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Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 8 Dec 2021

Vol. 281 No. 5

Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund Regulations 2021: Motion

I move:

That Seanad Éireann approves the following Regulations in draft:

Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund Regulations 2021,

copies of which were laid in draft form before Seanad Éireann on 20th October, 2021.”

I apologise for the delay but I had to attend a Cabinet sub-committee meeting.

An important pillar of Government policy is to ensure that the horse and greyhound racing industries achieve their maximum potential and in so doing, contribute to economic and social development over a wide geographic distribution. The horse and greyhound racing industries make a valuable contribution to a balanced regional economy. It is estimated that the thoroughbred industry has an annual economic impact of €1.84 billion, with direct and indirect employment of 29,000 people. The greyhound sector benefits an estimated 10,000 people. The thoroughbred industry in particular brings a high level of international investment into Ireland. Government funding, in addition to supporting these key industries, presents an excellent opportunity to yield a high return for its investment, leading to a flow of income right through the economy. Support for strategic industries is important for future economic growth and can provide widespread benefits for our society and our economy.

The Irish equine breeding and racing industry is extremely competitive at a global level and is a real beacon of excellence. We are the third biggest producer of thoroughbred foals in the world. Estimates place Ireland behind only the US as the biggest seller of bloodstock at public auction globally. The support provided by public funds through investment in these industries has enabled Ireland to develop a world class reputation for excellence in horse racing, greyhound racing and breeding.

The horse and greyhound racing industries receive financial support from the State through the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund under section 12 of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act 2001. My Department makes payments from the fund to Horse Racing Ireland, HRI, and to Rásaíocht Con Éireann. In the period 2001 to date, a total of €1.46 billion has been paid from the fund to the horse and greyhound racing industries in accordance with the provisions of the Act. The cumulative upper limit on payments from the fund provided for under the relevant regulation has been reached, as per the Estimates from my Department. Exchequer support for the fund is crucial to the survival and continued development of both industries. In order to give effect to the provisions of budget 2022, the cumulative upper limit must be increased by regulation. The Estimates from my Department, passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas as part of budget 2022, include an allocation of €88 million for the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund. This will be distributed in accordance with section 12(6) of the 2001 Act, with 80%, or €70.4 million, going to HRI and the remaining 20%, or €17.6 million, going to Rásaíocht Con Éireann.

In order to allow my Department to provide the money allocated in budget 2022, it is necessary to comply with the technical requirement under section 12(13) of the Act to increase the cumulative upper limit on the amount payable from the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund by €88 million to €1.54 billion. In essence, we propose to provide €88 million this year and under the regulations we must increase the overall ceiling of the fund by that amount to facilitate payment. That is what is being achieved by the regulation before the House. This regulation has already been discussed and passed in Dáil Éireann. The aggregate limit on the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund has been increased in this manner in 2004 and 2009 to 2021, inclusive.

A 2017 Deloitte report on the economic impact of Irish breeding and racing commissioned by HRI indicates that the total direct and stimulated expenditure of the Irish breeding and racing industry is an estimated €1.4 billion, based on 2016 figures. In addition, there are 15,200 jobs at the core of the racing and breeding industry and directly related industries.

The Covid pandemic has had a significant impact on all areas of the industry, especially racecourses and attendance. The number of horses in training, owners, runners, fixtures and races have all had strong growth this year compared with the corresponding pre-pandemic figures in 2019. The importance of a strong welfare and integrity foundation to this highly successful industry is crucial and well-recognised throughout the industry. My Department and I will continue to work with HRI, the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that the highest standards of integrity and welfare are maintained. The report of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine on integrity in horse racing issued earlier this month. Senators Paul Daly and Boyhan played a significant role in developing it. I am examining that report in detail and fully considering its findings.

The EU-UK Brexit trade agreement reached in December last year, which included the Northern Ireland protocol, was a welcome development. It should be noted that challenges remain regarding certain movements of horses, with the global nature of major breeding operations. While Ireland arguably now holds a leadership position in Europe, its pre-eminence is not guaranteed.

I will touch on the greyhound racing industry. According to the 2021 Power report, the industry provides considerable employment, both directly and indirectly. It is estimated that, in 2019, it supported more than 4,000 full-time and part-time jobs in the economy, with 6,000 active greyhound owners. The funding provided to this sector through the fund helps to sustain a long-standing tradition, as the industry is part of the social fabric in the country. This funding underpins economic activity in rural areas in particular.

The industry is committed to continuing to strengthen welfare standards, which are important and have been central to the objectives and work of Rásaíocht Con Éireann. I support this continued pursuit of improvement. Future funding of the sector is contingent on welfare standards being upheld and it is reflected in the annual parameters set out by my officials in their liaison with Rásaíocht Con Éireann. The Greyhound Racing Act 2019 came into effect on 28 May 2019. It strengthened and made a difference in this regard.

We are running late and have to get out of here by 6.30 p.m. I am conscious that many people want to speak. If it is okay with the Minister, he might leave the last part of his speech for when he sums up.

I am delighted to support the motion to extend the upper ceiling for the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund. I welcome the Minister and his contribution. Four minutes is a short time to speak so I will not rehash the figures and the investment into the fund, and the great role that it plays in rural Ireland. Most, if not all, horse and greyhound trainers are based in rural areas. Having a horse or greyhound trainer can cause significant activity in the area's economy, due to requirements for food, transport, staff, and so on. This money filters down. Horse and greyhound racing are both industries. While they are sports, as I said at the committee, the sport lasts for five minutes in many cases. The preparation for those five minutes can involve three or four years of employment, nurturing and caring for a horse, which involves expenditure in the local community.

I welcome the Minister's acknowledgement of the report of the joint committee. I hope that he will act on it. There are many positives in the report and changes that could be made on the back of it. It is not a silver bullet but I ask him to consider it. Implementing some, if not all, of its recommendations would be a significant bonus, with a particular emphasis on horse and dog welfare. I welcome the Minister's commitment and that of HRI and Rásaíocht Con Éireann in this regard in recent years. There has been well-documented controversy in all elements of the media. There have been totally unacceptable cases, which need to be weeded out. There needs to be traceability, which was introduced in the Greyhound Racing Act 2019. Part of the joint committee's report relates to the greyhound tracing system. I would like to see that implemented for horse racing too.

There is an amendment to the motion, which I will not support. It asks the Minister to conduct a full review of the expenditure and investment by the fund. As the Minister mentioned in his report, in 2017, HRI, through the Deloitte report, and the greyhound racing industry, through the Power report, did that full review. Those reports were presented to the joint committee. Each year, this motion to approve the extension of the upper limit of the ceiling for expenditure is thoroughly examined by the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The CEOs and representatives of HRI and Rásaíocht Con Éireann appear annually before the committee. I feel that the review that has been requested is being carried out in a far more thorough and detailed manner than it might be in many other areas. I do not see the need for duplication.

The amendment questions the money going towards prizes. I am actively involved in racing and, up until last week, I was a chairperson of a racing committee. This is not all prize money. The HRI grants aid to race committees on a percentage basis for developments, stabling, catering facilities and facilities for the paying public. There will be more of a need for that in future. As we come out of Covid, with an emphasis on people enjoying a day at the greyhound races, they will want more open air facilities and to spend more time outside. We will probably need more investment in facilities for punters and it is important that the money filters down. As the Acting Chairperson and I mentioned at the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, we have had much representation from the horse and pony fund, which is struggling to put together insurance money. Is there any way for money from this fund to filter to the fund? Our top jockeys have all come through the pony racing cycle.

On the prize money, many people and the amendment here state that too much money goes to prizes. The prize money attracts the horses. Looking closely at horse racing, because of our prize money in Ireland, many English owners have their horses stabled and trained in Ireland. That enhances our business, game and sport. If it was not for the quality of our prize money, that would not happen. There is an argument about the majority of the prize money going to a certain few. Those few are the bigger stables. Considering the number of people that they employ in rural areas, it is probably an equal share pro rata.

We are short on time. I will remove my own four-minute slot. I ask everyone to try to accommodate all their colleagues.

I am conscious that four Members present are members of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The man that may have more to say than anyone is the man from that wonderful horse country, Kildare. He is the Senator slightly behind me here. I thank the Minister for being here. We all know that horse racing and horse breeding are an integral part of agricultural, rural life, rural communities, and the rural economy. They are connected both directly and indirectly to rural employment and the rural economy. They play a significant role, in some counties more than others. Senator Daly has spoken about the amendment. The substantive issues addressed in the amendment are valid.

I have raised this matter with the Minister at the committee and he and his officials acknowledged it. We have the reports from Indecon Economic Consultants and Deloitte. I suggested at the committee that they be dusted off and looked at because they were detailed reports and some aspects of them may need to be revisited. That is not a bad thing. We have commissioned these reports. Let us look at them again because they are important. In his contribution, the Minister referred to the joint committee's substantial report on the industry.

Within days of that being published, we had an incident in Kildare which I will not go into for various reasons. Revenue and An Garda Síochána are involved and there are serious questions and an ongoing investigation. The Minister and all of us know about it. There is an element of speculation so it is not appropriate to comment other than to say it raises suspicion and concern about the integrity of the business. We want to protect this valuable industry and business. In principle, the Minister is asking for the approval of more than €70 million for the horse racing sector alone, and that is a huge amount of money so it is right we have proper probity and governance regarding the issues in the industry.

As I said at the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, animal welfare has to be a critical part of this. A percentage of this funding is ring-fenced for animal welfare but that issue is of serious concern. I ask if the Minister's officials could circulate Working Together for Animal Welfare: Ireland's Animal Welfare Strategy 2021-2025 to every Member of the Oireachtas. It is an important document, particularly the reference to the establishment of the chair of animal welfare and veterinary ethics at University College Dublin school of veterinary medicine. It is a positive move and one I welcome, especially the mainstreaming of animal welfare across all Teagasc education, knowledge transfer and training activities. In a Seanad debate in the next quarter, we might focus on this important document. The introduction of the new scheme for improvement of greyhound traceability is also referenced in the report.

I am supportive. There is a very valid aspect to the amendments and I am interested in the Minister's response to them. I ask that he circulate the working together on animal welfare document because there are some critical issues. He might also reference the tagging and reference of bloodstock, on which he had a national audit. It is a welcome initiative.

For newly arrived Members, the Minister unfortunately got held up at an important meeting. We are running late so I have asked Members to co-operate with me. I came down hard on Senator Paul Daly and cut the Minister's speech down a bit.

The Acting Chair was hard on Senator Daly so I will be polite. I second the motion Senator Daly proposed. It is an important motion. We need to talk about what this fund is worth to rural Ireland. It is significant because, whether in the dog industry or the horse racing industry, all parishes in rural Ireland have somebody involved in it at some stage. The general feeling in rural communities is that this is one of our core industries and it has been involved in many things throughout society. All of us know people who work and are involved in this. My parish has had two Laurels winners in the past four years, so when it comes to dog racing, in particular, we have seen the benefits of that locally.

We are trying to sustain rural Ireland and rural jobs and to give the feeling we are not big Dublin continually attacking rural Ireland. That feeling is out there in rural Ireland and this fund goes a long way to protecting rural Ireland. It protects core industries and the people who work hard in those industries.

It is important to note that a body of work has been done, particularly in the Committee on Agricultural, Food and the Marine, regarding both of these industries. We have produced reports in the past three or four years and highlighted issues that need to be addressed. That has been a step forward. Particularly regarding the greyhound industry, we brought forward proposals, which have been acted upon, relating to the care and welfare of dogs. These issues are important to society. The report that was published by the committee, of which I think the Minister was a member, has been acted upon by Bord na gCon, which is positive. In recent weeks, we published another report on the equine industry. Those recommendations need to be taken on board as well. That demonstrates the body of work the committee has done to work with both industries to make sure they are appropriate for modern-day Ireland.

The core of the argument is these two industries are a vital part of our society and rural economy. We must do what we can to support our rural economy. We have seen Covid attack it on many levels, and we have seen major issues regarding marketing and people turning up at dog and horse racing tracks. They have been badly affected over the past 21 months. If ever we needed to support those industries it is now. The need for support is there. It has a knock-on benefit for our entire society.

The Minister is welcome. I have spoken on this issue before. I will specifically talk about the greyhound industry. To be fair to Senator Daly, he has acknowledged this is a difficult issue for me and a difficulty with being in government. There are certain things we did not get in the programme for Government. We as a party are not supportive of the greyhound industry. It is in our manifesto that we believe in the phasing out of public funding. There are serious question marks over how the dogs are treated, apart from the aspect of whether it should be funded. The fact we are the only party in this Chamber that has that as a core policy area should be pointed out. Others may talk about the issues of the dog racing industry, but very few are vocal about the fact they support the greyhound industry fundamentally. That is what parliamentary questions show for the Dáil. We are the only party in this Chamber that does not support it but we are in government. We abide by our programme for Government commitments and we got a huge amount in there on animal welfare. It is the programme for Government that has the most in relation to animal welfare anywhere ever. I recognise the Minister's work in that area.

The programme for Government says the future funding of the greyhound industry is contingent on a guarantee of welfare standards being upheld. The fact that traceability is being questioned even by Government colleagues shows there are question marks over that which have to be addressed. I ask the Minister to take that on board very seriously. I have been contacted by those in animal welfare circles who are concerned that the traceability system only kicks in when dogs turn 12 to 14 months. There are question marks over dogs that cannot race and were born never being able to race. Where is the traceability for those animals?

Given where we are and the question marks over traceability, it is a good time to talk about whether these industries should be decoupled. There are many question marks, which is not good to see. There are question marks over the gambling industry and how these two interact. I do not agree with Senator Lombard that this is a fundamental industry for rural Ireland, coming as I do from Galway. Claims are made that there are 5,000 jobs in the greyhound industry, but there are others saying there are 125 jobs with 700 casual jobs. The latter makes a lot more sense. The industry is not with us all the time. Many of those I know do it after college in the evening because it does not go on throughout the day. That is in Galway.

I think there would be significant public support for decoupling. It is a challenge for us if we want to support the equine industry but the two are brought together. It does not allow us to ensure traceability is happening because all the time we are almost blackmailed into it. We have to do it because of the equine industry and the two are lumped together. Only 16% said in a survey they agreed with this industry being funded by the State. It is a win-win all round and would ensure greater traceability if there was more accountability.

I move amendment No. 1:

To insert the following after "20th October, 2021":

“; that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine shall:

-conduct a full review of the Exchequer funding to the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund with a view to examining the social and economic impact of the fund, including the efficacy of the fund in supporting the development of both sectors, the broadest cohort of those involved in both sectors and rural communities; also examine whether the use of the fund to subsidise prize funds represents best value for money; and the efficacy of the fund in ensuring the highest levels of animal welfare standards; and

-report to Seanad Éireann within six months of these Regulations being adopted on the findings of the review.”

I welcome this debate on the greyhound and horse racing fund as it gives me an opportunity to raise the concerns I continue to have regarding animal welfare issues in the greyhound racing industry. We have tabled a sensible amendment calling for a review of the funding and of its efficacy in securing the highest level of animal welfare standards.

That is appropriate, given that a lot of the welfare standards kicked in in January and November of this year. The review would, therefore, be timely.

I will focus my available time on animal welfare issues, particularly in the greyhound industry. I make no apologies for being upfront about my views on greyhound racing. I do not like it. I fail to see the appeal. However, I know that many Members in these Houses do like it. There are even elected representatives who own racing greyhounds and I hope, when they are speaking, those Members are open about their involvement in the industry. I would like to dedicate this time to highlighting specific concerns, the first of which regards the lack of veterinarians at both official and unofficial trials. That was confirmed to me by Greyhound Racing Ireland only recently and I raised it with the Minister directly at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine. His response was to compare the access to medical care at race events and trials with the access to medical care at county and parish games. That was concerning. According to the greyhound code of practice, which came into effect recently, freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment is listed as one of the five principles for best welfare practice. Tell me how a dog fracturing its hock during a trial and having to be brought off-site to receive veterinary care is in compliance with that code. We can compare the situation to that which pertains in our nearest neighbour. In Britain, it is mandatory for a veterinarian to be present at all trials.

I also raise the lack of transparency in the industry regarding injuries and fatalities. Surely the public, who are funding this industry to the tune of €17 million, are entitled to have a publicly accessible database of injuries that are sustained not just at races but at trials and unofficial trials. While 10% of public funding is mandated to be spent on greyhound welfare, there is little transparency in that regard. GRI's annual report claims that €1.76 million was spent on welfare, laboratory integrity and governance, but there is no detailed breakdown on exactly what that money is being spent on and, therefore, the public cannot be confident their money is being spent for welfare purposes.

That brings me to the traceability system, which came into effect in January. Why is this information not publicly accessible? Why is it being funded from a welfare funding stream rather than operational costs? For years, animal welfare organisations have pointed to the thousands of greyhounds that are unaccounted for every year and the introduction of the traceability system was supposed to provide all-of-life information on a greyhound. If that information is not publicly available, how can the public trust that the information is accurate and verifiable? It is only through full transparency that we will be able to see the level of overbreeding that is taking place in the greyhound industry. That transparency would allow us to learn that the majority of greyhounds never make the cut and end up having to be rehomed, if they are lucky enough to be rehomed. It is long overdue that consideration is given to putting a cap on the number of greyhounds that are bred, yet instead we have a situation whereby permission can be sought for a breeding bitch to have a seventh and eighth litter when best practice is for a bitch to whelp four litters over the course of her breeding life. The greyhound industry is already an outlier with six litters. In fact, there are elected representatives in the Dáil who owned a bitch that bred eight times.

I hope the Minister will consider accepting our amendment but, as I said, the concerns on welfare are not going to go away. For those people who are genuinely interested in seeing the greyhound industry survive, the more that is done to ensure welfare, the more chance there is of the industry surviving.

I thank the Senator for her co-operation on time. Kildare is one of the greatest counties for the horse racing industry and with that in mind, I call Senator Wall.

I thank the Acting Chairperson for the build-up. Being from Kildare, I am acutely aware of the importance of the horse racing industry to the county. It is not known as the Thoroughbred County for nothing. A 2019 Deloitte report on the economic benefit of breeding and racing in Kildare found that almost 5,000 people were employed in the county in direct and secondary employment and the industry was worth in the region of €421 million to the county, with €79 million in bloodstock sales by vendors there. One can quickly get a picture of the importance of horse racing to County Kildare. Almost 230,000 people attended the 55 race meetings in the county that year. The potential for tourism and the current benefit that the three tracks in the county bring are obviously worth noting. The investments in the three tracks - The Curragh, Punchestown and Naas - have brought further economic benefit to the county.

In the past three months, I attended two very positive tourism gatherings intended to build on and promote the potential of this industry in the county where I live. Most recently, I joined the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Deputy Catherine Martin, at the beautiful Kilkea Castle, near Castledermot, where the potential of developing those numbers coming to Kildare for the sport were discussed and advanced. A couple of weeks prior to that, I attended the magnificent Irish National Stud in Kildare town, which, in itself, attracts almost 150,000 people each yea, for the launch of the Thoroughbred Country Destination Development Plan, a five-year plan between Tipperary and Kildare county councils and a number of other agencies. The overarching objective of this new plan is to increase the benefit of tourism to the area. Kildare has new and established tourist experiences that horse racing, from the training yards to the three racetracks I previously mentioned, can and will complement. Horse racing can also create further employment.

Of course, in an area of smaller rural towns, villages and parishes, such as south Kildare, many people are involved in the greyhound racing industry and care passionately about the care of their animals. In many families, this is a tradition handed down through generations. It is, however, important to acknowledge that both industries involved in this fund have had serious welfare issues and it is critical that the 10% ring-fenced in 2021 for welfare initiatives gets to those on the ground who are doing so much. Indeed, I believe a higher percentage should be allocated in future from the fund. We are all aware of the support groups and charities that struggle each year with funding. That should not be the case and it is an area on which I would like to further debate. We should do more work in the Houses of the Oireachtas to address that issue.

In my remaining time, I will raise an issue that myself and others have raised on numerous occasions, that is, problem gambling. I again put on record my support for the Minister of State, Deputy James Browne, for his work in publishing the gambling regulation Bill. It is an important step forward and one that must be acted upon. There are many who enjoy a day at the races or a night at the dogs, but there are also, unfortunately, an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 people in this country who cannot enjoy those experiences because they cannot control their habit. Of course, I say "estimated" because we really do not know what the true public health figure in this country is for those who have a problem. I have tabled a Bill to eliminate gambling advertising. I am sure we can all agree that the proliferation of advertisements on our TV screens and media is totally and utterly unacceptable. To paraphrase the words of those who advertise on behalf of the gambling industry, those who cannot stop when the fun stops are the people who need our urgent help. The cost of not addressing this problem is often, for many, the loss of a job, the break-up of a relationship and a family, or even, in some desperate and sad cases, the ending of a life. We must use the opportunity of this gambling Bill and the creation of a gambling regulator to address the uncontrolled use of ads to begin to address and solve the problem. The Minister needs to work with his colleagues throughout the House and ensure we get the gambling Bill enacted as early as possible in the new year. It must not remain on the shelf, as the previous Bill did. The Government surely cannot allow that to happen. I, for one, will be doing everything in my power to ensure this is addressed for the sake of those 40,000 or 50,000 people in this country.

I thank the Senator for his co-operation. By order of the House, I must call the Minister at 6.24 p.m. There are four speakers remaining. I have given way and given up my four minutes. I am asking the four remaining speakers to share their time. Will Senator Kyne share his time with Senator Buttimer? Will Senator Higgins share her time with Senator Ahearn? We do not have the time. The Minister may also give up one minute.

If the Minister wants to keep that one minute, I will give one minute to Senator Ahearn and I will take three minutes.

I presume Senator Higgins is replacing Senator Ruane.

I am. I will take three minutes.

I am, unfortunately, going to have to oppose the motion. My concerns relate to greyhound racing. The Minister will be aware that I aired those concerns when the greyhound legislation went through the previous Oireachtas. That was an opportunity for a root-and-branch overhaul of the industry and I regret that it was not fully taken. It is regrettable, for example, that the amendments we tabled to limit the exports of greyhounds and to provide for the proper tracing of the export of greyhounds were not taken at that time. The traceability issues, which have been highlighted, still remain.

I am proud of the fact that Senator Ruane and I won two important amendments in respect of that legislation. One was an amendment relating to the rehoming of greyhounds. When we hear a lot of talk from GRI, let us bear in mind that it was forced to bring forward initiatives in respect of rehoming dogs because of the changes made in that legislation. Rehoming is one thing, but the curtailment of excessive breeding and the proper tracing of puppies from birth, not just from the age of 12 months, are also still concerns. We are aware of the number of deaths of dogs that have taken place because the standards that are set are not met.

Dogs should never be treated as a crop. There are concerns about the lack of traceability or proper measures around exports and welfare.

Another amendment we won was adding a vet to the greyhound board yet we see vets are still not present at those meetings or trials. We hear about employment but there is ambiguity around where it is if vets are not attending meetings. It is not there in the welfare of greyhounds which takes only 10% of the proposed €17.6 million going to Greyhound Racing Ireland. The contrast is notable compared with the €1.5 million to animal welfare organisations of every kind across the country. I have no doubt that were we to invest even €5 million or €10 million of what we put into greyhounds into animal welfare organisations, that would generate employment and be a contribution and something of value to Irish society.

Greyhound racing is a sport which needs reform and ultimately needs to be ended. This is an exit process that needs to be looked at. Only 16% of respondents in a RedC poll felt the State should be funding this industry. The tracks have lost €30 million since 2019. Attendance fell by 55% between 2008 and 2018, previous to Covid. I am sure the State has also been supplementing income through schemes such as the PUP. Who is the State funding and supporting? Ultimately, through this we are funding the gambling industry. We have heard the figures on problem gambling of 40,000. To put this into perspective, Flutter Entertainment, of which Paddy Power is part, trebled its profits in the first six months of this year. It does not need our support for prize money.

How long do I have?

We will try to give the Senator one minute. It is all I can do.

Time could be taken from the Minister.

The Minister has taken time off his allocation already and he was unavoidably caught up.

Could we extend the time by ten minutes to allow contributions because the debate started late?

I am told that we must get an order of the House. The Order of Business was agreed today. We are wasting time now, actually.

Can I propose that, notwithstanding anything in the order of the House, we add an additional ten minutes to this debate?

We will check that out. Is that agreed?

That is perfect. I would love to have more time to speak on this but I will get straight to the point. I fully support this motion and I thank the Minister for his input and support to the sector. The horse and greyhound industries are a huge sector where I am from in Tipperary. I thank the Minister for his work in supporting Clonmel greyhound track and securing its future for the next number of years.

Horse racing creates 10,000 jobs directly and loads more indirectly. It contributes about €1 billion in generated funding. Jim Power did a report on the greyhound industry. It makes a net contribution of €132 million and 4,150 people working full time or part time in the industry. These are people who love animals and love what they do. It is important that we continue to support them.

Colleagues including Councillors Eileen Lynch and David McManus do their very best to support the industry too. I want to acknowledge their work. I will give an insight into what this industry can do and how it can change lives and encourage people. Just this week Rachael Blackmore was nominated for the BBC world sports star award. It is the first time since the 1960s that the racing industry was nominated for this award. The last time was a jockey from Australia, George Moore. She is up against Tom Brady who won the Super Bowl last year, Max Verstappen, the Formula 1 driver, and Novak Djokovic. She will win it, in my view, because of her contribution to the racing industry over the last year both on the horse and, most importantly, off the horse as an individual and an inspiration to people right across the country here, and particularly women. We in Tipperary are hugely proud of the contribution she makes for herself, the county and for the racing industry as a whole.

I thank the Senator for his co-operation. Senator Kyne may not move the amendment but we are trying to get a few extra minutes. Perhaps for now he can take three minutes and Senator Buttimer two and we will try to fit in Senator Cummins.

I can take two minutes. I welcome the Minister. My father, Lord have mercy on him, used to own a few horses in his time. It was more of a hobby than anything, although he had a small bit of success. He loved those horses. He treated them with respect. He got the vets in and talked to them, God knows, and was very much supportive of animal welfare. The majority of horse owners are the same. I support all these sports such as horse and greyhound racing but I want to ensure that everything is done to support animal welfare.

We have been told that the Senator can move an extension for ten minutes. Will he propose that?

I propose: "That notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, the time allocated to item 3 is extended to finish at 6.40 p.m."

Is that agreed? Agreed. We can get everyone in now, including the Minister. I can work miracles.

Animal welfare has to be important. There has been a lot of work done. In fairness, Members of both Houses and across the political spectrum have supported changes that have enhanced welfare.

I come from Galway where the Galway Races are synonymous. There is the seven-day festival in the summer and the September and October meetings. The world renowned Galway Plate and Galway Hurdle are a huge boost. It is thriving. The city closes down for productivity to a degree, or rather I should say that it opens up to everyone else, because it is a festival. It is the racing festival. It is hugely important to the local economy and there is also the Galway Racing Track as well as part of the sports ground in association with Connaught Rugby. The boost to the economy of the funding together with the prize moneys that are provided and the investment are huge. We should also highlight the opportunities it gives to Irish jockeys.

The greyhound industry supports 4,150 jobs and contributes €132 million to the economy as well as the further investment by the greyhound owners themselves. It is an industry that still has a positive role to play. However, I emphasise that the measures around welfare must be adhered to. There must be no doubt around inspection levels and adherence to guidelines that have been put in place by the Oireachtas. It is the Minister's job to ensure that happens for the good of the industry.

I thank Senator Kyne and apologise for the interruption. I suggest that Senators Buttimer and Cummins have two and a half minutes each.

I will take two minutes and leave the rest to Senator Cummins. I welcome the Minister to this important debate. I wish we had more time. Our horse and greyhound industry is very important to our country, economically and internationally. Ireland is known for how we treat our animals. It is a bit disingenuous of some to come in here and criticise the industry unfairly when they do not understand what has been done in terms of the changes to the greyhound industry, around rehoming and care. The Senators can shake their heads all they want -----

Senator Buttimer, please, address the Chair.

The Senator will be going out in the general election, telling people one thing and then doing another thing.

There are no vets at trials. That is the bare minimum.

Senator Buttimer to speak without interruption.

I have a lot more experience in the greyhound industry than the Senator.

I would not boast about that.

The Senator is hardly very objective then.

Yes. Declare an interest.

Senator Ahearn mentioned Councillors McManus and Lynch. Councillor Lynch's father and family are from Cork which has been the home of a number of Irish greyhound champions. I come from a family that supports and has had greyhounds. I know the work that is done and the care given to our greyhounds in the industry by those involved on the ground. I can vouch for those men and women.

The industry has changed, but our horse racing, our breeding, our thoroughbreds, our jockeys, our owners, our trainers and our horses are notable around the world. Senator Ahearn mentioned it in relation to Rachael Blackmore. Look at the success last weekend of Aidan Coleman in Aintree. Look at the success of our horses around the world and the value people around the world put on our thoroughbreds. The industry amounts to €1.84 billion and generates more than 29,000 jobs. This is a good motion. It is about supporting local economies. It is about supporting local people. More importantly, it is about ensuring there is welfare and accountability. That is what we are all about. None of us want to see the industry tarnished, damaged or sullied. That is why I am supporting this motion and I commend it to the House.

I welcome the Minister to the House and I fully support the horse and greyhound fund. Both industries are exceptionally important to my own county of Waterford. I grew up next to Kilcohan Park greyhound track. It provides many jobs to those involved in the industry and it indirectly employs at race meets every single week young people who go to school and live in the locality. The same can be said for the Tramore races and the many fantastic trainers we have in Waterford, not least Henry de Bromhead who has been honoured on numerous occasions due to his exploits last season.

More than that, it is important to acknowledge the welfare issue. Universally, you will not find anybody who disagrees on the importance of animal welfare. I have seen first hand the people who are involved in both the greyhound industry and the horse racing industry and the care and love for the animals that are entrusted to their care. They take those responsibilities exceptionally seriously. Any suggestion to the contrary is disingenuous. These are two very valuable industries to this country. It is important we continue, as a Government and as a country, to support these industries. If people are going to come into this Chamber and elsewhere and talk down the industries and attempt to do a disservice to them, they need to be honest with the people who are employed in those industries and not talk out of both sides of their mouth on this issue.

Certainly, when I came to chair this debate over an hour ago, I did not think would be so exciting with all that has gone on. Before I call the Minister, I appreciate all Senators for their co-operation. The Minister rang me when we were five minutes late. I knew that he was caught up in a meeting and he was trying to get here. I appreciate the Senators cut their time to accommodate that. I particularly appreciate my colleague Senator Daly, who I slapped down strongly at the start and he will never forgive me, and the officials for their support. I call the Minister to make his concluding remarks.

I thank the Cathaoirleach and Members for the various contributions this evening, for the passion with which everyone spoke to the motion, and for the tremendous interest there has been in it. I apologise again for the disruption at the start when I was delayed in leaving the Cabinet subcommittee meeting.

We have discussed this topic in great detail in the Dáil. I know many Senators also directly contributed to the debate at the Oireachtas committee on this issue. The one clear message from every speaker here this evening is that everyone in this House is determined and consistent on the importance of welfare standards and care for both horses and greyhounds. Indeed that is a priority that is shared, as we know and has been outlined by speakers here this evening, by owners of horses and greyhounds throughout the country. It is crucial that is the case. I have a strong message for anyone who would in any way move away from those high standards that owners expect of other owners and we expect of everyone involved as well. We will come down like a tonne of bricks on anyone who disrespects the principle of the importance of caring for both horses and greyhounds. When we look across both sectors there is great care. No one spoke to that better than Senator Kyne, when he spoke about his own experience of his own father and the care and attention that was brought. That is representative of horse owners and dog owners throughout the country.

Overall, these are two important sectors, not just for the enjoyment they bring to those who participate in them and those who attend them but also because of their economic output for the economy. Greyhound racing is a smaller sector but it is important throughout the country. It is especially important in rural Ireland, but it also has an important heritage in urban centres, such as in urban Dublin. Our horse racing sector is a beacon across the world, considering what we have built up and developed over the years. The horse and greyhound funding we give is very important as a generator for that sector by keeping it moving and pushing it on and providing leadership to a sector that is envied across the world and which we all intend to build on in the time ahead.

I recognise the role of Horse Racing Ireland and of Rásaíocht Con Éireann in providing stewardship and leadership to both those sectors. They recognise the widespread support across both Houses of the Oireachtas and across the vast majority of Members continuing with the State funding of both sectors to keep them at the centre of society so that they can be a key stimulant that underpins both of those sectors.

I thank the Acting Chair for his discretion and co-operation here this evening. I thank all Members for their participation here and at the Oireachtas committee. I know the Oireachtas committee in particular will continue to work with Rásaíocht Con Éireann and Horse Racing Ireland on this as the year progresses. Certainly, I look forward to doing that and to seeing both these industries strengthen in the time ahead and continuing to be important parts of Irish rural life as well as the Irish economy with, importantly, the highest of welfare standards at the centre of both.

Amendment put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 7; Níl, 34.

  • Boyhan, Victor.
  • Boylan, Lynn.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Wall, Mark.
  • Warfield, Fintan.

Níl

  • Ahearn, Garret.
  • Ardagh, Catherine.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Malcolm.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Crowe, Ollie.
  • Cummins, John.
  • Currie, Emer.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Davitt, Aidan.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Dolan, Aisling.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Gallagher, Robbie.
  • Garvey, Róisín.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lombard, Tim.
  • Martin, Vincent P.
  • McGahon, John.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Loughlin, Fiona.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Reilly, Pauline.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ward, Barry.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Lynn Boylan and Paul Gavan; Níl, Senators Robbie Gallagher and Seán Kyne..
Amendment declared lost.
Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee has advised the Cathaoirleach that she has entered into a voting pairing arrangement with Senator Eileen Flynn for the duration of Senator Flynn’s maternity leave and accordingly has not voted in this division.
Question put: "That the motion be agreed to."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 35; Níl, 5.

  • Ahearn, Garret.
  • Ardagh, Catherine.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Boyhan, Victor.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Malcolm.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Crowe, Ollie.
  • Cummins, John.
  • Currie, Emer.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Davitt, Aidan.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Dolan, Aisling.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Gallagher, Robbie.
  • Garvey, Róisín.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lombard, Tim.
  • McGahon, John.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Loughlin, Fiona.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Reilly, Pauline.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Wall, Mark.
  • Ward, Barry.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Boylan, Lynn.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Warfield, Fintan.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Robbie Gallagher and Seán Kyne; Níl, Senators Lynn Boylan and Paul Gavan.
Question declared carried.
Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee has advised the Cathaoirleach that she has entered into a voting pairing arrangement with Senator Eileen Flynn for the duration of Senator Flynn’s maternity leave and accordingly has not voted in this division.
Barr
Roinn