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

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Doyle, back to the House. 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 in 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 related 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 again thank everybody. All of us were on the same page. We may have differed on some particular points about 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 Senators. The Bill is well prepared and I hope we will see it enacted into law in the first half of the year.

I thank the Minister of State. I have been in the Chair a number of times for the debate on this Bill and the depth and breadth of the Minister of State's knowledge have been apparent. It is a very technical Bill and the Minister of State is certainly on top of his brief. That was appreciated by all Members and certainly by me. This is not a time for a Second Stage speech 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 thank the Minister of State for bringing it forward. 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. The legislation will enhance the industry as a whole. I appeal to all stakeholders - I speak as the owner of greyhounds who has raced them on tracks and coursing fields in Ireland - to ensure we will 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 those of us who are working together to strengthen the industry and create a sense of renewal to give it a bright future because there is that opportunity. I recognise the work of the Minister of State and his officials and wish the legislation well in the Dáil.

I will be brief because this is not the occasion to be otherwise. I am on record in the past few 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 before us 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 that 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, the 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 them 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 has 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. 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 to the Dáil.

This is a great industry, with which the Minister of State is very familiar. 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's report which was published in January 2016 and include it in the Bill when it is brought 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 improve its governance, despite my concerns about it. I presume the Bill may well find its way back to this House if there are changes made in the Dáil. We will have an opportunity at that stage to comment further on it.

I thank the Minister of State and his officials for their engagement on this legislation. It was not an area of which I had too much awareness, but animal welfare was at the heart of all of my amendments and I would be aware of it across any sector. I am thankful that the Bill will leave here with some amendments attached to it. The amendment related 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 area and 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 of his hard work. I have seen him go around the tracks, including 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, of which very little was coming down to the breeder, trainer or tracks. I hope we have learned a hard lesson and that the 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 his or her work but that was ridiculous. It was a cash cow for certain people. When things went bad, they just flew into the distance and went away with nothing being said.

I thank the Minister of State for all of his hard work. There is no doubt the Bill 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 his or her greyhound and wants it to have a happy retirement and a happy home. That cannot happen all the time but we are slowly getting there. At some stage, we will be able to retire all greyhounds and re-home them. I again thank the Minister of State for his work.

I say, "Well done," to the Minister of State. I thank all 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.