Dáil debates

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Road Traffic Legislation

3:30 pm

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, Independent)
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At lunchtime, Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan and I accepted a petition from 11 carriage drivers who came down from Merrion Road. They gave it to us in order that we might hand it to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. Councillors Cieran Perry and Deirdre Heney accepted a petition from the same carriage drivers to hand to the CEO of Dublin City Council. The letter is entitled "Dublin City Council control of horse-drawn carriages by-laws 2011", and states:

Dear Minister Ross,

We, the undersigned, refer to the above Bye-laws and to Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan's Parliamentary Question to you on 6 November 2018, wherein you were asked "your views as to whether the laws relating to horse-drawn vehicles and-or carriages are in need of review and strengthening".

It also states:

As you are aware, there is a "legal lacuna" with regards to the Bye-laws. It is our understanding that Dublin City Council had no basis to make bye-laws for the regulation of horse-drawn carriages and that primary legislation may need to be repealed or amended.

It further states:

We are professional carriage drivers and owners, operating under licence from Dublin City Council. However, as of September 2018 our Carriage Driver Licences and Carriage Licences have expired ...

In your response to the Dáil to Deputy O'Sullivan on 6 November 2018, you advised that you would "ensure that this matter is given due consideration". We would be obliged if you could resolve the legal situation as a matter of urgency.

We are calling on you ... to repeal the Victorian legislation to enable Dublin City Council to draft new, improved and enforceablebye-laws, that ... assess the driver, carriage, horse and harnessing, providing a safe and professional service to customers ...

A representative of the Carriage Owner/Drivers would be happy to meet with you to discuss further.

We look forward to hearing from you in the near future.

The Minister is familiar with this issue. He stated that neither he nor his Department were aware of this issue last November, but that is almost five months ago. He agreed to meet the stakeholders. These people are just asking for the Minister to sit down with them in order to discuss the issue.

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin Rathdown, Independent)
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I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. She is absolutely correct to state that this is the second time in six months it has been raised. It is being addressed. She is also correct to state that it should be addressed as a matter of great urgency. I note that she has a petition; I am happy to receive it and respond to it in a manner which shows the need for action on the issue.

As the Deputy may know, some local authorities develop by-laws to licence commercially operating horse-drawn carriages. Local authorities set their own rules and stipulations to govern such operations by means of by-laws. Part 19 of the Local Government Act 2001 provides local authorities with the power to make by-laws. Part 19 also provides a general power to a local authority to make by-laws in respect of its own properties or services or to regulate matters of local concern. Section 199(1) of the 2001 Act provides that a local authority "a local authority may make a bye-law for or in relation to the use, operation, protection, regulation or management of any land, services, or any other matter provided by or under the control or management of the local authority, whether within or without its functional area or in relation to any connected matter."

It is under this Act that local authorities can choose to regulate horse-drawn carriages that operate for hire or reward.

In most counties there seems to have been little demand and by-laws are not in place. In other areas, the matter is more relevant. For example, in Kerry, where there is a long tradition of jarvey operation, by-laws have been adopted to regulate the operation of these horse-drawn hackney carriages.

In February 2011, the city council took over responsibility for the licensing of horse-drawn carriage operators and drivers from the Garda carriage office. Dublin City Council made by-laws in the same year for the licensing of horse-drawn carriages. They made these by-laws under the Local Government Act 2001. As the Deputy will be aware, my Department has had sight of a note prepared by the Dublin City Council law agent giving the view that Dublin City Council has no legal basis to make such by-laws. The note indicates that such powers may instead still rest, under the Dublin Carriage Acts 1853, 1854 and 1855, with the Dublin Metropolitan Police Commissioners, in respect of whom the Garda Síochána is successor. Since this older Dublin-specific legislation was not repealed, powers for licensing horse-drawn carriages in Dublin still exist in statute. This means Dublin City Council is unable to make by-laws under the 2001 Act in this respect. By-laws may not be made under that 2001 Act where powers exist elsewhere in legislation.

While I am currently of the view that these matters should normally be managed at local government level, I have requested that the matter be given due consideration by my Department. I have requested, as I promised to Deputy O'Sullivan in reply to her question last time, that my Department engage with An Garda Síochána and Dublin City Council and seek separate legal advice if that is deemed necessary. Depending on the outcome there may be a requirement to amend or repeal legislation to ensure an appropriate, modern regulatory framework is in place.

Separately, I understand concerns have also been raised relating to animal welfare issues. The Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 provides powers to gardaí and authorised officers to deal with issues of animal welfare. Furthermore, the Control of Horses Act 1996 provides for local authorities to grant horse licences to those wishing to own a horse, thus entitling them to keep the horse in a control area. The Act provides that a horse licence shall not be granted to any person under the age of 16 years. Legislation of this nature comes within the ambit of my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

As with all vehicles used on a public road, the drivers of horse-drawn carriages are responsible for behaving in a safe manner and for paying due care to other users.

3:40 pm

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, Independent)
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The letter and petition have been drawn up by professional carriage drivers and owners who were operating under license from Dublin City Council. They want to be part of a system that is legal. They want to know that they are covered under the by-laws. It has been six months since Deputy O'Sullivan raised this matter. The Minister's reply to Deputy O'Sullivan stated that he would ensure the matter would be given due consideration. This would include further engagement with An Garda Síochána, Dublin City Council and others mentioned by the Deputy, including the carriage drivers and My Lovely Horse Rescue, a group involved with the carriage drivers. They are trying to bring in horse welfare measures that are robust.

If the 1853, 1854 and 1855 Acts are repealed quickly then we can enable the council to bring in the by-laws or else introduce measures under the Road Traffic Act 2016 to allow the NTA to take over this area. The Minister must move on this. These people have been in a lacuna since September of last year. They want to be responsible and encourage other carriage drivers to be responsible and to look after their horses as well. This is not about animal welfare - these drivers look after their horses.

The Minister referred to other Acts including the Animal Health and Welfare Act and the Control of Horses Act. Those Acts are highly questionable because they are not implemented and a great deal of work remains to be done around them. Will the Minister meet representatives of My Lovely Horse Rescue and the carriage drivers to talk to them about what needs to be done and what the Minister will do about this?

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin Rathdown, Independent)
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The Deputy is making a fair point and I think something has to be done about this. It probably should have been done a little sooner. The Deputy will understand that there were other distractions in recent months which probably meant it was not at the top of the priority list. If this is not addressed shortly, I intend to let the Deputy know. It is my intention to consider whether we need a small tranche of legislation to repeal the Victorian legislation that gives the Garda Síochána powers for licensing horse-drawn carriages in Dublin. Once that is done, Dublin City Council can license these carriages under the Local Government Act 2001, as can other local authorities. We intend to use the taxi regulation (amendment)(rickshaw) Bill 2018 to do this. The Department has this week been assigned a drafter for the Bill. We will be engaging with An Garda Síochána and the City Council as part of this process. I intend to move on this as rapidly as the taxi regulation (amendment)(rickshaw) Bill 2018 moves. I intend to move to introduce the taxi regulation (amendment)(rickshaw) Bill 2018 as soon as possible.