I propose to take Questions Nos. 520 and 521 together.
In February 2011, Dublin City Council (DCC) took over responsibility for the licensing of horse-drawn carriage operators and drivers from the Garda Carriage Office. This was achieved through bye-laws enacted under Part 19 of the Local Government Act 2001 which provides a general power to a local authority to make bye-laws in relation to its own property or services or to regulate matters of local concern. It is under this Act that local authorities can choose, using bye-laws, to regulate horse-drawn carriages that operate for hire or reward. These bye-laws allow relevant local authorities to set their own rules and stipulations to govern such operations.
In 2018 DCC became aware that - specifically in relation to Dublin - this legal basis for making such bye-laws could be uncertain, as the Dublin Carriage Acts 1853-55 had vested the power to regulate horse-drawn carriages in Dublin with the Dublin Metropolitan Police Commissioners, to whom An Garda Síochána is the successor.
My Department examined this issue and, following legal advice, is now of the view that the Dublin Carriage Acts 1853-55 remain in force and preclude DCC from enacting the relevant bye-laws. Also, it seems that a simple repeal of the Victorian legislation alone may not be sufficient to enable DCC to enact bye-laws for horse-drawn carriages. Therefore, my Department is now working with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government to identify how best to empower DCC to regulate this area.
Animal Welfare issues are a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture and Food. However, I note that the Control of Horses Act 1996 allows local authorities to introduce bye-laws designating certain areas as control areas for horses. Dublin City Council has designated its administrative boundaries as such a control area under its Control of Horses Bye-Laws 2014. These bye-laws require horses to be licensed and set minimum standards for the keeping of horses within the control area.
Regulations for horse-drawn carriages for hire or reward should be aligned with any horse welfare obligations imposed by local authorities. Accordingly, I am of the view that horse-drawn carriages for hire and reward should be regulated by local authorities and not the National Transport Authority, which has neither competency for nor experience of animal welfare issues. My Department’s efforts are therefore centred on enabling Dublin City Council to regulate this area in Dublin just as other local authorities regulate this area elsewhere in the country.