Greyhound Racing Bill 2018: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Doyle, back to the House. On the last day, amendments Nos. 36 to 38, inclusive, had been discussed together and amendment No. 36 had been disposed of.

I move amendment No. 37:

In page 48, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

"Reporting on export of greyhounds

56. (1) The Minister, in consultation with the Board, shall produce and lay before the appropriate Joint Oireachtas Committee an annual report following the end of each calendar year which shall include the following:

(a) the number of greyhounds exported from the State in the preceding calendar year,

(b) a list of every country to which greyhounds have been exported from the State in the preceding calendar year, and

(c) a summary of the standards in relation to the health and welfare of greyhounds in each country listed in accordance with paragraph (b) in as recent a time period as is practicable.".

I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 38:

In page 48, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

"Reporting on export of greyhounds

56. The Minister, in consultation with the Board, shall produce and lay before the appropriate Joint Oireachtas Committee an annual report following the end of each calendar year which shall include the following:

(a) the number of greyhounds exported from the State in the preceding calendar year;

(b) a list of every country to which greyhounds have been exported from the State in the preceding calendar year; and

(c) the given reasons for export.".

I second the amendment.

Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I thank Senators for the level of engagement on the Bill, which has finally passed. The purpose of amending the existing legislation is to improve the governance of Bord na gCon, strengthen regulatory controls in the industry, modernise sanctions and improve integrity with a view to building a reputation of excellence in the sector.

The Bill addresses issues identified in a number of reports on the greyhound racing sector relating to governance and regulation. It addresses governance issues in Bord na gCon, strengthens regulatory controls in the industry, modernises sanctions and improves integrity. It includes the welfare of greyhounds as one of the statutory functions of Bord na gCon and provides it with the powers to make regulations on integrity, anti-doping, administration and traceability to improve the identified welfare and integrity deficits that have been affecting the industry. The Bill will strengthen the greyhound industry, enabling it to deal with the challenges it faces and maximise its potential.

I thank everybody again. All of us were on the same page. We may have differed on some particular points regarding the application and interpretation of the legislation but it is a good day's work. It may have to wait until after March before it gets into the Dáil because of the current necessity for Brexit-related legislation to be addressed but I thank the Senators. The Bill is well prepared and hopefully we will see this enacted into law in the first half of this year.

I thank the Minister of State. I have been in the Chair a number of times for this Bill and the depth and breadth of the Minister of State's knowledge has been apparent. This is a very technical Bill and the Minister of State is certainly on top of his brief and that was appreciated by all the Members and certainly by me. This is not a time for Second Stage speeches from anybody, but I will allow brief contributions, perhaps one per group, if Senators would like to contribute.

As a Senator who supported this legislation, I want to thank the Minister of State for bringing forward this legislation. It is an opportunity to renew the greyhound industry, an indigenous Irish industry of which we can be proud. Mistakes have obviously happened in the past at various levels in governance and otherwise from which we can learn. This legislation will enhance the industry as a whole. I appeal to all stakeholders, and I speak as an owner of greyhounds who has raced them on tracks and coursing fields in Ireland, to ensure we have a properly-regulated greyhound industry. I thank the officials for their work. Fragmentation between breeders and owners has caused division in the industry. I appeal to them to come together in the best interests of the industry, utilising this legislation, under the leadership of the Minister of State, the new board, and all of us working together to strengthen the industry and create a sense of renewal and give it a bright future because the opportunity is there. I want to recognise the work of the Minister of State and his officials and to wish the legislation well in the Dáil.

I will be brief because this is not the occasion to be otherwise. I am on record, over the past number of years, as being critical of the Minister of State and the Department as to the whereabouts of the Bill. I thought it could and should have been here sooner but it would be remiss of me today not to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the Minister of State to get it this far. It is part of my role, in opposition, to be critical and put the pressure on, but I know the Minister of State has put a lot of work in and, quite possibly, the Bill would not even be where it is today were it not for his dedication.

As was said by Senator Coffey, this Bill will play a very important role in the operation of the industry in all sectors. Fianna Fáil had some amendments that were not successful but we reserve the right to revisit those in the Lower House. We will see what happens. It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the Minister of State's work on the Bill, as someone who had been critical in the past.

I thank the Minister of State and his officials for their work in bringing the Bill before the House. I support the general thrust and objectives of the Bill, without question, because the objective of the Bill is to improve the greyhound industry to which we all subscribe. I tabled amendments to try and strengthen the Bill, many of which were unsuccessful, and I again ask the Minister of State to reflect on some of the debate which took place in this House as he brings the Bill forward to the Dáil.

This is a great industry and the Minister of State is very familiar with it. He did an awful lot of good work, even before he became Minister of State, when he was Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine. It is still not too late to reflect on some of the material contained within the joint committee report which was published in January 2016 and include it in the Bill when it goes before the Dáil.

I wish the Minister of State well with the Bill. It is essential to bring it in as soon as possible to strengthen the greyhound sector and to improve its governance, despite my shortcomings about it. I presume the Bill may well find its way back to this House if there are changes made in the Dáil and we will have an opportunity at that stage to comment further.

I thank the Minister of State and his officials for their engagement on this legislation. It was not an area I had too much awareness of, but animal welfare was at the heart of all my amendments and I would be aware of that across any sector. I am thankful the Bill will leave here with some amendments attaching to it. The amendment relating to the vet on the board is a strong one, as are the guidelines dealing with retired dogs. I hope they will stay in the legislation when it hits the Lower House. I thank the Minister of State for his openness and engagement on the Bill.

Senator Butler is very interested in this particular area and he spoke a number of times in a detailed and comprehensive way in making contributions. I will allow him to also make a brief comment.

I thank the Minister of State for all his hard work. I have seen the Minister of State go around the tracks at Shelbourne Park and country tracks and give his input and meet trainers, owners and managers. I also thank his officials.

We have seen significant mistakes made down through the years on pensions for people who worked in Bord na gCon in Limerick. At one time, before the crash, the CEO was earning more money than the Taoiseach - the guts of €350,000 for running a State body. We put in €17 million of taxpayers' money and very little of that was coming down to the breeder, trainer or tracks. I hope we have learned a hard lesson and that mistakes of the past will never happen again. I have no problem with anybody getting a decent wage and being paid the proper wage for their work but that was ridiculous. It was a cash cow for certain people. When things went bad, those people just flew into the distance and went away with nothing said.

I thank the Minister of State for all his hard work and there is no doubt this will improve transparency and treatment in greyhound racing. I have seen how much work has been done through the years with retired greyhounds. Every greyhound owner, trainer and breeder loves their greyhound and wants them to have a happy retirement and a happy home. This cannot happen all the time but it is slowly getting there. At some stage, we will be able to retire all the greyhounds and re-home them. I thank the Minister of State for his work.

Well done to the Minister of State and I thank all the Members for their contributions over the course of a lengthy debate.

Question put and agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 1.17 p.m. and resumed at 3 p.m.