Dáil debates

Thursday, 13 October 2005

Priority Questions.

Appointments to State Boards.

3:00 pm

Photo of Jack WallJack Wall (Kildare South, Labour)
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Question 2: To ask the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the basis on which he reappointed a person (details supplied) to Bord na gCon; if he gave an undertaking to six representatives of the greyhound industry at a meeting in December 2004 that this person would not be reappointed; the reason the person was subsequently appointed; if, when reappointing the person in question his attention has been drawn to the very critical comments made regarding the person in a judgment delivered in the High Court in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28425/05]

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Minister, Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism; Kerry South, Fianna Fail)
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Under the terms of the Greyhound Industry Act 1958, as amended by the Greyhound Industry (Amendment) Act 1993, I appoint the members of the board of Bord na gCon which consists of seven members, a chairman and six ordinary members. Ordinary members are appointed to serve for a three-year term on the expiry of which they are eligible for reappointment for a further term.

All appointments made by me to State boards are on the basis of the experience, knowledge and expertise that an individual can bring to the board and are in accordance with the provisions of the relevant legislation. While I do not consider it appropriate to disclose the contents of private discussions which I may have from time to time prior to making appointments to the various boards for which I have responsibility, I can confirm that in the case referred to by the Deputy I sought and obtained advice from the Office of the Attorney General that there was no legal impediment to his re-appointment.

Photo of Jack WallJack Wall (Kildare South, Labour)
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I have observed the upbeat approach of the Minister to the greyhound industry and have supported him at every turn. I am amazed this appointment was made given that a number of interested bodies in the industry had made representations to the Minister. What section of the industry does this person represent? The Minister received a letter from the stud owners' representative and secretary to the industry committee, the professional trainers' representative, the chairman of the Irish Greyhound Owners and Breeders Federation, the chairman of the Dublin Greyhound Owners and Breeders Association, the bookmakers' representative and the private greyhound stadia representative. Given the Minister received such a letter expressing concern at the appointment, what aspect of the industry could the Minister then claim the person represents?

I was deeply concerned at the letter sent to the Minister on 10 March. I have fully supported the Minister's efforts to assist the industry and no one would deny that he has had an upbeat approach. Given the number of associations concerned about the appointment and the effect it will have on the board, was the Minister not also concerned? Did the Minister give an undertaking to these associations, as they claim, that he would not reappoint this person to the board?

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Minister, Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism; Kerry South, Fianna Fail)
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All appointments to State boards I make are based on the experience, knowledge and expertise of the individual being appointed. In this instance that knowledge, experience and expertise is acknowledged by people across the spectrum. The person brings that experience, knowledge and expertise to the board. I would not make an appointment if I felt he were in any way restricted from serving on the board. I was advised he was not so restricted. At the time of the reappointment of the person there was no restriction on him from being a member of the board. I have no intention of getting into the detail of private conversations which I may have had with individuals in the consultative process. The person was appointed in the basis I have outlined and had been appointed to the same position by the previous Minister responsible for appointing this board.

Photo of Jack WallJack Wall (Kildare South, Labour)
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The Minister has not answered my question. If so many organisations were opposed to his appointment and wrote to the Minister on 10 March, what added value could the person bring to the board? I am involved with greyhounds but I do not know another aspect of the industry that is not represented by the five people who wrote to the Minister expressing concern. If all aspects of the industry were against the appointment, what aspect of the industry could that person represent?

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Minister, Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism; Kerry South, Fianna Fail)
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Irrespective of whom one appoints, that person will have supporters and detractors. It is no different in this case. The individual in question has been a member of a board that has been eminently successful. Bord na gCon has invested a considerable amount of money in building up its facilities and the integrity of the sport as well as increasing prize money over the past few years. We are seeing record attendances, prize money and sponsorship along with a record number of dogs in training. Given all the circumstances, I would have expected Deputy Wall to congratulate Bord na gCon on its great success. Young people are flocking to greyhound race meetings right across the country. The greyhound racing fund set up under the 2001 legislation is proving a great success. We have vibrant plans for the industry at several locations in the future.

The individual is a member of a board that has been greatly successful. There was no restriction on that person's appointment. It falls to me as Minister to make a decision in these matters. I did so in good faith and nobody has brought forward anything to suggest there was any legal impediment to the individual's participation on the board.

Photo of Jack WallJack Wall (Kildare South, Labour)
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The Minister is unfair in saying I do not support Bord na gCon. In my opening statement I said the Minister was upbeat on all occasions, and I supported him in that regard.