I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. She is absolutely correct to state that this is the second time in six months it has been raised. It is being addressed. She is also correct to state that it should be addressed as a matter of great urgency. I note that she has a petition; I am happy to receive it and respond to it in a manner which shows the need for action on the issue.
As the Deputy may know, some local authorities develop by-laws to licence commercially operating horse-drawn carriages. Local authorities set their own rules and stipulations to govern such operations by means of by-laws. Part 19 of the Local Government Act 2001 provides local authorities with the power to make by-laws. Part 19 also provides a general power to a local authority to make by-laws in respect of its own properties or services or to regulate matters of local concern. Section 199(1) of the 2001 Act provides that "a local authority may make a bye-law for or in relation to the use, operation, protection, regulation or management of any land, services, or any other matter provided by or under the control or management of the local authority, whether within or without its functional area or in relation to any connected matter."
It is under this Act that local authorities can choose to regulate horse-drawn carriages that operate for hire or reward.
In most counties there seems to have been little demand and by-laws are not in place. In other areas, the matter is more relevant. For example, in Kerry, where there is a long tradition of jarvey operation, by-laws have been adopted to regulate the operation of these horse-drawn hackney carriages.
In February 2011, the city council took over responsibility for the licensing of horse-drawn carriage operators and drivers from the Garda carriage office. Dublin City Council made by-laws in the same year for the licensing of horse-drawn carriages. They made these by-laws under the Local Government Act 2001. As the Deputy will be aware, my Department has had sight of a note prepared by the Dublin City Council law agent giving the view that Dublin City Council has no legal basis to make such by-laws. The note indicates that such powers may instead still rest, under the Dublin Carriage Acts 1853, 1854 and 1855, with the Dublin Metropolitan Police Commissioners, in respect of whom the Garda Síochána is successor. Since this older Dublin-specific legislation was not repealed, powers for licensing horse-drawn carriages in Dublin still exist in statute. This means Dublin City Council is unable to make by-laws under the 2001 Act in this respect. By-laws may not be made under that 2001 Act where powers exist elsewhere in legislation.
While I am currently of the view that these matters should normally be managed at local government level, I have requested that the matter be given due consideration by my Department. I have requested, as I promised to Deputy O'Sullivan in reply to her question last time, that my Department engage with An Garda Síochána and Dublin City Council and seek separate legal advice if that is deemed necessary. Depending on the outcome there may be a requirement to amend or repeal legislation to ensure an appropriate, modern regulatory framework is in place.
Separately, I understand concerns have also been raised relating to animal welfare issues. The Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 provides powers to gardaí and authorised officers to deal with issues of animal welfare. Furthermore, the Control of Horses Act 1996 provides for local authorities to grant horse licences to those wishing to own a horse, thus entitling them to keep the horse in a control area. The Act provides that a horse licence shall not be granted to any person under the age of 16 years. Legislation of this nature comes within the ambit of my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
As with all vehicles used on a public road, the drivers of horse-drawn carriages are responsible for behaving in a safe manner and for paying due care to other users.