In February 2011, Dublin City Council (DCC) took over responsibility for the licensing of horse-drawn carriage operators and drivers from the Garda Carriage Office. This was achieved through bye-laws enacted under Part 19 of the Local Government Act 2001; that legislation provides a general power to a local authority to make bye-laws in relation to its own property or services or to regulate matters of local concern. It is under this Act that local authorities can choose, using bye-laws, to regulate horse-drawn carriages that operate for hire or reward within their functional area. These bye-laws allow relevant local authorities to set their own rules and stipulations to govern such operations.
In 2018 DCC became aware that - specifically in relation to Dublin - this legal basis for making such bye-laws could be uncertain. Local authorities may not make bye-laws for purposes provided for elsewhere in legislation. And the Dublin Carriage Acts 1853-55 had previously vested the power to regulate horse-drawn carriages in Dublin with the Dublin Metropolitan Police Commissioners, to whom An Garda Síochána is the successor.
My Department examined this issue and, following legal advice, is now of the view that the Dublin Carriage Acts 1853-55 remain in force and preclude DCC from enacting the relevant bye-laws.
I understand that DCC first became aware of the present legal issues during a routine review of the bye-laws that considered, inter alia, whether there was need to strengthen measures to safeguard the welfare of horses used to draw carriages. Furthermore, the Control of Horses Act 1996 allows local authorities to introduce bye-laws designating certain areas as control areas for horses. Dublin City Council has designated its administrative boundaries as such a control area under its Control of Horses Bye-Laws 2014. These bye-laws require horses to be licensed and set minimum standards for the keeping of horses within the control area.
Regulations for horse-drawn carriages for hire or reward should be aligned with any horse welfare obligations imposed by local authorities. Accordingly, I have formed the view that horse-drawn carriages for hire and reward should be regulated by local authorities.
This is a complex issue which spans the responsibilities of several Departments and levels of government. Accordingly, my Department is working with colleagues across Government, including the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, to identify how best to empower Dublin City Council to regulate this matter in Dublin, just as other local authorities regulate this matter elsewhere in the country. This work is progressing and I expect to be in a position to bring legislative proposals to Government for approval before the end of the year.