaining staff received redundancy payments in April-May 1987 and provision was made for preservation of their pension entitlements.

Yet, while acknowledging the fact that there were problems over the years, tribute should be paid to those board members and staff who selflessly sought and worked for the advancement of the industry. It was through no fault of theirs that the expectations at the time the Bord was established were not realised.

In October 1987 a new board was appointed, comprising of three civil servants from the Department of Agriculture and Food, to wind-up the Bord's affairs. Considerable progress has been made and the remaining tasks include the disposal of the Bord's leased stallions, its main assets. The existing lessees have been given first option to purchase them but if no agreement can be reached it is intended that the stallions will be offered for sale by public tender. In that event the lessees will, of course, be free to compete in the sale.

Conscious of the need to restore confidence and a sense of direction to the industry but aware that the present economic climate limits the scope for financial incentives, the Minister launched a new national programme for this sector in November of last year. For the benefit of this House I would like to mention again the objectives of the programme which are: to maximise output and exports by exploiting to the full our national resources in breeding stock, soil, climate, expertise and reputation; to maximise returns to breeders and to develop further the equestrian and leisure side of the industry.

The principal features of the programme include the conservation of the Irish draught breed. Many of the qualities and much of the international reputation of the Irish sport horse derive from the breeding system whereby Irish draught and Irish draught-type horses are crossed with thoroughbreds. The complementarity of traits between the Irish draught and thoroughbred and the associated hybrid vigour result in horses having strength, courage, stamina and good temperament. The continued breeding and production of such horse is dependent on the maintenance of a viable nucleus of the Irish draught population. However, the future of the breed may be endangered if insufficient numbers of mares are pure bred to maintain population size and to enable selection within the breed for quality improvement.

A scheme, therefore, was introduced under which a grant of £400 will be paid to the breeder of each pure bred Irish draught foal registered in the Irish Horse Register. Indeed, you may have seen advertisements to this effect in the national press recently. This grant will compensate for the difference in value between pure bred Irish draught and thoroughbred crosses. The scheme will operate for a five-year period commencing next year. Application forms and conditions are now available from the Department of Agriculture and Food. In association with the Irish Draught Horse Society, initiatives will also be taken to increase the number of progeny by top mares and to conserve rare blood lines utilising artificial insemination and embryo transfer technology.

Beginning this year, headage payments will be made in respect of eligible registered mares in all disadvantaged areas in which cattle headage grants are paid at an increased rate of £70 per head for up to eight mares and £66 for the next 22 mares. These payments will be calculated separately from any other headage payments to which the producer may be entitled.

As part of the new western package, the Department of Agriculture and Food are finalising a new scheme to provide incentives in less favoured areas of the country towards the cost of providing facilities which will enable them to diversify into alternative farm enterprises. It is intended that this scheme will include for the first time grant-aid towards the cost of basic housing for non-thoroughbred sport horses.

In addition, last week the Minister announced a scheme to encourage agritourism, also in the western package areas, which would include grant-aid for farmers investing in facilities for leisure activities, such as pony-trekking and horse riding.

The Irish Horse Register will now be administered on a permanent basis by the Department of Agriculture and Food and has, in fact, had new modern computer facilities installed to ensure its efficient operation.

Accurate identification of individual animals and complete, accurate recording and registration of pedigree and performance data are fundamental to successful breed improvement, marketing and trade. The operation of the Register by the Department should ensure that: (a) standards and procedures will be followed for the registration and documentation of horses which will allow the Register to be approved under proposed EC zootechnical legislation; (b) a reliable basis is available for payment of grants. The requirement that the grants should be paid only on registered animals will have the very beneficial indirect effect of increasing the proportion of horses registered. The result will be a widening of the base for genetic improvement and an increase in the range of Irish sport horses for marketing; (c) a reliable data base will be built up for objective evaluation of the breeding merit of animals which is a prerequisite for constructive breeding programmes; (d) the Connemara and other Irish pony societies who currently maintain non-computerised stud books will be encouraged to join the Irish Horse Register; (e) the Register will be the authentic source of all genealogical and zootechnical information included in the passports of all Irish sport horses and ponies.

Selection and approval of stallions to sire animals for registration in the Irish Horse Register and the publication of their pedigree and breeding value in the Register of Approved Stallions are also crucial for breed improvement of Irish sport horses. This task, which will also be undertaken by the Department of Agriculture and Food, will involve: the organisation of centres for carrying out inspections and suitable riding/jumping tests, in association with industry representatives; ensuring that best estimates of breeding values, based on all available progeny and performance test data, are used in selection; investigating, in association with the industry, how some proven National Hunt thoroughbred stallions might be approved for inclusion in the Irish Horse Register.

Given the progress made in the development of artificial insemination and embryo transfer technology and the potential of these techniques for genetic improvement, conservation of rare blood lines and eradication of sexually transmitted diseases, it is intended to sponsor new legislation to facilitate their development and application in the non-thoroughbred horse industry. Although only available on a limited scale at present, the industry should be encouraged to utilise these techniques. EC legislation on animal health, zootechnical and genealogical conditions governing intra-Community trade in horses is currently being drafted. The objective is to liberalise trade in horses, horse semen and embryos. Close liaison with the relevant interests will be maintained in relation to these matters.

In association with the horse industry and Teagasc, initiatives will be taken to develop advisory and training programmes to improve fertility, artificial reproductive techniques, breeding merit, feeding and husbandry of sport horses. Teagasc also has responsibility for awarding the Irish Certificate and Diploma in Equestrian Science.

The introduction of the single European market in 1992 will bring increased opportunities. However, effective marketing will be required if the horse industry is to take advantage of the opportunities opened to it when barriers to free trade are removed. In the horse industry marketing encompasses a wide range of activities from the production of the foal, through schooling and training of the animal, to the sale of the finished riding horse for export. It is envisaged that the establishment, with national and EC aid, of a small number of equestrian centres, strategically located, so as to provide high quality facilities for the final preparation, evaluation and marketing of sport horses should result in more foreign buyers thus increasing exports; promotion, publicity and the orderly development of markets; greater awareness by producers of the requirements of the market-place; greater opportunity for breeders to reap a high proportion of the final value of sport horses.

The activities of Córas Tráchtála Teoranta and Bord Fáilte in promoting the sport and leisure horse area are invaluable to the industry. Both organisations have been asked to review the scale and intensity of their marketing and promotion of the sector.

A feature of the non-thoroughbred horse industry in Ireland is the large number of representative bodies catering for the various interests. It is proposed to forge stronger links between the Department of Agriculture and Food and these interests through an advisory committee whose terms of reference will be to advise the Minister on policy and on planning and co-ordination of the different elements in the national programme which I have just outlined.

It is proposed to ask the committee to report to the Minister for Agriculture and Food as soon as possible on the following important areas: the operation and management of the Irish Horse Register; the identification for registration purposes of animals produced by artificial reproductive techniques; the most suitable method of selecting stallions and the development of progeny and performance testing and the problem of weeding out inferior stallions which are presently causing damage to the quality of our breeding stock.

The setting up of this committee is now in train and I expect it will be in action in a few weeks. It will be self-selected to the extent that the main bodies involved in the industry have been requested to nominate one representative each. The Minister has expressly asked for nominations only of people who are fully conversant with all aspect of the non-thoroughbred industry and who can be expected to make a positive contribution to the development of the industry. These will be supplemented by representatives from the Department of Agriculture and Food and others whom the Minister considers appropriate.

The Minister believes that the new national programme for the development of the non-thoroughbred horse industry will prove effective. Any programme on its own, however, cannot succeed without the full co-operation and commitment of everyone involved in the industry. This is a labour-intensive industry with potential for expanding employment. Our traditional affection for and skill with horses can be harnessed into a worthwhile and profitable enterprise. Now is the right time to put this industry in readiness to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 1990s.

I would like to take the opportunity as well to compliment national organisations. Recently Bord Bainne, the national body for the export of dairy products, agreed to sponsor the Irish Horse Show in Dublin for a considerable number of years. I would urge a number of substantial commercial organisations to put money into the horse industry. It is a tremendously effective way of merchandising not alone the horse industry but Ireland itself. The return on it would be a very good investment, indeed. I would certainly like to see many more commercial organisations putting substantial amounts of money into the Irish horse industry. The price alone which people get and the prize money available for various competitions would never compensate the owners. We need to increase the amount of money involved.

I also want to compliment the University College, Dublin. They have an equine studies course in their Agricultural Faculty. It is producing some very good young people who are coming onstream into the industry. It is fair to say that there is tremendous confidence and very high morale in the non-thoroughbred horse industry in Ireland. I am very pleased with the response to this development programme.

I have great pleasure in commending this Bill to the House.

We have no difficulty with this legislation to formally bring to a close the affairs of Bord na gCapall. The fact is that this State-sponsored board rarely functioned in the 16 or 17 years of its existence. Essentially, it has gone out of existence since 1987. That is a major contributing factor to its demise. Rarely, since its inception in 1970 did it fulfil the role set down for it under the Horse Industry Act enacted that year.

I do not know a lot about horses or equestrianism, but I read some of the debates on the Horse Industry Bill, 1970 and the speeches then were full of hope as to what this board would do for the horse industry which was deemed to be in trouble at that time. The Minister referred to this and to the genesis of that particular legislation, which arose from a special committee set up by the then Minister for Agriculture and Food in 1966, Deputy Haughey. It is true it had its achievements. One of them was the establishment of the Irish Horse Register, which was the first central horse register of approved mares and stallions in the long history of the industry in this country. That, in itself, was a major breakthrough.

I might mention, too, that in its time it established an apprenticeship scheme for young farriers. That was a very enlightened and, indeed, successful step. That almost ancient art or skill of the farrier or the blacksmith had almost disappeared from the landscape in Ireland. I am delighted to learn — and the Minister has confirmed this — that there is now such a thing as a qualified farrier with approved qualification papers to show and prove his or her efficiency in the skill.

There was very public wrangling and rows within the board which went on for years. All kinds of internal shenanigans were reported. Some of them were very well detailed for us by Deputy Avril Doyle in an excellent contribution on this Bill when it was before the other House. Deputy Austin Deasy did his best to reform matters by establishing a new, trimmed-down board in 1983, but leadership and the necessary drive never came. The malaise continued, culminating in the revelations about the purchase of less than well-endowed stallions in 1987. This Gilbertian episode put an effective end to the board and delivered its affairs into the hands of the Department. All the evidence since, I must say, suggests that the unit within the Department charged with the interim handling of the affairs of the horse industry has worked quite well.

The Minister suggests he intends to broaden the administrative structure by the establishment of an advisory board to advise on policy development. I welcome this. Please, Minister, ensure that this advisory board is a competent one above all else, and not another quango for political supporters. One of the major factors that discredited Bord na gCapall was the appointment to it of what I would discribe most charitably as inappropriate people. Deputy Martin Gibbons made a very telling point on that particular question in his contribution in the Dáil. I submit he would be in a very good position to know all about that, given the political history of his family. I have heard of a case where votes in an election to this Seanad were elicited and promised on the basis that if the vote were delivered and the candidate succeeded the elector could expect a seat on Bord na gCapall. We want to see an end to that kind of wheeling and dealing in the establishment of the new advisory board.

One must welcome the grants announced last November, that is, £400 for each pure bred Irish draught foal bred and registered in the Irish Horse Register. The headage scheme has been extended, I understand, to all registered mares on farms in the disadvantaged areas. I did not quite hear what the Minister said. There is some confusion in my mind on this question. Certainly, the Minister said in the Dáil that the headage payment on horses would only be paid in areas that qualified for cattle headage. Cattle headage is not paid for all cattle in disadvantaged areas; it is only paid on bovine livestock in the severely handicapped areas. If the equine headage is confined to those areas, as defined at present, then the scope of the concession will be quite limited.

Another limitation will be that eligibility will only cover areas where there is a poor tradition of horse breeding and horse keeping. Small, fragmented, mostly uneconomic, holdings typical of what one finds in the severely handicapped areas eke out their existence on the mainstream lines of agriculture like dairying and beef. The keeping of a breeding horse or horses is largely unknown on such farms.

If it is not the case, I urge that the equine headage be paid for all eligible mares in the disadvantaged areas, as opposed to the severely handicapped areas. In that way the incentive will work. It will be a cheap incentive also, since the EC will pick up 70 per cent of the cost. With regard to those areas that are not now and probably never will be classified as disadvantaged areas because of land quality, average farm size and so on and bearing in mind that these are the areas with the best reputation and indeed, the other wherewithal for the breeding of horses — might I suggest that the special grant of £400 for each pure bred Irish draught foal be increased to £600. This is the only incentive they will get as they are outside, and likely to remain outside the disadvantaged areas which means they can never qualify for the equine headage incentive.

If I could return to the people in the Department who will have the responsibility for the horse industry, this unit must have adequate staff and if I may say so, it must have the appropriate staff. Written or unwritten, they should not be constrained by the usual suffocating constraints of the Civil Service. The people in charge will in a real way be trying to provide the dynamic to an industry with tremendous potential in terms of contribution to the national income. If someone in there has a good innovative idea, I hope it will not have to be written down or recorded 100 times, being passed up and down the pecking order before it is put into practice, as is usual in Civil Service procedures. The last thing this unit and the advisory committee who will be advising need is an overlay of bureaucracy and red tape. They need the freedom to act when a good opportunity presents itself. Imagination and inventiveness will have to be given more rein in that unit.

The Irish horse industry has tremendous potential for export expansion. Exports of horses from this country have declined just as dramatically as the size of the national horse herd has done in the past 40 years. The value of exports in the past two years has risen slightly, but it was a money increase only and not a volume increase.

Irish sport horses are among the most sought after sport animals in the world. If the supply was there and the markets properly developed, we could be exporting 30,000 horses per year with a value perhaps of £16 million per year and not an export of 1,800 horses per year as at present with a money value of approximately £4 million.

The role of Teagasc in a new drive to expand the size of the industry is of absolute importance. There must be a hands-on policy by the Department's advisory service in promoting the horse on the Irish farm. As an alternative enterprise, it should not and will not have quotas or restrictions. Such phrases have become almost synonymous with the mainstream enterprises in agriculture in this country nowadays.

Cuts in the advisory services or in their resources that are devoted to the promotion of the horse would be criminal, given the financial incentives in place or about to be put in place. Sadly, in the disadvantaged areas, with the greatest potential to expand and where the introduction of an alternative enterprise like horse breeding would have the greatest income impact, we find the advisory services so decimated by cuts as to be almost irrelevant to the growth and development of any life in the industry, let alone to the development of the horse industry.

We ask the Minister to provide Teagasc with the necessary resources to recruit people who are qualified in the equestrian sciences. I use the word "sciences" here very broadly since I am talking about promotion, marketing, breeding, husbandry and anything else that is relevant to the real developmental role of the industry.

The Minister has promised to introduce new legislation that will give wider use in the ever-developing, technical areas of artificial insemination, embryo transfers and equine genetic engineering. These practices, properly developed and used, will keep alive rare and highly valuable blood lines that could become extinct. There would be valuable semen banks within easy reach of most horse breeders and potential breeders. It would also address the problem of low fertility in many of our breeding draught mares. I talked about bringing valuable semen banks within reach of breeders. I do not mean within reach distance-wise, I mean within financial reach of small breeders or people starting to work in the industry.

I am always fascinated by the astronomical service fees charged for thoroughbred stallions, figures out of the reach of the general run of breeders. The introduction of an AI service, using the best thoroughbreds, must reduce these charges. I urge the Minister to press ahead for these changes. If he has to take on the powerful vested interests in the industry, who do not want to see these developments come onstream, then let him take them on. The national interest demands the most widespread development of a well bred horse industry. That can only take place with full utilisation of modern techniques and technology like AI, embryo transfer and the use of the latest techniques in genetic improvement.

Finally, may we wish the Minister luck in this initiative. This legislation must pass. Bord na gCapall lost its direction. Towards its end it whiled away its time more like a comic opera farce than a State-sponsored body with a serious duty to an important industry and to the public. The amazing thing was that the parent Department — the Department of Agriculture and Food — did not intervene much earlier to arrest its degeneration into comedy, but not a comedy to generate laughter because the shenanigans spoken about, particularly by Deputy Doyle in her contribution in the other House was no laughing matter.

We acknowledge the Minister's initiatives in this area. They are all along the right lines. Our criticism of some of them might be that they may not go far enough in terms of disadvantaged areas. Generally speaking, the Minister may be surprised to hear me say this, given some of the criticisms I have made of him and his Department in the past. What he is doing is very much along the right lines and we wish him luck.

The horse is very much part of the image of Ireland. We have a duty to ensure that this industry is developed. It has tremendous potential. It is an industry that has become run-down over several generations in this country. The horse has been identified with the Irish rural scene but nevertheless the Irish draught horse itself is a unique Irish animal. It had almost become extinct. The measures the Minister is taking and, indeed, the measure taken here today of abolishing an organisation that should have done more than it actually did — although it did have its success, too — are all steps in the right direction. My party have no difficulty about it. We support it.

The Bill we are now discussing repeals the Horse Industry Bill, 1970 and winds up the affairs of Bord na gCapall. Indeed, it is rather sad to see the demise of Bord na gCapall. It was set up to promote and develop the non-throughbred horse industry and to advise the Minister on matters relating to the breeding, sale and export of horses. This was a very wide brief for the new board. One would imagine given the neglected state of the industry at that time that the board had an excellent opportunity of putting the half-bred horse industry on a firm ground and promoting the Irish horse on the world market. However, for various reasons that did not happen.

The hopes of the people who set up Bord na gCapall have not been realised. That, of course, is not to say that the board did not have many successes. They certainly did. Over the years there were many people involved with the board who were passionately committed to the advancement of the non-thoroughbred horse industry. They can be thanked especially for setting up a farrier apprenticeship scheme under which over 70 young people became qualified farriers. Indeed, I had occasion a couple of times to present certificates to those people. This, of course, was very timely because the number of farriers was declining.

The Minister has pointed out that the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders' Association and other interests have organised a new apprenticeship scheme which can be developed to meet the needs both of the thoroughbred and non-thoroughbred horse industry. Over the years, too, a number of people under the board's guidance were prepared for and passed the equestrian sciences examination. Of course the board's most important and significant achievement was the foundation of the Irish Horse Register in 1974. This ensured maintaining the highest standards because stallions had to be approved for breeding. During the lifetime of the board I noticed that the number of sports horses increased by 50 per cent from 21,000 to 34,000 and the value of exports reached £3 million. Indeed it is heartening to note also that the value of these exports has continued to rise to £4 million in 1988, and long may this trend continue.

The national programme for development announced by the Minister last November has very admirable objectives. I am sure that with the goodwill on all sides those objectives can be achieved, that breeders can maximise the return and the equestrian and leisure side of the industry can be developed. The grant of £400 to be paid to the breeder of each pure Irish draught foal registered in the Irish Horse Register is an earnest of the Government's commitment to the industry and will, of course, be an incentive to farmers to become involved and enhance their farm incomes.

The payment of headage grants for eligible registered mares in all disadvantaged areas in which cattle headage payments are paid is also a very important development. The grants of £70 per head for the first eight mares and £66 for the next 22 I consider to be very generous. It will, of course, again enhance agricultural incomes in those disadvantaged areas.

I would like to ask the Minister in connection with that if the headage payments for non-thoroughbred mares are payable in the less severely handicapped areas as well as the severely handicapped areas. I would like to know also if the means test applies to those grants as in the case of cattle headage grants because, if it does, I feel it is going to eliminate quite a number of breeders who might be interested but who might be employed in some part-time or full-time work and who would be anxious to keep a mare or two. They might very well be precluded from qualifying for those grants if that means test applies to them as well as to people who get cattle headage grants.

The grant aid for farmers investing in facilities for leisure activities such as pony-trekking and horse riding is very welcome. Because of our love for the horse there is great potential in this area and it will also boost the tourism potential in some areas. I wish the Minister well in the setting up of an advisory committee to advise on policy planning and co-ordination of the different elements in the national programme. I hope the people selected will be chosen because of their interest in and commitment to the horse industry and for no other reason. We have learned a lesson from the board we are now dissolving where, unfortunately, self-advancement by some members of the board has been a contributory factor in the decision to wind up the board's affairs.

We have a product we can sell to the world. The Irish horse is renowned worldwide and whether it be wealthy sheikhs in the Far East or millionaires from Texas they have sought out and purchased Irish horses. The responsibility for this great national asset now lies with the Department of Agriculture and Food. I hope that priority will be given to the establishment of performance centres and testing centres. It is also important that marketing centres be set up and that essential guarantees be given to the breeder, the owner and the potential purchaser.

Overall, I think there is a great future for the non-thoroughbred horse industry. We must be cautious at all times to ensure that the high standards expected of Irish horses are maintained. If there are problems in the industry they should be identified. There is no better time to do that than now when we are making a new beginning. Corrective action should be taken to protect and foster this great national asset. I wish the Minister every success in what he proposes doing. As I said, I hope we have learned from the mistakes made in the past and that we can continue to promote the Irish horse industry that has made its name on the world stage for so many years.

I am glad to have the opportunity to debate the important non-thoroughbred sector of the Irish horse industry. I know we all share in an enormous sense of pride when Irish participants in international events in this area achieve success. However, we seem to have far fewer opportunities to celebrate now than we did years ago. For example, who could forget how we were all glued to our television sets about 20 years ago looking at Dundrum's sparkling performances? With all the different channels we have now we seem to have no horses to look at. There is no doubt we are looking at an industry that is in decline.

Ireland and the Irish people have a long history at the forefront of developments in the international bloodstock industry. When Bord na gCapall was launched in 1970 it was welcomed nationally. Its establishment was considered enlightened thinking. Worldwide it was regarded enviously. Unfortunately, the momentum with which it started off was not maintained and, like a moderate horse, it trained off fairly quickly. There is no point in dwelling now on the failings of the past. There were some good moments also. In the meantime, other countries have not stood still; Holland, Belgium and Denmark, for example, which only began breeding during the sixties using modern methods are now among the most respected producers of performance horses in Europe. Only last week in Florida, the World Cup for show jumping was won by a Belgian-bred horse and a Dutch-sired animal was runner-up. A major factor in the success of these countries relates to their investment in modern breeding programmes and techniques in the fields of genetics and reproduction. So far in this country, we have failed to follow suit. Now, however, we have a new opportunity.

The Irish horse is famous worldwide but this heritage is not something which we have a divine right to. We have to work hard at keeping it; there are others who are trying very hard to take it away from us. Once it has gone it will be very difficult to recover. At present we only have the tradition; to maintain it is our responsibility. It is well recognised that the Irish people and horses work well together. All over the world Irish people, trained in Ireland, are running horse farms and training centres. These people had to go abroad for work. They go to Australia, the United States and mainland Europe simply because they are the investment areas. If the investment was here that is where the work would be. We cannot reap where we do not sow.

TheIrish Farmers Journal of 15 April carried two articles of equine note; one highlighted that great Irishman, Thady Ryan, who has emigrated to New Zealand and is crossing Irish draught horses with the New Zealand thoroughbred, demonstrating, if it were necessary, just how popular is the Irish horse. It is not necessary to have this done in Ireland. In other words, it can be done in any part of the world where the environment is right and where Irish people are located. We should try to keep as many of them as possible at home. We do not have a divine right to this industry. If our people go abroad they seem to do very well doing the same thing, but abroad, unfortunately.

The second article related to another uniquely Irish breed, the Connemara pony, telling of a western Canadian newspaper with a front cover picture of a Connemara pony, demonstrating the worldwide interest in this native breed and illustrating horse breeding as a noble form of agriculture which blends so wonderfully well with the Irish way of life, with no quotas and limited only by our own ability to produce. The Minister should ask Teagasc to play a leading role here in making farmers aware of the possibilities that exist.

The only way forward is a modern scientific approach. The Minister has announced the setting up of an advisory committee. This is a most welcome move. We are fortunate that there are people with proven ability in the country who could serve on such a committee. However, it is important that this committee be an effective one, limited to as few people as possible and to people with the right experience. This committee should include the Irish National Stud which has proven ability and expertise in the handling and management of stallions and which is not involved in any sectional interest in the half bred industry which was a problem the last time. The National Stud has all the facilities and infrastructure necessary. This is a formula which has worked very successfully in France.

The Minister should be entrusted with the selecting of the committee which I suggest be structured as follows: three members of the National Stud Board, who are his nominees in any event; three members the industry itself would elect and who would be subject to Ministerial approval; and three members the Minister himself would appoint. The National Stud would then be very involved in the selection and purchasing of stallions and monitoring the stallion programme. These stallions could be based at the stud. They could be farmed out to different areas of the country each year for the breeding season and brought back to the National Stud at the end of each season as this is not a busy time at the stud. In fact, finding work on a stallion stud in the off-season can be a big problem. The funding, advising and locating of the stallion programme and the administration and policing of the register could be achieved without disrupting the thoroughbred enterprise at the stud by the relocation of the necessary personnel. It is essential to get this absolutely right. The stallions are half of the herd. If the semen bank is top class much of the rest will follow.

Not only would this be an important benefit to the half bred industry but a more vibrant National Stud would create an important asset to the agri-tourism sector which should not be underestimated. There is also an obligation from the point of view of people in the thoroughbred industry to encourage the half bred industry. Many of the future players and investors in racing start off at the shows or in the half bred industry. The two should mix very well.

It would also create a vehicle through which people who wish to donate horses to the National Stud could do so. There are some people who do very well with certain types of horses in Ireland who may like to give something to the country. This happens in France and should easily happen in Ireland also. Properly managed, this could very quickly become a world centre of top-class semen. Imagine the beneficial effect if Michael Osborne had an eye on the half bred industry during his term at the National Stud. It would have been the difference between success and failure in my opinion. Registration is an essential part; without it the stock is worthless. The "what do you want him to be by" pedigree is bad for the national image, not to mention the horse industry.

The integrity of the register must be kept above suspicion. The Minister, to his credit, very obviously recognises this and has moved the computerised registration to his own Department. However, if we are to create a centre for the industry I suggest that registration be based at the National Stud where the employees, who are already in the employment of the Department of Agriculture and Food, are specialised horse people. In other words, they understand the game. You would get a better result by having the horse people deal with horse people. The Department would be working in the right environment to get the job done.

In order to eliminate the abuses I suggest that every horse issued with a passport should be parentage-tested and that no horse be allowed to leave the country unless it is in possession of a passport. The Irish Equine Centre founded by voluntary subscription by the thoroughbred industry is well qualified to handle this testing. This is an area which could be grant-aided, thus dispelling any fear that may be caused by the use of AI. Foals whose parentage is proven could be tattooed with a registration number as in the United States or branded as is done in Australia.

In the thoroughbred industry the use of artificial insemination is rightly prohibited by the International Stud Book Authority. However, there are no such controls in the half bred industry. Artificial insemination is very successfuly used in equivalent breeds in other countries. In the standard bred in the United States it is the accepted method of running the industry and attains a fertility rate which is acceptable alongside the natural method. Thady Ryan, for example, in New Zealand is quoting a fertility rate of 90 per cent. It is hard to believe that the industry can survive on a fertility rate of between 50 per cent and 60 per cent. There is no reason it should not be 80 or 90 per cent. It would make a huge difference.

I suggest, therefore, that the use of artificial insemination is essential. If this is co-ordinated from and managed by the National Stud it would be more professional. The most obvious way to distribute the semen would be through the existing AI network. The Irish Army Equitation School, founded in 1926, was an instant success. Reopened after the war in 1945, it has become, through the efforts of its officers and men, much more than a mere ambassador for the country it represents. In a fledgling nation with no large navy to fly the flag in distant harbours of the world these men have done much more; they have shown what is best in Ireland, demonstrating that Ireland can breed and prepare horses for world-class competition. One can only speculate as to how much trade they have brought to our shores as a result.

In a thriving industry this school has an important role to play. Progeny testing is the equivalent of the race course test for thoroughbreds. Let the progeny of the selected sires and mares be sent to the Equitation School to be tested and culled where necessary. It is important not to lose sight of the added value of each horse in training at this point. The school can help to show the way on how best to achieve this. I agree there are some other locations in Ireland that do a very good job but the Equitation School could be a blueprint as to how things could be done.

There are world-class men in this country with great exprience in this industry; to name but a few — Eddie Macken, Paul Darragh and Noel C. Duggan. They could be involved. I got some information and help from people such as Dermot Forde and others.

What I really detected was the knowledge and enthusiasm that exists regarding this industry if we can involve the right people. This is very important. This programme could very well be linked to a management school or training programme for young people interested in developing skills by using existing facilities to a greater advantage. This would not cost the earth and it could become a more effectively organised, high quality operation. Again, this is like the duplication of the National Stud without interfering with the thoroughbred industry.

Many of us regret the passing of the Presidential Mounted Escort, founded in 1931, expanded in 1945 and disbanded in 1948. It carried out escort duties for the President on State occasions, employing personnel for the purpose from the Equitation School. I suggest we look at the possibility of re-establishing it under the auspices of the Equitation School. It could be used on State occasions and for State pageants. This would provide a spectacle which could give the industry world-wide attention and, in addition, it would be a boost to the industry at home. It would present an ideal opportunity for honouring and entertaining visiting Heads of State and would be more Irish than showing barefoot children in a make-believe Victorian school. In contrast, if one could imagine Mrs. Haughey and Mrs. Gorbachev going around Bunratty in something like we see on the television, the Budweiser shires, and the publicity that would have got around the world as opposed to the barefoot children.

I will conclude by wishing the new programme for the industry well. The Irish have always had a great love for the horse. It can justly be called a great natural resource, cherished by all the people in both rural and urban areas. I support and encourage the measures announced by the Minister to develop the non-thoroughbred horse industry. I would also like to pay tribute to the Minister for Agriculture and Food for his great commitment to and knowledge of all parts of this industry. I recognise, as an example, the sponsorship by Bord Bainne of the Horse Show. The industry appreciate this and all they have done for it since they have come into office. Despite everything, we still have just about all it takes for a successful non-thoroughbred industry. What it needs is to have everything and everyone pull together. I wish the Minister well in getting an effective advisory committee.

I welcome this legislation for the dissolution of Bord na gCapall. We have gone through what I regard as a period of vagueness and indecision over a number of years. Breeders have had some difficulty getting a replacement organisation for dealing with registration, inspection, stallion returns and foal marking, etc. We are fortunate to have a number of breeders who keep non-thoroughbred stock, Irish draught mares for breeding and good show jumpers. They do this for the love of the animal, they are steeped in tradition and are expert judges in that field. I want this type of breeder protected and given every help to ensure that they stay in the job of breeding.

There is also a large number of stallion owners who have given a lifetime to the industry, two and three generations of them. They also must be protected. Since the number of mares had dropped considerably, it is not a very remunerative business to be in, but their expertise is invaluable.

Senator Magnier spoke about the introduction of an AI system which could be operated through the AI stations. If that had to be introduced every stallion owner I know throughout the country would go by the board immediately and with them would go the expertise they have inherited from their fathers and forefathers. That expertise cannot be taken from a shelf or read from a book; it is something one has or has not. One is brought up with it from childhood and I want it cherished and preserved.

In relation to fertility, mating of mares is a very sensitive operation, indeed, the preparation of a brood mare is a very sensitive operation not alone at the time of mating but in the previous year. There are times when conception can be easily achieved, and there are times when it is impossible to obtain the type of conception that one would require to ensure that the small farmers of Ireland and the people who have kept the Irish draught mares alive, will be kept in business in the future. The fertility rate at the moment is in the region of 50 to 55 but if an artificial insemination system is introduced — and we do not like anything that is artificial — I think the fertility rate will drop considerably. The expertise, which is not easy to find, of bringing a mare to a stallion at the proper time and ensuring that repeats are checked, is a technique about which I know a little. It is not easy to ensure that a mare has a foal every year; one is lucky if she has a foal every second year. I cannot see artificial mating bringing about what might be regarded as increased production and increased fertility. However, we have to protect the stallion owners who have a long tradition. If any type of embryo or artificial insemination is introduced, it will have to be monitored and curtailed. I do not disagree with the setting up of a semen bank of high-performance tested animals provided it is utilised in the right way, but we must consider the overall position of the people who have been in the trade and industry for many, many years.

The Department of Agriculture and Food were responsible for running the horse industry for years and did a very good job in a conservative way. The numbers were greater in those days and the standard was very high. Much weeding out was done on nomination day in every town in the country. There was a very high class team of horse vets and judges and only the best got through in the selection by those men, and hence a good type of animal was chosen for nomination breeding. I understand there are rumours — I believe they are more than just rumours — that the Licensing Act of 1944 may be abolished in the not too distant future. I would recommend that it be updated. Stallions presented for inspection and failing the inspection are allowed, under this Licensing Act, to go back to the farms without any monitoring as to whether they are castrated.

In the olden days when one presented an animal to be selected as a stallion and it was not chosen, the local sergeant would be notified by the Department and a visit would ensue to ensure that that stallion was castrated at an early date. It is safe to do this type of work when they are outdoors in April or September but there are times of the year when it is not safe. If the Licensing Act, 1944, is abolished, a breeder who produces an animal, which in his view might make a good stallion, but who does not pass the selection team test will continue to breed animals without any control and you are back to the days of the scrub bull that we tried to get rid of. Abolition of the Licensing Act will encourage that type of breeding.

Blood typing has not taken place over the last two years. My information is that no stallion has been blood typed in the last two years. If that is the case, then the type of animals I have referred to which may have good conformation, good bone and good height but which did not meet the requirements of the examination team, will be able to serve animals and their progeny will have to be recorded at a later date. If there is not continuous blood typing, many animals will come on stream that will have no identification at all.

There was such a thing as an appendix register. Where the breeding of the female animal was not known in the Irish draught register, they stitched on an appendix register. That appendix register was introduced by Bord na gCapall with the Irish Draught Society to give the Anglo-Irish Draught Society and the Northern Ireland breeders an opportunity to set up an Irish draught breed in Great Britain. That society in now in operation in Great Britain and is known as the Anglo-Irish Draught Society. The mare if registered on the appendix register, does not have to have any records. For that reason, when a colt is born it cannot be submitted for examination for a stallion because its breeding is unknown. It was on that basis that the Anglo-Irish Draught Society was set up. They came to this country — the capitalists in Britain — and bought most of our very good Irish stallions and good Irish brood mares and have set up a society on their own. It has not got the true Irish draught breeding that we have in this country. I would say to the Department that we must maintain that as we did in the olden days. In 1918-22 there was a breakdown in the Irish horse register and it is not true to say that Bord na gCapall was the foundation of the Irish horse register. Of course not. The Irish horse register was with the Department from the beginning of the century.

There were dangers involved in the trouble times. From 1918 up to the truce in 1922, the register was not kept. In 1925, there was a review of the Irish draught breed because of the inadequacy of the register. The Irish draught breed at that time needed something to be done about it. At that time there was a full review of the Irish draught mare. In 1934 there was another review because the bone in the Irish draught mare went less than nine inches, down to eight and a half to eight inches, which was not in keeping with the tradition of the Irish draught animal. In 1945, there was another review of the standards of the Irish draught. It is not true to say that the Department in the olden days did nothing to maintain the Irish draught breed as we know it. A great deal of credit must be given to the Department for the way they handled the Irish draught breed, which is the foundation of all the equestrian eventers and show jumpers in this country.

Like Senator Magnier, I shall not criticise Bord na gCapall. They had their ups and downs and they had their good times and bad times, maybe through no fault of their own. It is important that we look at the position at the moment. There is a need for a good job to be done by way of injection of capital and to help to stimulate and revive the breed.

The setting up of an advisory board to look after the industry is of utmost importance. I would appeal to the Minister to get the best possible people on the board. I would not go as far as Senator Magnier's suggestion that they should be chosen from the National Stud or other areas. The members must be individually selected from the trade and from the industry, from people who know the job. There is nobody fit for the army but the soldier. A Friesian breeder, a county manager, mart manager or indeed a coop manager should not be selected to look after the Irish horse industry. It is imperative that we get the people with the necessary expertise. I would welcome the best possible people on the board. There is plenty of talent available. There are persons who have been tried and tested and who know what is required to restore confidence in the industry.

I know the Minister is anxious to get this Bill through the House and I will not in any way hold him up. There is a lot more I could say on the horse industry but I do not think that is necessary. This is a Bill to abolish Bord na gCapall and that is about the size of it. I thought I would avail of the opportunity to say something relevant to the trade. The Irish horse draught is the base and bedrock of all the non-throughbred horse industry and I would appeal to the Minister to ensure that it is protected.

I hope it is not a case of having a look at the waterjump, trying to jump it and landing in the middle of it; but I felt that I could not let the opportunity pass without saying a few words, particularly after listening to the interesting contributions from Senator O'Toole and Senator Magnier.

I hope that what Senator Magnier said is taken very much to heart, that we are facing up to an industry which he described as one in decline. If that registers with people at large, as it has obviously registered within the Minister's Department because of the trouble he has taken to try to plan the way ahead or to point the road ahead, then one is starting from rock bottom and is trying to look at all sorts of new possibilities and new opportunities. Perhaps it is too much to say "rock bottom" because we have also heard of the very good work that has been done in the past.

I would just like to say briefly that I hope that in this discussion about the thoroughbred industry and the refinement of genetic strains, we do not lose sight — and, in fact, we have not altogether, but there could be a danger — of the great potential of the Irish horse industry to meet the needs of a changing society.

In the area of ourdoor activities for young people, there are many schemes to test their endeavour, courage, fitness and endurance but they are confined to the sea, to hill walking, climbing, and trekking on their feet. There are opportunities to trek on ponies but in the adventure programmes which are increasingly coming into play for youth — in my own part of the country the Duke of Edinburgh's award comes to mind — there is, as far as I am aware, no emphasis on the use of the horse or the understanding between man and women and horse as part of the young person's development.

There are many pony clubs. These clubs have developed considerably in the North of Ireland in recent years. Through that form of activity one can gain experience of the equine world and the different perspectives one gets in relation to the physical environment through exercise on the horse and through the relationship with the horse.

Another point I would like to raise is as a word of warning; when one is emphasising so strongly the need to have the best possible strains in the thoroughbred world, we must not lose sight of randomisation. While genetic engineering is an important aspect of the new scientific world we are embarking upon, at the same time we can lose a lot of strength and vigour whether we are talking about plant life, human life or animal life, if we forget the value of randomisation in the evolution of the species, the health of the species and its inter-relationship with its environment. Do not forget that if you find an old nag that does not look too well and does not meet all the demands of the judge, it may be carrying a lot of recessive genes which have not been expressed but which will be lost forever to the pool of genetic material if we eliminate those that do not meet what we have qualified in our terms at our time in the business as the best. That is one note of caution.

I would like to emphasise what has already been said here, that the composition of the advisory committee seems to be all important. It goes without saying that one must have the experience of those who work in the National Stud on that advisory committee. Because of the type of industry it is and its importance and credibility, we must have people of unquestionable integrity. That goes without saying. It is necessary to consider the extent of activity that should be increasingly involved if the horse industry in Ireland is to flourish, develop and become a multi-faceted concept. That will inevitably involve bringing in, if not on the advisory committee, people coopted for the purposes of advising the committee on a whole range of areas which have to do with the horse.

I am certain that tourism is important and those who are interested in the development of outdoor pursuits are just as important as people who have expertise in showjumping, breeding and so on. How you can use this wider range of interests in the world of the horse and what the horse can represent for society and, at the same time, have an effective advisory committee is something the Minister's Department must address itself to. One does not ever want to have too big an advisory committee but the committee should be open to receive advice from a range of people who have something to offer to this industry, which has such great potential for the country. The ecologists have something to say about the randomisation of genetics. The geneticist has a role to play, as are the people who are involved directly in the horse industry.

It is important to remember that we have 32 counties in this island and not to lose sight of the fact that there is an interest in the horse north of the Border. I have been informed during the course of the afternoon that if the situation is chaotic here, it is even more chaotic north of the Border. I would appeal to the Minister to consider the possibility of searching in the North for talent which might be incorporated in this advisory board so that the industry may be expanded beyond the limitations of the Twenty-six Counties.

Debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended at 6.15 p.m. and resumed at 6.40 p.m.