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Seanad Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 1 Dec 1998

Vol. 157 No. 9

State Property Bill, 1998: Second and Subsequent Stages.

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

This Bill proposes to amend the State Property Act, 1954, so as to remove reference to the National Stud Farm from the First Schedule to the Act.

This amendment is of a technical nature and is designed to address current circumstances which were unforeseen when the National Stud Act, 1945, was enacted by the Oireachtas. That statute vested the National Stud Farm in the Minister for Agriculture and Food and, while it did not prohibit the sale of any part of the National Stud Farm, it did not contain any provisions providing for the sale of such land.

Section 10 of the State Property Act, 1954, provides a general power to a Minister of State, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, to sell, exchange, make a grant gratuitously or lease any State land for the time being vested in that Minister. However, the first subsection of section 10 of the Act provides that this power shall not be exercisable in respect of the State land mentioned in the First Schedule to the Act. Among the properties listed in the First Schedule is the National Stud Farm.

The issue of the power to sell part of the National Stud Farm has been brought to a head by the ongoing work on a motorway to bypass Kildare town, which many southern Senators will appreciate. The motorway will go through the lands of the National Stud Farm. The part of the National Stud Farm required for the motorway, amounting to 17 hectares, has been acquired by Kildare County Council by way of a compulsory purchase order. A further 22 hectares of the National Stud Farm will be severed by the motorway from the main stud farm and will no longer be useful for the purposes of the National Stud.

The State Property Act, 1954, also includes general provisions regarding the leasing of State property; thus when it is amended it will confer on the Minister for Agriculture and Food the power to lease the National Stud Farm or any part of it. More restrictive provisions regarding leasing are contained in section 7 of the National Stud Act, 1945. Since the Minister for Agriculture and Food will have a general power to sell or lease under section 10 of the State Property Act, I consider that the retention of section 7 of the National Stud Act, 1945, would be inappropriate and the Bill includes a provision repealing it.

Anyone who travels to the south through Kildare and Monasterevan will be well aware of the need for the Kildare town bypass. My main concern regarding it was to ensure as little disruption to the National Stud as possible. It would have been ideal if the bypass could have also bypassed the National Stud but I have been assured by Kildare County Council that there was no other feasible route. In the circumstances I am pleased with the measures which are being taken to ensure that the environment in which the National Stud operates will be maintained.

It is appropriate in the context of the amending legislation to reflect on the origin, history and character of the National Stud. During the past 100 years, since its inception as a stud, Tully has been the nursery of so many world famous racehorses that its name is almost a household word, synonymous with all that is best in the thoroughbred industry. Shortly before the start of this century a Colonel William Hall-Walker acquired possession of Tully for the purpose of training his horses there. However, it was soon realised that its resources were more suited to the breeding and rearing of thoroughbreds. Some time during 1915 the colonel decided that, in view of the difficulties caused by World War I and increasing age, he would give up his interest in the stud. He decided to offer the bloodstock at Tully as a gift to the nation to form a National Stud. A condition of this gift of bloodstock to the nation was that the Government should purchase his interest in the Tully estate at valuation. This interest consisted of the freehold to about 195 acres and a judicial tenancy in respect of the remaining 674 acres.

In 1922 the Irish Government pressed its claim on the British Government for possession of Tully. Negotiations continued between representatives of the two Governments for over 21 years, until the British Government finally agreed to hand over its interest in the National Stud Farm. In January 1944, the Irish Government decided to establish a National Stud at Tully and approved the preparation of legislation to form a company to take possession of Tully for the purpose of operating a National Stud. The National Stud Act was passed by the Oireachtas in August 1945, and thus the Irish National Stud Company Limited was formed.

Returning to the present, it would be remiss of me not to mention the valuable work done by another occupant of the National Stud Farm, namely, the Racing Apprenticeship Centre of Education. Since its inception 25 years ago RACE has trained in the region of 450 students who have gone on to work with top Irish trainers and breeders. Indeed, many have gone on to earn distinction in racing in England, France, USA, Germany, India and Japan. Some have been highly successful in their chosen careers and a significant number of RACE graduates have gone on to the top of their profession. Among these are Shane Kelly, Johnny Murtagh, Conor O'Dwyer, David Casey, Jimmy Quinn and Robert Winston to name but a few. Recently, as the Leas-Chathaoirleach is aware, Robert Winston had two winners in Wincanton and I am delighted to see this young man from Finglas coming from the Dublin light horse brigade into this area. Even where trainees do not make it as jockeys the majority of them continue to work in the industry in a variety of responsible roles.

The debate on this Bill presents the House with the opportunity of reviewing the state of the horseracing industry, particularly from the point of view of the breeder. It will be realised from the account I have given that there is a great tradition at Tully which must be maintained and perpetuated. I and my colleagues in Government are committed to the future development of the horse racing industry and in particular to the continued existence of the National Stud. This support manifests itself in a concrete fashion through the direct funding to the Irish Horseracing Authority, the operation of the National Stud by the State on behalf of the industry and the taxation system. Next year we will contribute almost £15 million to the Irish Horseracing Authority, a considerable increase over the current figure. Since 1994 much capital has been injected into the National Stud Company to restore it to profitability and to ensure it continues to provide top quality stallions for the use of Irish breeders.

It is universally accepted that the structure of thoroughbred breeding in Ireland is unique to this country. On the one hand, there is a relatively small number of specialised stud farms with large numbers of mares and stallions and, on the other, there is a substantial number of farmer breeders. Most of them have one or two mares producing foals for flat or national hunt racing. While the last few years have been satisfactory for these breeders they had come through a difficult period with very little financial reward from the marketplace. Their involvement, however, is one of the strengths and stabilisers of the thoroughbred breeding sector. They combine a passionate interest in horse breeding with a more traditional farm enterprise, such as cattle or tillage.

These breeders must be responsive to the message coming from the marketplace in recent years. With no support or safety net system in place it is vital to concentrate scarce resources on the production of quality stock which will bring long-term benefits. Overall production is tending to increase and returns for 1997 show that thoroughbred foal registrations increased by 574 on 1996 and stood at 7,130. In view of our reliance on exports, the tax treatment of stallion fee income has been one of the major factors in ensuring that Irish breeders have access to world class stallions. The Revenue authorities have agreed on principles to be applied in respect of valuation of registered thoroughbred brood mares. This matter had been a worry for many breeders and I am pleased that it has been resolved. Breeders have been patient, often waiting year after year for a decent price for a yearling or foal.

The last two years, however, were a time of cheer for them with significant increases in yearling prices. Yearlings at Goff's commanded an average price of just over £33,000 last year as opposed to almost £21,000 in 1996. Average yearling prices at Tattersalls remained at the 1996 average of almost £7,600.

To the Irish, horse racing is not simply a sport, it is a way of life and it is not surprising that as such the horse features large in our history, place names and literature. Its economic importance is significant and has been recognised in the support it obtains from Government.

However, in recent years horse racing suffered badly from under-investment and competition from other leisure sports. Nowadays people are not prepared to put up with second class facilities and services. The sport of horse racing has a significant job on hand to attract newcomers, male and female, young and old, from all walks of life to this sport. For my own part I have always loved horse racing It is a very exciting sport and I am satisfied that the potential is there for significant growth provided the facilities are upgraded and the sport is marketed properly. I have been most impressed with the work of the Irish Horseracing Authority since it was established in 1994. In 1996 it produced its strategic plan for the development of the Irish thoroughbred racing industry up to the year 2001. The plan deals comprehensively with all aspects of the industry, from how the industry is administered to how the difficulties in areas like racecourse development, betting, prize money and marketing should be tackled. It is an ambitious plan which has already got a good kickstart with the opening of the new racecourse at Mallow in County Cork, the new stands in Clonmel and the investment planned for Limerick Junction racecourse.

There are other places outside the Minister of State's constituency.

I appreciate that. Mallow is not in my constituency. Probably the most important element of the plan was the establishment of the capital development fund. It will see the investment of a total of up to £42 million in Irish racecourses over a relatively short period. This initiative represents a key turning point for the sector and I am confident it will ensure its ability to expand and develop in a planned manner.

The National Stud has done much for the national breeding industry in training young people in all the proper requirements of getting mares in foal and learning when those mares will foal. Young graduates of the National Stud have gone all over the world. A large number of the students there are from foreign countries.

This morning I was in Fettercairn dealing with what one might call the lesser sector of the horse industry, though one that is vital to Dublin city's culture and heritage. It was said there that the Germans have often admitted that they have the horses and the people, but they do not have the love and natural feeling for the horse that Irish people have. The National Stud, which has been developed by the Government, embodies all of that. I am proud, indeed, any time I pass there, to read the words "Groighe Náisiúnta na hÉireann" over it.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I am particularly pleased that he is present because I know for a long time of his commitment to and interest in the horse industry and indeed his family's involvement in it. This is a highly technical Bill and Fine Gael has no problem with it. We have no complaints about the proposal and I have not heard anyone saying that it should not go through.

I have visited the National Stud on a number of occasions and have found it to be a fascinating and interesting place. For an enterprise so dependent on space, it is unfortunate that the stud is losing approximately 100 acres between the severed portion and the land for dual carriageway. We have no problem with the proposed measures. The last thing one would do when dealing with any type of livestock, particularly, bloodstock, would be to haul them under a dual carriageway.

The severed land is now State property and I assume it will fetch a fair price. Is it a sensible proposition to commit the moneys realised from the sale to the stud? I am sure there are many uses to which the stud could put the money, given its varied range of activities. On the occasion I visited the stud, space was at an absolute premium. When mares from outside the country are brought to be covered by stallions at the stud, they have to stay for several weeks. I have not spoken to the management there but it would be very serious if, in future, it was unable to purchase land adjacent to the stud that came up for sale. There is no reason the proceeds of the sale should not be diverted back into the stud.

The stud is run by an enlightened and intelligent group of people who know their industry backwards. I fully subscribe to the Minister of State's view that it is a valuable national asset, particularly as a tourist attraction. On any day that one visits the stud, there is a huge shortage of parking facilities as people from all over the world and, indeed, Ireland arrive. In recent times more younger people and students have visited to see what is on offer. There are also attractions, such as the Japanese Gardens, for people who do not have an interest in horses.

I am not au fait with the manner in which the legislation will operate once it is passed in this House but I hope it will clearly state that if the severed land is sold, the funds realised from the sale will be reinvested in the stud and its various activities so that the plans for the stud can be implemented. I am sure all Members agree. However, I am not sure whether the severed land is currently in use. If not, will it be in use until a decision is made? One should not allow 50 acres of good land to lie idle and I am sure the Minister of State agrees.

However, I am aware of the importance of the bypass. As one who travels that road regularly, I know that a bypass is as essential around Kildare town as it is around many other towns on the Dublin-Cork road. One could be forgiven for thinking that Ireland is a world leader in the thoroughbred and horse racing industry. Stallions and mares from all over the world were in the stud when I visited it last year. A large number of people are employed in the stud which is an industry in its own right. I am not involved in the horse racing industry to any great extent, but there is no better sport. It might not be as good or as exciting as Tipperary playing and beating Cork or Limerick in a Munster final, as the Minister of State knows and has enjoyed——

Or lending a player to Kildare.

That could happen on another day.

He was very welcome.

Mr. Hayes

Many people enjoy the sport of racing and the standard we have become used to in Ireland. We need only look at the cards at the various racecourses. Last Sunday at Fairyhouse the card produced some of the finest racing we have ever seen.

It has come to my notice that many people, particularly in rural constituencies, cannot travel to such racecourses as Fairyhouse or Leopards-town, particularly on a Sunday. Betting offices are not open on Sunday. This is an important point.

They are open.

My understanding is that they are not. I know one in South Tipperary because the proprietor asked me in recent weeks if he could have his license extended to a Sunday. I doubt if the Minister of State is correct in that. Ordinary punters like to have a flutter but are unable to attend race meetings on a Sunday. We should consider allowing betting offices to be open on Sunday.

The Minster of State touched on race tracks. While I realise there is huge investment in various tracks throughout the country, I must refer to my own county. The Minister of State opened a stand and extra facilities in Clonmel; they are very welcome. However, closer to my home in west Tipperary there is great need for major investment in the old Limerick Junction which is now Tipperary racecourse. There is widespread concern in that community for one of the oldest racecourses in the country. Some of the best racing in the world took place in the old Limerick Junction. There is need for funding there.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

While I support the Senator's comments, he is straying from the issue of Kildare.

I wanted to make the point while the Minister of State was present. I know he is genuinely interested. Tomorrow a group from Tipperary will travel to Dublin to discuss the Tipperary racecourse. I am sorry for straying from the issue but I beg the Minister of State to do something about the old Limerick Junction. He is an excellent position and people are relying on him to do something about this.

I welcome the Minister to the House to introduce this necessary Bill. I compliment him on his interest in Irish horse racing. I meet him at many race meetings, especially at the races in his county of Tipperary. I welcome the opportunity to speak on this enabling legislation. This Bill seeks to expand and improve our national infrastructure. Should we persist with the development in hand? In such a development should we ensure other considerations associated with natural surroundings or places of national interest are prioritised above the most efficient and effective mechanism of putting new infrastructure in place?

The necessity for this Bill is to ensure the bypass in Kildare goes into operation. As the Minister said, anyone heading to the south or south-west must pass through Kildare and it is a bottleneck. Work is currently under way on the motorway to bypass the town and the need for it is overwhelming. The traffic plays havoc for residents and business people, and if the town is to develop the sooner the bypass is completed, the better. However, the further development of the bypass will divide the National Stud, which contributes enormously to our growing equestrian industry through its breeding, training and educational facilities. Kildare County Council has already acquired some of the land in the National Stud compound for the purpose of developing the motorway. As a result, the stud has been carved up and the area of severed land is no longer suitable for its purposes. The Minister for Agriculture and Food had no power to sell or lease the land under current legislation, hence the need for this Bill. I am sure the Minister often passes through Kildare town. It is on my way home but on Friday evenings I usually take a detour through Abbeyleix, which is much longer but quicker.

During its last 100 years, since its inception as a stud, Tully has been the nursery of so many famous race horses that it is a household name, synonymous with all that is best in thoroughbreds. Shortly before the beginning of this century, Colonel William Hall-Walker acquired possession of Tully to train his horses there. It was soon realised that its resources were more suited to the breeding, training and rearing of thoroughbreds, and it was developed as such until now; it is one of the best equipped studs in the world. The first few years of the century were spent acquiring a collection of foundation mares which were to become of almost priceless value. During the first 16 years of its existence, Tully produced the winners of English classics and other great races. It was laid out as a model stud with every convenience; many boxes of the latest design were erected, paddocks prepared and fenced, an indoor riding school built, and there were 12 completely enclosed bolt paddocks, each with its own adjoining box. These are still an unique feature of Tully.

In 1915 Colonel Hall-Walker decided that, due to the difficulties caused by the First World War and increasing age, he would give up his interest in the stud. He offered the bloodstock as a gift to the nation, which then was the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, to form a national stud. A condition of this gift was that the Government of the United Kingdom should purchase Colonel Hall-Walker's interest in the Tully estate at valuation, which consisted of a freehold of 195 acres and a judicial tenancy in respect of the remaining 674 acres, which was subject to the payment of a rent of £813.6s.8d. per annum to the landlord, Colonel Aylmer.

In January 1944, the Irish Government decided to establish a national stud at Tully and approved the preparation of legislation to form a company to which possession of Tully could be handed over in due course. The National Stud Act was passed by the Oireachtas in August 1945, and thus the Irish National Stud Company Limited was formed. That company has done good work for the Irish race horse industry.

The Minister of State also mentioned the great work of the Racing Apprenticeship Centre of Education and a number of the great jockeys who were trained there and who are famous all over the world. It is right to mention and commend the centre's great work.

The Irish Racing Authority has also done great work. I compliment the authority on its investments in the racing industry, particularly the racecourse in Mallow. I frequent this course occasionally and it is a credit to the investment made by the authority. Necessary comfort is now provided to patrons.

The Minister of State said he had the pleasure of opening a new stand in Clonmel recently. I am delighted to note the interest in Limerick Junction, a race course I frequent, and an investment in it should be made. I must not forget my native Limerick. A new race course is being built at Green Park and will open shortly. I hope the Minister of State will have the pleasure of opening it. He will be most welcome. The Bill is necessary and I am sure it will find favour with the House.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Davern, and the Bill. I recognise the need for the legislation and I support it. The genesis of the Bill and the origin of the National Stud were outlined by the Minister. Senator Kiely also referred to the role of Colonel Hall-Walker in giving his bloodstock to the country. I suspect the reason the land was excluded in the original State Property Act, 1954, and could not be sold was that it was a bequest to the nation. It would have been inappropriate for the nation to dispose of the land. However, in the current circumstances, it is entirely appropriate that this power should be vested in the Minister and the Minister for Finance. Times have moved on and the need for the Bill arises from the construction of the Kildare bypass.

Although there was a different Administration in 1915, it was remarkable that Colonel Hall-Walker gave his bloodstock to the nation. I will not repeat the figures about acreage, but the tenancy of £813 a year was a good sum at the time considering what a single bullock made, although prices were inflated significantly during the First World War.

Everybody who travels through Kildare and people living in the area are aware of the need for a bypass. I and my colleagues on Kildare County Council realised the need for a motorway. However, an aspect arising from the construction of the bypass should be brought to the Minister's attention. This relates to the huge resource of the National Stud and particularly the Japanese Gardens which attract approximately 100,000 visitors a year. When the motorway is constructed, this resource will be, to a degree, severed from the town of Kildare.

Kildare is a heritage town. It has an old cathedral and it is also the seat of St. Brigid. It is most important that a connection is made between the National Stud and the town to ensure that visitors attracted to the stud and the Japanese Gardens are also attracted to the town. This should be borne in mind. When the motorway was proposed, there was an active local campaign for the construction of two half interchanges at each end of the town rather than a single diamond interchange in the middle which would divert traffic away from the town and towards the stud. I was in favour of the two half interchanges and an amount of professional opinion supported that view. However, that is in the past.

Another aspect is disappointing. I attended the public inquiry which considered the need for the route of the bypass over several days. It is unfortunate that the bypass cuts through the National Stud; two other routes were considered but it was eventually decided that the National Stud route was the correct one. All the routes would have impinged on the stud to one degree or another. The matter was fully considered at the inquiry; at the stage I attended, the inquiry was considering the potential deleterious effects of the route on Pollardstown Fen, a natural resource of international quality. The issue was fully teased out and debated but at the end of the process, when everything had been agreed, certain people surfaced with queries which they are bringing to Brussels. I would have thought it appropriate to raise concerns and make recommendations at the inquiry. The Office of Public Works did that comprehensively and the matter was adjudicated on. I do not think the issue should be reopened at this stage and I believe attempts to do so are mischievous.

The matter of the Kildare draft development plan arises in regard to what should happen to the lands. The Army barracks in Kildare is also being disposed of. These are two important pieces of State land and some consideration must be given to their future. It would certainly be my desire that the National Stud land, which is located between the main road and the motorway and therefore of considerable value, remain in public ownership. It would be a resource for the wider community, if not to the stud itself.

The value of the National Stud was referred to. It is a huge local and national resource and acts as a flagship for the entire breeding industry which is crucially important to the economy of the area and the country. The stud has a long tradition of breeding and excellence which I hope will continue into the future. I was pleased to read Minister Walsh's statement to the Dáil in which he outlined his and the Government's commitment to the stud's continued existence as certain queries were raised in the past about its future. The National Stud makes an extremely favourable impression on international visitors and is an enormously valuable resource. The management of the stud — John Clarke, his predecessor, Michael Osborne and the board under the chairmanship of David Shubotham and Chryss O'Reilly — deserves enormous credit for turning an unprofitable enterprise into a profitable one. I recall being quite critical of the stud in an earlier debate in this House. In 1997, its surplus totalled £1.25 million and it had a trading profit in the region of £660,000. The Japanese Gardens alone contribute between £150,000 to £160,000 to those profits. The stud is a very significant local industry employing more than 100 people.

I have heard it said that slow horses, fast women and fattening cattle were the road to ruin. I share two of those three things with the National Stud. I do not know if they have any experience of the third, but I have not. The stud has a tremendous record on breeding. Desert Prince, which won the 2,000 Guineas, was purchased by the stud this year and proceeded to win the Prix de Moulin and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot. I believe the horse cost the stud approximately £4 million but I am sure it is worth in the region of £8 million. This is a high risk business which requires a great deal of capital. Legislation was introduced to allow the stud access to increased capital but it is essential that any money which might arise from the disposal of lands be reinvested in the stud, either in the purchase of additional stock or assets. I think we are also very fortunate that we have had a sire of the quality of Indian Ridge. The Coffey family is to be commended for the fact that they stud the sire at the National Stud Farm. There are plenty of examples like this.

The National Stud Farm also has a duty to serve the smaller people within the industry, the vast majority of whom have only one or two mares or a stallion and a few mares. Anyone with one or two mares should have access to studs at the National Stud Farm for a reasonable price. It should serve a national function, recognise that fact and service the industry.

I would like to point out that the horse racing industry is more than an industry and a sport, it is also an entertainment. It has taken the industry a long time to realise that it is in the entertainment business and that if it is to attract people to racecourses in increasing numbers — there has been a decline in numbers in recent years — it has to provide the type of facilities and ambience which are attractive. Thankfully, the Irish Horseracing Authority has done a very good job of this with the support of the Government. The Minister of State mentioned the two racecourses in his province but we have also seen improvements at Naas, the Curragh and Punchestown, a magnificent facility. These improvements are attracting more people back to racecourses. There was £42 million available in the capital development fund and it has had a beneficial effect. I appeal to the Minister of State to do what he can to ensure that the small owner who sends his or her animal to Kilbeggan, Clonmel or Thurles——

Or Tipperary.

The prize money is an incentive for owners to take part in these race meetings.

I believe someone who owns a horse and has entered it in a race in Thurles should have access to the car park, get a programme and have access to the stand. Unfortunately, that did not happen to me when I attended a race meeting in Thurles as a horse owner. There is an onus on the industry to look after horse owners.

I remind the Senator that Thurles racecourse is in north Tipperary.

I thank the Minister of State for disclaiming any responsibility.

There is a risk attendant to what the National Stud Farm is doing; it does it very well. The Kildare people are also very proud of the Japanese Gardens. We look forward to the opening of St. Fiachra's Gardens for the millennium. The National Stud Farm is a flagship of excellence. The county is very proud of it and we hope it will receive the support and the funding it requires to do its job in the future.

I wish to endorse what has been said about the Racing Apprenticeship Centre of Education. Mr. Stan Cosgrave founded RACE and he deserves a lot of credit. I hope some of the land that is being released is made available to RACE to ensure it can carry on its activities and provide the sort of people that the Minister of State mentioned in his presentation.

I am glad the Minister of State was present at a function where a portrait of Imperial Call was on display last Saturday. The trainer was also in attendance. Horse racing is very important to west Cork but that has nothing to do with this technical amendment. I support this amendment because the construction of a road and the smooth movement of traffic depends on its acceptance. The National Stud Farm is of great importance to the nation. Can the Minister of State explain how the loss of almost 100 acres will affect the National Stud Farm? It has to impede substantially on its ongoing activities.

We all recognise the importance of that facet of life here. It has been mentioned that horse breeding is an important part Irish life and of rural life. The Minister of State already mentioned that it is part of the farming scene because it fits in well with cattle and tillage farming. Can he tell me to what extent is the National Stud Farm effective?

This is not a contentious Bill and there is no point debating it for very long. I welcome the fact that the Minister, Deputy Joe Walsh, initiated the development of the Mallow racecourse. Despite difficulties at the time he ensured that it got off to a good start, is doing very well and has been very successful.

The National Stud Farm provides ongoing training for young people and allows them to be involved in the rearing and breeding of horses. It is very important that it is allowed to develop and that it continues to do so.

It has been mentioned that horse racing is a way of life for many people. We enjoy going to race meetings and making an occasional bet but it also provides healthy outdoor entertainment. I welcome this Bill and it deserves all our support.

I support the Bill which proposes to amend the State Properties Act, 1954, by removing reference to the National Stud Farm in the First Schedule of the Act. While of a technical nature, the passage of this Bill is essential to allow the Minister to sell part of the National Stud Farm for ongoing work on a motorway to bypass Kildare town. The motorway will pass through the lands of the National Stud Farm. Kildare County Council has acquired 16.58 hectares for the motorway by compulsory order. A further 21.66 hectares will be severed by the motorway from the main stud farm and will no longer be of any use to the National Stud Farm. The future use for these lands must receive very careful consideration from the Minister and the local community. Above all the Minister must have every option available to him, including the powers to sell if this is the most desirable option.

The National Stud Farm is one of our great national institutions with a great history of success to its credit. It has produced many famous race horses. I regret any disruption to the farm but anyone who has travelled south will know how much we need a bypass at Kildare town. I am satisfied that this is the most feasible route and that the environment of the National Stud Farm will be protected.

During the past 100 years Tully has been a great nursery for many wonderful race horses. It has served us all well in a period of great change worldwide. The commitment by the Government to the horse racing and breeding industry is enormous. I compliment the Minister of State in that regard. This year the Government increased funding to the Irish Horseracing Authority to £10 million, an increase of £1.5 million over the 1997 figures. The authority has done great work since its establishment in 1994. All involved must be complimented.

I thank all who contributed so positively to this debate on the National Stud, including its background and history. Everybody spoke well about the performance of the stud and the way it is run. It is a national asset and makes a major contribution to the thoroughbred breeding industry.

It is indicative of the dynamism of the National Stud that it is one of the first State bodies to devise a distinctive project to celebrate the millennium, St. Fiachra's Garden. The tradition established by St. Fiachra goes back to the sixth century. One of the great avenues of Paris is called after him and one of the auxiliary bishops of Dublin who taught me is called Fiachra.

St. Fiachra's Garden will be a fascinating addition to the Japanese Gardens, the visitor's centre and the museum at the stud. I will advise the stud manager, Mr. John Clarke, of the compliments paid to him and his staff in the House.

Senator Tom Hayes recommended that the proceeds from the sale of the land be ploughed back into the stud. I am sympathetic to this point of view but a basic principle of the Department of Finance, who acts as our mentor in this area, is that State receipts go to the Exchequer for reallocation rather than be earmarked for a specific purpose. The State has been generous to this area in recent years and has invested substantial capital in the stud for the purpose of purchasing high class stallions. As Senator Dardis said, Desert Prince was one of them. The fruits of this investment are now evident with the return of the stud to profitability. I never believed it was out of profitability given that it has been of such benefit to the State and to the smaller breeders around the country. Indeed, I am confident that if the need arises in the future it will not be found wanting for funds.

Senator Hayes also referred to the need to fund Limerick Junction racecourse. I empathise with the Senator, but under the 1994 Act, responsibility for the development of the racecourse has been vested with the Irish Horseracing Authority. The Senator will know of my involvement with the authority and my regular patronage of the racecourse on days when the Whip will allow me to attend. I have no doubt it will not lose out from the generous grants that are available to racecourses, although this rightly depends on the extent of local support.

One of the great benefits of Limerick Junction racecourse is the fact that pensioners from Dublin can travel by train on their free travel passes and attend the racecourse for a charge of £2 and return to Dublin on the same day. This represents a different and delightful day out for those who are not racegoers and they can have a little flutter. I have enjoyed many a train trip with people from Dublin who had never been to a racecourse. The great advantage of having a racecourse near a train station is that visitors can enjoy a few drinks.

Senator Dardis and others asked why the National Stud was excluded from the State Property Act. In considering the Bill it is probably one of the first questions that springs to mind. It is not recorded why the power to sell the stud farms was not included in the original Act of 1945, nor why it was excluded from the State Property Act, 1954. So far as I can ascertain, the most plausible reason for this omission is mundane.

Colonel Hall-Walker's gift to the nation was the bloodstock not the land. A condition of his gift was that the Crown purchase his interest in the Tully stud at valuation. However, the Curragh did not enjoy the freehold of the entire farm at Tully. Some 670 acres were held on and expired through judicial tenancy from Colonel Richard Michael Aylmer. When the National Stud Act was enacted in 1945, Colonel Aylmer was still the landlord of the majority of the stud farm. The colonel continued to enjoy that position until 1958 when the State bought out his interest in the property. When the State Property Act was enacted in 1954, the Minister for Agriculture was in no position to sell the National Stud Farm lands because he did not enjoy the freehold. Now that the Minister for Agriculture and Food enjoys the freehold I am sure Senators will agree there is no reason the farm should continue to be excluded from the protection and provision of the State Property Act.

Senator Rory Kiely referred to the new racecourse in County Limerick. Limerick race course was an excellent facility but, unfortunately, due to flooding and non-drainability it was not practical, especially on a wet Christmas when many three day events were destroyed. However, the south-west and south-east is national hunt country where people enjoy seeing horses go over fences, run and gallop at the same time and undertake two and three mile journeys. It is the sport of the ordinary working men. While flat racing is more for the enjoyment of the few that own so many, in the national hunt so many own a few. This is the way forward and I hope more syndicates will be formed to enjoy horses. I hope Members of the House will become involved at this level.

Objective One.

Some of us are already involved in syndicates. Perhaps others may do so to ensure that those who breed horses can enjoy the support not only of your words but your money.

Senator Dardis referred to the land involved serving the interests of Kildare town. This is primarily a matter for the local authority. I have no doubt that the best interests of the town and its surrounds will be catered for in the final decision. One of the better suggestions was that, given the escalation in house prices, the land should be used to address housing needs, especially for young people living in Dublin. I believe in co-operative housing to address difficulties in this area and I see no reason a co-operative venture could not be started to enable people live in the town. It is for the local authority to decide what it wishes to do with the lands.

Senator Callanan referred to the loss of almost 100 acres by the National Stud. I am advised on good authority that this is not a problem. While the original farm — 800 acres — does not amount to nearly as much as the Senator's, Maddenstown Farm comprises a further 120 acres. While this is not big farming in the Senator's terminology, it represents a huge farm to those of us who are small holders. Years ago one of the ushers was asked by Neil Blaney to dig his garden. He looked at it and said "It is not a garden he has, it is a farm". Everything is relative.

I thank all the Senators for their contributions to the debate. I welcome their encouragement for the work being done by the National Stud. This will continue, not just in horse breeding but in the training of young managers for stud farms throughout the world. That is why we are the top nation in stud farm ownership with the biggest stud farms. Government taxation has allowed for that. As Senator Dardis said, it is a risk industry. A horse was bought a number of years ago for $35 million and found to be totally infertile. That is why some of the stud fees are tax free.

I am particularly proud of RACE and the young lads in Dublin. This morning I was in Fettercairn and Tallaght and found the kids to be most interested. They are far better off with horses. They will not prove themselves academically but they have a genuine love for horses. We can get through to those kids through horses. RACE is providing a training system for them, it will be their university. The most successful jockeys are not academics, they are young people who apply themselves to the love of horses, people like Mick Kinnane or Johnny Murtagh, neither of whom had any formal education. Young Winston was riding horses in Finglas five years ago and is now riding winners in England, making good money and a name for himself. This Bill is about developing the horse industry and the love which we have for horses.

Question put and agreed to.
Bill put through Committee, reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.