andMr. Boland asked the Taoiseach if he intends transferring responsibility for horse racing from the Department of Agriculture and Food to the sports section in the Department of Education; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Responsibility for Horse Racing.
I have no plans for such a transfer.
I do not know what I can say arising out of that reply.
The Deputy is backing a loser.
I noticed that the Taoiseach, when he had a little time in the past, used to share an interest that few of us in this House have in relation to horse racing. Will he not agree there are many thousands who attend horse race meetings as a sport and that as long as the responsibility for horse racing, as distinct from the horse breeding industry, remains with the Department of Agriculture and Food, as a sport it will not get its fair share of funds nationally? The second part of my question related to whether there was any proposal to allocate a small sum from the national lottery to national hunt racing to compensate for the £250,000 allocated last year towards prize money for national hunt racing? That was my main purpose in asking the Taoiseach if he could find a way of regarding horse racing as a sport. By so doing, we could benefit to some extent from the proceeds of the national lottery to help, in particular, national hunt racing.
That is an extension of the question.
I am very sorry to have to say I think the Deputy is totally misleading himself in this matter. The horse racing industry is undoubtedly a source of relaxation for many and it also contributes to the attractiveness of this country for the tourist. Basically, I see the racing industry as an essential part of the bloodstock breeding industry and the bloodstock breeding industry, in my view, belongs in the Department of Agriculture and Food. The racing industry as such, because of its very close association with the bloodstock breeding industry, should be looked after by the same Department as the bloodstock breeding industry: therefore, it should remain with the Department of Agriculture and Food. I think there is very little argument about that.
With respect, the Taoiseach is referring to the bloodstock industry. I recognise it is a very important industry here. However, there are very many thousands who attend race meetings, not to support an industry but purely as a sport. The Taoiseach is, no doubt, aware——
I am awaiting a question, Deputy.
——that while the current facilities here are affecting that sport in attracting people to it, as long as——
I am sorry, Deputy, this is Question Time.
This is the only opportunity we have.
I am sorry but the Deputy is making a speech.
Will the Taoiseach not agree we need to do something radical in relation to horse racing as a sport, as distinct from the industry, to encourage that sport, to help to obtain proper facilities and to encourage more people into the sport? In fact, I should be far happier — and I am sure the Taoiseach would agree — if the present Minister for Industry and Commerce, who has a particular interest in horse racing and horse breeding, had some part to play in promoting that industry. As long as it remains the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture and Food there is no chance whatsoever of this industry expanding properly.
I am sorry, Deputy Barrett, this question is going on too long.
This is the only opportunity we have and it is a very important matter.
The questions on the Order Paper are important.
It is the only opportunity we have.
The Deputy has had a fair innings.
There are people out there waiting to hear what the Taoiseach has to say. Will he not consider allocating a sum from the national lottery equivalent to the amount we allocated last year for national hunt racing?
How many runners has the Deputy?
The Deputy, in his plea, is ignoring the fact that there is a racing board there——
It is the sport I am talking about. I am talking about the person who backs on the 3.50 race at the gate.
——whose responsibility it is to develop and promote racing. I do not think anybody could seriously contemplate taking responsibility for the racing industry, which is integrally related to the bloodstock breeding industry and putting it in the Department of Education. I have great respect for that Department but somehow or other——
It is sport I am talking about.
The Minister for Education is a witness.
——I do not think that Minister's remit could extend to responsibility for racehorses.
The Government have a Minister who has responsibility for sport.
I am well able to canter.
I am disappointed the Deputy did not recommend it to be given to me.
That there is a racing board there which has a specific statutory responsibility for the racing industry and that the Department of Agriculture and Food are responsible for the bloodstock breeding industry, with which the racing industry is very closely associated, is the best possible arrangement.
A final supplementary question. Is the Taoiseach aware that in Australia, which has a very successful horse racing industry and a very suchorse racing sport, the Minister for Sport is responsible for racing?
He is also responsible for yacht racing.
And yacht racing and, indeed, he is responsible for the operation of the tote which operates extremely successfully.
There are a couple of Ministers who might look after the bank in that regard.
Will the Taoiseach not agree that matters such as the tote and proper funding of racing in this country need to be seriously looked at? To date there is no evidence that the Department of Agriculture and Food with all their responsibilities — particularly now in Europe — have the time or the expertise to deal with the proper promotion for horse racing.
The only thing I can say by way of a concluding reply is that, as the Deputy knows, we now have the Killanin report from the Commission which I established some years ago and which report is now available to us. It is on the basis of that report that any decisions that are necessary can be taken. The Deputy will understand it is under examination at the moment. Any appropriate action that has to be taken will arise out of the examination of that report. It is not quite right for the Deputy to suggest that nothing is being done in this area.
Perhaps the Minister with responsibility for sport should not be in the Department of Education. This is very disappointing.