Dáil debates

Thursday, 26 October 2006

Other Questions.

Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund.

4:00 pm

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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Question 6: To ask the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the annual administration costs for Horse Racing Ireland and Bord na gCon; if he will provide these figures as a proportion of the annual fund for the dog and horse racing industries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34858/06]

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Minister, Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism; Kerry South, Fianna Fail)
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The horse and greyhound racing fund was established under the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act 2001 for the purpose of giving support to both racing industries. In accordance with the provisions of the Act, 80% and 20% of the moneys paid into the fund each year are distributed between Horse Racing Ireland and Bord na gCon, respectively. In 2005, the total allocation from the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund was €68.35 million, of which Horse Racing Ireland received €54.68 million and Bord na gCon received €13.67 million. I have been informed by Horse Racing Ireland that its 2005 administration costs were €5.25 million, or 9.6% of its allocation from the fund. Bord na gCon has informed me that its 2005 administration costs were €3.28 million, or 24% of its allocation from the fund. For the purposes of clarification, administration costs are taken as including staff wages and salaries and other contiguous expenditure relating to the performance of the staff functions of the organisations.

Photo of Paul GogartyPaul Gogarty (Dublin Mid West, Green Party)
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As the Minister is aware, I have tabled similar questions on previous occasions in respect of the horse and greyhound racing fund. In light of the fact that the administration costs of these bodies, particularly those of Horse Racing Ireland, are only a small proportion of the overall fund, does the Minister agree, assuming Fianna Fáil is returned to Government, which is by no means certain, there is a case for abolishing the fund in 2008? The amount of funding going to the horse and greyhound racing sectors is a real abomination because there are numerous small sporting groups that are crying out for funds. Would it not be better to reintroduce a tax on betting which could fund the horse and greyhound racing industries? Bookies make so much money out of gambling on these two sports they would be well able to fund them properly and ensure that they survive. Does the Minister agree that those who actively participate in sport would be better beneficiaries of this money than already profitable industries?

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Minister, Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism; Kerry South, Fianna Fail)
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We must accept that horse and greyhound racing are not just sports, they are industries and they support, directly and indirectly, approximately 15,500 people.

Photo of Paul GogartyPaul Gogarty (Dublin Mid West, Green Party)
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Then responsibility for them should be transferred to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Minister, Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism; Kerry South, Fianna Fail)
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The Irish horseracing industry has the most successful record internationally of any sport in which we are involved. This has been proved at various race meetings across the globe. We also have an enviable greyhound industry; I would venture to say that it is the finest in the world.

When an examination of the horseracing industry was undertaken, it was established that the thoroughbred breeding industry makes a gross contribution to the economy of €330 million per annum and pays tax of in the region of €37.5 million. Ireland is Europe's largest producer of thoroughbred foals and accounts for 42% of total output. It is the third largest producer in the world behind only the USA and Australia.

The horse and greyhound racing fund, which the Government put in place in 2001, is one of the reasons we are so successful in horseracing and greyhound racing. Under the provisions of the fund, the excise duty collected from high street shops was ring-fenced for the industries. The fund has been a resounding success.

Deputy Gogarty, in terms of the way he phrases his questions, and others who are critical of the industries concerned forget completely their economic contribution. For example, independent economic studies have put the value of the Galway and Punchestown festivals to their local economies at €60 million and €43 million, respectively. Racing attracts approximately 70,000 visitors to this country each year. The total value of Irish bloodstock sales last year was approximately €250 million, all of which, as with any other agricultural activity, is fully taxable. In the breeding industry alone, employment is estimated at 2.400 in the stallion sector and 2,300 in the brood mare sector.

These indigenous industries deserve the support of the Government. I emphatically disagree with any suggestion that the horse and greyhound fund should be discontinued after 2008. If it is discontinued after that date and if there is a reduction in support for the industries concerned as a result, we would be under-investing in indigenous industries which, for the most part, are located in rural areas where it can be quite difficult to find alternative employment. I sincerely and unashamedly hope that the fund will be renewed after 2008 so that we can continue to develop these indigenous industries, both for those involved in them and for the glorification of Irish sport.

Photo of Paul GogartyPaul Gogarty (Dublin Mid West, Green Party)
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Encouraging the development of a healthy society would be far more profitable.