Dáil debates

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund Regulations 2017: Motion


5:20 pm

Photo of Michael CreedMichael Creed (Cork North West, Fine Gael)
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I move:

That Dáil Éireann approves the following Regulations in draft:Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund Regulations 2017,copies of which were laid in draft form before Dáil Éireann on 13th November 2017.

I apologise to the House for being late. The horse and greyhound racing industries occupy a key position in the sporting and social landscape. As a nation, we have a strong affinity not just with racing but also with the social scene at its core. Government funding of these key industries provides an excellent opportunity to yield a high return on its investment. Support for certain strategic industries is important to future economic growth and can provide widespread benefits for society, as well as for the economy.

The 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 and Bord na gCon. In the period 2001 to date, a total of €1.12 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 regulations has, therefore, been reached. Exchequer funding provided from the fund is pivotal to the survival and continued development of the horse and greyhound racing industries. In order to give effect to the provisions of budget 2018, the cumulative upper limit must be increased by regulations.

This is because it is necessary to comply with the technical requirement under section 12(13) of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act 2001. Doing so by way of these regulations allows us to increase the cumulative limit on the amount payable from the horse and greyhound racing fund by €80 million to some €1.2 billion.

The recent Deloitte report commissioned by Horse Racing Ireland indicates that the total estimated direct and stimulated expenditure of the Irish breeding and racing industry was €1.84 billion in 2016, with the core industry contributing €914 million of this and secondary expenditure the remaining €927 million. There are an estimated 15,200 jobs at the core of the racing and breeding industry and in directly related industries. The achievements of Irish bred and Irish trained horses abroad and the enduring influence of Irish born jockeys and stable staff underscore Ireland's global prominence. We hold the distinguished position of being the third highest producer of foals, coupled with having the third highest number of active brood mares in the world. Government funding is crucial to maintaining and building on our position as one of the world's leading breeding and racing nations. Moreover, this funding affords the State an excellent opportunity to secure a high return on its investment, leading to a flow of income throughout the economy. Support for certain strategic industries is important for future economic growth and can provide widespread benefits for our society, as well as the economy.

The greyhound industry is significant for Ireland and has been embedded in Irish society for decades. It is an important activity from an economic, social and cultural perspective and provides and supports considerable employment, both directly and indirectly, across the country. The greyhound sector went through challenging times during the economic recession, but it continues to make a significant economic and financial contribution to the economy, particularly at a local level. Bord na gCon's annual reports indicate that despite the severe recession, the industry is recovering, showing an increase in the operating surplus in 2015 and again in 2016. Funds generated from greyhound racing are reinvested in the industry through contributions to prize money and grants to various bodies involved in the greyhound racing and breeding sector, as well as the promotion of greyhound welfare and the regulation of the industry. Revenues generated have also contributed significantly to the improved facilities now available at greyhound tracks throughout the country. Greyhound racing is an activity that is inextricably linked with the farming community and while it is undoubtedly part of the fabric of rural Ireland, it also enjoys a strong urban support base.

The Horse Racing Ireland Act 2016 introduced a range of improvements in governance and accountability arrangements, many of which derive from recommendations made by Indecon International Economic Consultants following its review of the sector. Indecon was further commissioned to conduct a review of matters related to Bord na gCon in order to assess the suitability of the legal, governance and regulatory framework supporting the greyhound industry and identify opportunities to maximise its commercial income. In response to the recommendations made in the Indecon and Morris reports and the report prepared by the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, I have introduced a draft general scheme of a greyhound industry Bill. The Bill will address the governance of Bord na gCon, strengthen regulatory controls in the industry, modernise sanctions and improve integrity with a view to building a reputation for exceptional regulation in the sector. The draft general scheme has progressed through the pre-legislative scrutiny phase and it is hoped a memorandum will be brought before the Government in the coming weeks requesting approval to publish the updated scheme and submit it to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for drafting. The legislation will bolster the greyhound industry, enable it to deal with existing challenges and maximise its future potential.

Horse Racing Ireland and Bord na gCon face significant challenges as they work to grow and develop the horse and greyhound racing industries in a competitive and mobile market. I am confident, however, that both industries have tremendous growth potential, with sporting, leisure, tourism and cultural appeal across a wide demographic, both national and international. The thoroughbred horse industry is a major driver of the economy and both industries breathe life and jobs into their respective communities from the grassroots up. The hugely important contribution made by the horse and greyhound racing fund since its inception in 2001 has been vital in ensuring the industries can continue to invest in their infrastructure. The €80 million allocation for which I am seeking the approval of the House is vital in securing rural jobs and sustaining communities. The regulations are necessary to ensure Horse Racing Ireland and Bord na gCon will receive the funding provided for in budget 2018 and that the very important role played by the industries and the economic activity generated by them will be sustained into the future.

I commend the motion to the House and look forward to discussing any matter arising.

5:30 pm

Photo of Pat GallagherPat Gallagher (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Jackie Cahill has agreed to share time with Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe.

Photo of Jackie CahillJackie Cahill (Tipperary, Fianna Fail)
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Fianna Fáil supports this proposal. The horse and greyhound racing sectors are two industries of which we in this country can justifiably be proud. The funding allocated to them is some of the best money spent by the Exchequer. In 2016 the two industries contributed €50 million in betting taxation, which represented an increase of some €20 million in the wake of the provisions set out in the Betting (Amendment) Act 2015. I am confident the revenue will have increased again this year. Nevertheless, there is scope for us to review how the industries are taxed, particularly in view of the growth in betting exchanges and the increase in activity by the very large multinational bookmaking operations.

A tax rate of 1% is extremely low. However, in making any change to the taxation regime we must be very conscious of the position of track bookmakers. Some of them have started to use betting exchanges in an attempt to boost their turnover, but they are essentially a vanishing species. In reviewing how the taxation system operates we should consider whether we can do anything to help their survival. Track bookmakers are an integral part of the social aspect of horse and greyhound racing and bring a unique perspective to events. If we were to lose them and move towards a tote monopoly, we would lose a huge part of the industry and our heritage. We must find ways to help them to survive, as well as the small independent bookmakers who are also getting scarce in numbers. We need to find imaginative ways to secure tax revenue in a way that is fair to all operators. Following a substantial drop in revenue during the recession, there is great scope for revenue generation from both industries. I imagine that in the near future what we gain from them in taxation will be on par with what the State invests in the industries.

The Minister referred to the forthcoming greyhound industry Bill which is urgently required. There have been various controversies in recent years where a dog was found to have been given this or that substance. These revelations are doing unknown damage to the industry's reputation. We need legislation that will allow us to offer a robust defence of the integrity of the industry. If people are using prohibited substances, there should be stringent ways of dealing with the issue. The long delays between when a report is made on an animal being treated with a substance and the imposition of a fine or sanctions for such behaviour must be addressed.

Photo of Kevin O'KeeffeKevin O'Keeffe (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Minister and the Minister of State, Deputy Andrew Doyle, for the work they are doing in this area. I welcome the proposal to provide additional funding for the horse and greyhound racing industries. There will be critics who see this as money badly spent, but the Minister must remind them of the number of jobs created by the industries and the tremendous revenue they generate for the Exchequer. It has been a traumatic year for the greyhound industry, with the sad closure of the Harold's Cross track. I hope the industry can move on from it and secure the future of the remaining major tracks.

I agree with Deputy Jackie Cahill that while betting tax will have to increase down the road, a proviso should be implemented to minimise the effect on on-course bookmakers who provide an invaluable service and are part of what attracts people to track racing. They keep the crowds up and engage people in great banter, as we see on television.

It is important to look after on-course bookies, many of whom are sole traders. I thank the Minister as we seem to be moving forward with funding for horses, but he should not forget trotting, an activity which is growing.

5:40 pm

Photo of Martin KennyMartin Kenny (Sligo-Leitrim, Sinn Fein)
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The horse racing industry has been before us as a topic on many occasions, both here and in committees. The €80 million spent on these two industries is a huge revenue investment by society. We all understand we have to invest to reap a reward at a future date and plenty has been made of the return we get on it, but many feel the amount the industry receives is worth discussing. It is seen as a club for very rich people and people feel not enough is being done to help those at the other end of the scale. I come from a rural community and we all know people who are involved in the industry, who have a couple of old nags and try their best but fail all the time and some support has to be given to them as it is not being given currently.

Last year we looked at the money given to the horse racing industry and saw that a lot of it ended up in prize money. At big race events we can see who collects this prize money and I do not think it is a good use of public money. We should not be putting such sums of money into the industry until there is reform and the only way we can protest at what is going on is by saying in this House that we do not support the amount being put into the greyhound and horse racing industry in this context. We have talked about bad management but it goes further than just mistakes being made. A lot of the things happening are intentional and designed to enrich a small group in the industry. That is wrong and we need to stand up to it.

All that is going on in respect of testing and doping in the greyhound industry is obscene. I remember people protesting with their greyhounds about the closure of Harold's Cross greyhound stadium and that is another example of a sector within the industry which is simply not working right. We have reports and other things are coming up, but, at the end of the day, nobody is getting the people responsible for this into line. Until we can ensure these things are done properly, I suggest we do not support the motion.

Photo of Martin FerrisMartin Ferris (Kerry, Sinn Fein)
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I am from north Kerry, where a lot of greyhound breeders have contributed hugely to the economy of the local area and further afield. There is a tremendous community and social side to the greyhound track in Tralee on a Friday or Saturday night; therefore, it is with sadness that I have to raise some issues about the sector. I have been lobbied by small greyhound breeders who are absolutely disgusted and feel let down by the lack of regulation and proper policing and testing in the greyhound sector. One particular greyhound has tested three times in four weeks for cocaine, but the owner took the case to the courts and won his case. As a result, the dog was allowed to run without any sanction on the trainer or owner. That is wrong because it means the small man cannot compete with the big man. The big man can find experienced personnel to buck the system and that has happened on several occasions.

The reputation of the greyhound sector has suffered over a considerable time and we have not just learned about this today or yesterday, yet nothing has been done by successive Governments to bring about proper policing and testing within the sector. There is no sanction when, over a four-week period, a trainer can win three high value stakes with a dog that tested positive for cocaine each time. How can anybody have any confidence in such a sector or allocate money to it when this happens? This is the complaint of the small breeders who have five or six dogs and try to win a stake every now and then. If they could win it would make a big difference to them but they cannot do so and my party and I have serious problems with this motion as a result. It is with reluctance that I have to say we cannot support it.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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On a point of order, this is the second Minister who has come to the House this evening without a speech. We have spent a lot of hours at the Business Committee discussing this issue and it is not good enough.

Photo of Pat GallagherPat Gallagher (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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That is not a point of order. The failure to provide the script was inadvertent.

Photo of Willie PenroseWillie Penrose (Longford-Westmeath, Labour)
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The Labour Party is acutely aware of the importance of the greyhound and horse racing industries across the country for economic activity, employment and leisure and we have supported the allocation of funds to the industries in the past 20 years or so, as we do this evening for HRI and Bord na gCon. We are nonetheless eager to get to the point where there is a long-term funding structure in place, for the horse racing industry, in particular. This can be achieved by pursuing correct policies and it will mean savings for the Exchequer. The horse racing industry's aim is to become self-financing and be able to stand on its own feet without the necessity of Exchequer funding, which would then be available for other important areas where it is much needed.

We have engaged in detailed submissions on the greyhound industry in the past year on proposed legislation and we have focused on significant welfare issues which must be addressed in any legislative intervention. Of equal importance is the question of probity and integrity at all levels of the greyhound industry. Shortcomings, failures, excuses and failures to follow up on investigations and inspections are no longer acceptable. Following the prelegislative scrutiny debates, all stakeholders in the industry are on notice that co-operation and significant improvement in these areas must be forthcoming. If there are no improvements, funding should be reviewed and discontinued.

I note the disposal of Harold's Cross stadium and hope Bord na gCon will not be found wanting in helping out some small, rural greyhound tracks which kept going in adverse economic circumstances. Mullingar greyhound stadium needs some assistance for vital infrastructural investment in order that it can continue to provide vital facilities for the public and entertainment. It is an important track and I trust funding will be forthcoming from Bord na gCon and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

I have raised the publication of the Indecon report and we support its recommendations, in particular that pertaining to the Irish Harness Racing Association, which is made up of a very constructive and responsible group of people who have already set about implementing recommendations in a very focused way, notwithstanding the failure of the Department and other stakeholders in allocating them resources. The Irish Harness Racing Association has made multiple requests for funding assistance as it needs seed funding of some €720,000, with a further €2 million in capital funding.

Brexit will have serious implications for the thoroughbred racing industry and the breeding industry. The Irish racing and breeding industry is in many ways dependent on Britain as our main market and the sector is considerably exposed in the event of a hard Brexit. The horse racing and breeding industries of the United Kingdom and Ireland operate as one with horses, trainers and riders regularly moving between both jurisdictions. Horse Racing Ireland has informed us that thoroughbred racing has always operated on an all-island basis and foals born in Northern Ireland carry the IRE suffix, rather than the GB suffix. Two of Ireland's 26 racecourses are based in Northern Ireland, with 22 fixtures annually. All trainers in Northern Ireland are licensed by the Irish Turf Club and races there are staged under the Turf Club's rules of racing. Approximately 90% of runners in these fixtures are trained in the Republic and horses move on a daily basis; therefore, a return to a hard Border would seriously disrupt this movement. The two countries also operate as a single entity for stud book purposes.

Some 65% of our foals are exported and 80% of these exports are to Britain; therefore, it is the single biggest market for bloodstock and is a huge revenue generator. Some €225 million or €230 million was generated by exported thoroughbreds. Some 80% of this would be at risk due to trade issues following the vote in favour of Brexit. Exchange rate volatility is important. I have been very cantankerous with regard to media rights, as people know, and from 2019 to 2023, media rights will be paid in sterling. That will be a significant risk to income, that is, the exchange rates and so on. I do not want to see Kilbeggan, Ballinrobe, Roscommon and all those small racecourses losing out. I agree with Deputy Martin Kenny. It is no use putting a lot of this prize money into where the snobby crowd is always cleaning up. I am worried about people like Peter Downes who breed horses and work hard. They are top class breeders, especially in the jumps industry. I am an advocate for the jumps industry. The wealthy crowd is in the flat industry. I would look after people who are involved in the real race course. In Britain-----

5:50 pm

Photo of Michael CreedMichael Creed (Cork North West, Fine Gael)
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That is why we put substantially more money into funding it.

Photo of Willie PenroseWillie Penrose (Longford-Westmeath, Labour)
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I agree with the Minister. Some 80,000 tourists come here annually because of our racing industry. That will be under threat owing to unfavourable rates of exchange. In 2016, Irish-trained horses ran about 1,500 times in Britain, winning prize money of €15.3 million and, in reverse, there were only 309 British runners here and they only won €3.9 million. Britain relies heavily on Ireland and France to source racehorses and 75% of runners in British fixtures are either Irish-bred or French-bred. The importance of Brexit cannot be overemphasised with regard to this industry.

Photo of Paul MurphyPaul Murphy (Dublin South West, Solidarity)
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Here we are again. Another year has passed and another €80 million is being provided for the horse and greyhound racing industries. The Minister, in his speech, as far as I can tell, makes no reference whatsoever to the issues of animal welfare and animal rights. How long can he continue to ignore the horrific conditions faced by greyhounds in this industry? I know people who own greyhounds who love their dogs, treat them well, etc., but I also know that it is an industry that is intimately connected to gambling and where the profit motive is extremely strong, which, unfortunately, has an extremely distorting impact and results in cruel practices towards dogs. In the last week there were two very important stories in the media which illustrate the point.

The first which is in the newspapers today addresses doping. Another two greyhounds have tested positive for traces of cocaine. Every time this happens, the Irish Greyhound Board, IGB, states it has a doping testing regime in place and that it only thinks 1% of dogs is affected, but all of the evidence suggests it is the tip of the iceberg. Pharmacology experts, veterinarians and others in the industry treat the official figures with serious scepticism. The Morris report pointed to severe problems with the anti-doping measures in the greyhound industry and found that the National Greyhound Laboratory did not have facilities to test many of the drugs used to dope greyhounds. When will the IGB be obliged to fund adequate levels of testing for substances in greyhounds?

The issue of export of dogs to countries which have very low or no animal welfare regulations or legislation is serious. I note that the Minister, in an answer to Deputy Daly on 28 March, said Bord na gCon "advises all owners involved in the export of greyhounds to only export to destinations that provide the expected levels of greyhound care and management as defined in the IGB's Code of Practice for the welfare of greyhounds. I strongly endorse this view." That is all very well, but the reality is that greyhounds are being exported to China, Pakistan and countries where really cruel treatment of dogs is absolutely rife. There was a story in the British press a week ago about a woman called Kerry Elliman who has been involved in a Birmingham organisation and rescued dogs which were exported from Ireland to China. The conditions that are reported are horrific. The Daily Mirrorstates

Video footage from contacts across China gives a horrific insight into how racing greyhounds are treated in the absence of animal protection laws.

One harrowing clip shows a greyhound being boiled alive in a cauldron.

In other clips greyhounds yelp as they are strung up with cables and hung from a line to be weighed.

Other greyhounds, reduced to skin and bone, are confined in a tiny cage. Last week, Kerry spent five days in Beijing to retrieve the dogs her contacts intercepted.

Kerry has been in touch with me and provided me with an extensive list of dogs that have been exported from Ireland. The dogs are on a website in China with their original owners listed and they came directly from Ireland. There is a list of 22 dogs, owned by the Cliffords, Jason Walsh, Stephen McNamara, Gerard Dowling, Stephen Dunphy and the list goes on. I can provide it for the Minister. These are greyhounds which were directly exported from Ireland to China and it seems likely that many of those involved in the exports are also involved in exports to Pakistan and elsewhere.

Photo of Kevin O'KeeffeKevin O'Keeffe (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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Has the Deputy many socialist friends in China?

Photo of Paul MurphyPaul Murphy (Dublin South West, Solidarity)
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What will be done about this? It is all very well for the IGB to state it does not want dogs to be treated in this way, but that is happening now. When is the code going to be put on a statutory footing? When will the Government stop exports to states such as Macau, China, Pakistan and all those with no or inadequate animal welfare laws? When will there be an investigation into where Irish-bred greyhounds end up?

Photo of Maureen O'SullivanMaureen O'Sullivan (Dublin Central, Independent)
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My position on animals and greyhounds is well known. This issue was dealt with in Private Members' business some time ago and I also tried to bring foreard a Bill to ban live hare coursing. We have far too many examples of appalling ways in which animals are treated in this country and I want to acknowledge the individuals, families and organisations which do so much for animal welfare and try to redress that balance and address the cruelty, neglect and indifference to animals. It was positive that the Minister, Deputy Michael Creed, signed the regulation banning the use of wild animals in circuses which will come into effect on 1 January. He has said the use of wild animals for entertainment purposes in circuses can no longer be permitted and I agree with him. There is hypocrisy because we still allow animals like greyhounds to be used for entertainment in a way where they suffer injuries and where other animals are also injured. I would like to see more of the funding allocated today to be designated for welfare.

I met representatives of Bord na gCon when they were here and discussed these matters with them. I acknowledge those greyhound owners who look after their dogs but those who do not are not being addressed. We see that with those whose dogs have been found to have been doped. Funding should have a role in that regard. There should be a way in which funding will only go to those who have the welfare of the animals at heart. I know Bord na gCon has a retired greyhound trust to rehome greyhounds, but that is through a 2% deduction from all winning prize money and matching contributions from Bord na gCon, which I do not think goes far enough. It had a nice booklet about greyhounds making great pets with which I totally agree since I have met many of them, but it does not comprehensively address the welfare of greyhounds. We have evidence of owners who have no guilt or compunction and are ready to sell off unwanted greyhounds, as Deputy Paul Murphy said, to places such as Macau. The treatment is appalling and well documented. As well as Macau, they are going to other places in China and Pakistan. The owners are exporting greyhounds first to Spain and France in order that they are not seen to be going directly to Macau and elsewhere, but the trail is there. Animal welfare groups that trace the trail follow it back to greyhound owners in Ireland and have named them, but the owners get away with impunity. Bord na gCon could have a role in that regard and in dealing with those owners who abandon their greyhounds, openly or otherwise, to rescue centres.

We know that greyhounds are very affectionate creatures. We also know about the injuries and dogs that are put down because of them or because they have not made the cut. There is a big demand to try to re-home these greyhounds. My views on live hare coursing are well known. I do not believe we should do it any more.

7 o’clock

We have a lot of evidence from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Irish Council Against Blood Sports of what goes on at some hare coursing meetings. The hares are terrorised, struck multiple times by dogs and mauled to the ground. We are also aware of hares being brought back to other coursing meetings. There is plenty of footage available, but, again, there is no follow-up action for those found guilty. There is an alternative available: drag coursing. I ask Bord na gCon to consider using some of its funding to examine this alternative which has proved viable in other countries. It also had another nice booklet on loving and respecting its athletes which was about the greyhounds.

My point is that all greyhound owners pay their fee to the coursing club but many greyhound owners do not agree with coursing. Bord na gCon should hold the book to register greyhounds. We would then know exactly how many greyhound owners were in favour of coursing. This is public funding and the public have indicated in many surveys that they do not agree with live hare coursing, yet owners of greyhounds who do not agree with coursing have to pay their fee to the coursing club.

Let us consider the horse racing industry and the extent of its funding. What percentage goes towards the treatment of injuries, re-homing and animal welfare initiatives? Prize money accounts for more than half of the total expenditure of Horse Racing Ireland, the bulk of which goes to a specific group of racehorse owners, yet many stable staff, some of whom are on minimum wage, are enduring poor working conditions. The provision of funding could be contingent on meeting certain conditions, although I do not know why the horse racing industry cannot fund itself.

The horses that make the grade are treated very well, but what about the ones that do not? We have been told about bleeding lungs and gastric ulcers. How much of the fund goes towards treating injuries?

We also know about the money that is filtered down from Horse Racing Ireland to hunt clubs via point to point meeting grants. When we consider the funding going to the industry and that going to the animal welfare organisations, there is absolutely no match, yet the animal welfare organisations are picking up the pieces. There is hypocrisy in that regard. We have to be consistent; there has to be an adequate and a proper follow-up to the abuse of animals.

6:00 pm

Photo of Pat GallagherPat Gallagher (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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Bogfaimid ar aghaidh anois go dtí the Rural Independent Group. Glaoim ar an Teachta Michael Healy-Rae.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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I am sharing time with Deputy Mattie McGrath, or he is sharing it with me.

I express my support for the small trainers. They are greyhound men and women and genuine people. Never in their lives would they engage in activity such as mistreating their animals, drugging dogs or engaging in any of that nonsense. They are respectable people whom I admire. I go to the greyhound track in Tralee. A person could not go to a better place on a Friday or a Saturday night. It is a great fund-raiser. Local community groups, schools and GAA clubs use the facilities where people come together. It is a great place for young people and children to go to because it is safe and they enjoy it. It is a great community activity. However, I cannot get my head around how it is acceptable for a person who drugs a dog and has that unfair advantage to run that dog again. We all know that the dog is innocent and does not take the drugs. However, if it tests positive a week or two or three weeks later, how can the person in question run it again? It is the person who is wrong.

I fully support the greyhound industry. I am behind every person involved in it. For the small greyhound breeders and those who love a little win now and then, it balances their books a little if they receive some prize money. For God's sake, tackle the unfair advantage which I describe as the criminal element. Anyone who drugs a dog is engaging in a criminal act.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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I, too, welcome the money and thank the Minister for announcing the allocation of an extra €80 million, bringing the total to €1.2 billion. It is a wonderful industry in which many people are employed. Like previous speakers, I am very concerned about doping or drugs being used. That practice must be rooted out and we must come down heavily on it because those involved are tarnishing the name of this good and wonderful industry.

Clonmel track is located in my constituency. Think about all of the pleasure and enjoyment it and coursing give. Think also about the spin-offs, the money and industry that go into it. I ask Deputies Paul Murphy, Maureen O'Sullivan and others who oppose it to come to see the industries that surround it. Everyone who has a dog has to have a kennel, avail of veterinary services, have tackle, foodstuffs and everything else that goes with it. I am all for the industry and want to support it.

Like others, I support the amendment to the 2015 Act on betting tax. The rate is too low at 1%. It is not too low, however, for the small men who are part of the culture and heritage - the bookies we meet on the dog and horse racing courses. They are part and parcel of that heritage and culture, as well as the fun, enjoyment and banter, something we must protect. I support the small bookies who must be supported. They employ people, pay rates and everything else.

I also challenge the Minister to do something for small racehorse owners. I am not talking about the Coolmore Stud or the big syndicates and trainers. Think about the rates charged and the small trainers who must be supported. We talk about rural proofing legislation, but we are not rural proofing anything, rather we are trying to destroy everything that is good in rural areas.

We must also look at the carry-on of the big conglomerates which I now call vulture funds. We have our own in County Tipperary which is home-grown. We have great prowess with horses and in winning races, but we must look at the wages they pay and the way they are buying and gobbling up all of the land available. They are no better than vulture funds, which is a shame. While I acknowledge their prowess with horses and in providing enjoyment, it has now gone too far.

Let me address the issue of animal cruelty which is now wholesale. I challenge Deputy Paul Murphy and all of the others who are against coursing to come and see the marauding gangs of criminals who are out today and and will be out tonight lamping. There are five, six or ten of them with five or six dogs chasing after one hare or any other animal they meet, but neither the ISPCA nor anyone else is controlling them. I invite the Deputies and others to come to the coursing meeting in Clonmel at the end of January. It is a wonderful festival which is almost upon us. It is worth approximately €6 million to Clonmel and we want to support and keep it. We want the naysayers to turn their attention to the marauding gangs. They are the ones about whom they are always talking. We know who they are. When a man meets 60 of them on a bridge in Ballycarron in Golden and takes numbers, three of them wearing balaclavas will approach him. It is time the mob was cleaned up.

It sickens me to my very being to hear Deputy Paul Murphy and others worry about greyhounds and hares when they do not mind the slaughter of innocent unborn babies. Every day of the week they are looking for abortion. I have just left the committee from where it is all coming. I am disgusted. They cannot wait to have it - save the hares and kill unborn babies. It is fairly warped thinking.

Question put.

Photo of Pat GallagherPat Gallagher (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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In accordance with Standing Order 70(2), the division is postponed until the weekly division time on Thursday, 7 December 2017.