Tuesday, 23 October 2018
Greyhound Racing Bill 2018: Committee Stage
I am pleased to be back here so swiftly to deal with the Committee Stage amendments to the Bill I introduced here last week.
Section 1 provides for the Short Title and collective citation of the Bill. The amendments are very simple and of a typographical nature.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 12, between lines 20 and 21, to insert the following:“(3) The membership of the Board shall include one or more than one veterinary practitioner of at least 5 years standing.”.
I thank the Minister of State for his time in the Seanad this evening. I will start by welcoming the Bill and the strong reforms it will implement to the governance of the greyhound racing sector. Much work has gone into the Bill before us. I recognise the 2014 Indecon report commissioned by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the 2015 report on the industry by the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and the Morris review of anti-doping and medication in Ireland published in 2016, all of which have played a part in contributing to the drafting of this legislation, as well as the advocacy of a range of organisations and NGOs that have been part of the process such as Dogs Trust, the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, ISPCA, and the Irish Council Against Blood Sports.
For today's debate, my colleagues, Senators Black, Grace O'Sullivan and Higgins, and I have all tabled several amendments to the Bill. Taken together, they are brought forward in an attempt to work alongside and complementary to the provisions, as currently set out, and to strengthen and broaden those provisions that refer to the welfare and health of greyhounds within the industry. We do not wish to hold up this important legislation, merely to ensure that it leaves the Seanad strengthened and more complete as it relates to the animals at the core of this industry. It is an unfortunate reality that the industry has not always put the welfare of dogs at the centre of its practices. While progress has been made in recent years, there have been widespread violations of animal welfare, which we are seeking to ward off by the enactment of this legislation.
In amendment No. 3 we seek to ensure that the health and welfare of animals are put at the heart of the governance of the greyhound racing industry and the new greyhound board. Our intention with this amendment is to make it a statutory requirement that a veterinary practitioner be on the board. Such practitioners have dedicated their careers to the health and well-being of animals and we believe their presence on the board would have a significant impact on raising welfare standards across the industry as all board decisions and discussions would be seen by someone in the room through an animal welfare lens. It is a simple and straightforward amendment intended in a constructive spirit and I hope the Minister of State will accept it.
I am speaking to my amendment in conjunction with Senator Ruane. It was probably remiss of me not to include the term "veterinary practitioner" in my amendment. Where I am coming from on this is that it is well-known in the House that my background is more in horse racing than the greyhound business. I have based the amendment on the model of Horse Racing Ireland, HRI. There are representatives on the HRI board from stable staff and trainers to the Association of Irish Racecourses. My thinking in submitting this amendment is that, as Senator Ruane just said, depending on how the board would come together over a period, it is conceivable that none of the aforementioned - the breeders, owners, trainers or independent tracks - would have direct representation, and decisions would be made by the board which would directly affect them. It is very important that they have a voice in the room. I will give one example which could happen down the line. If the independent tracks were not represented, the board could conceivably be seen in every decision it makes to be favouring its own tracks. For this reason, it is very important that the independent tracks be represented, likewise the breeders, owners and trainers. As Senator Ruane said, the amendments are fairly self-explanatory and I hope the Government will see fit to accept them for the positive purposes and reasons for which they are intended.
These amendments, all of which I agree with, seek to amend section 9 of the Bill, which deals with the constitution of the board. The proposed new section 7 states:
The membership of the Board shall consist of—(a) a chairperson, and
(b) 8 ordinary members
Then we have a rather bland statement: "who have, in the opinion of the Minister, experience of or shown capacity in matters relevant to the functions of the Board". This could mean more or less anything. The functions of the board include financial matters, so there could be an accountant on it, but there is nothing specific about people who have direct involvement in the greyhound industry or a veterinary surgeon. Subsection (2) of the proposed new section 7 states: "The Minister shall, insofar as practicable and having regard to the relevant experience of the persons concerned, ensure an equitable balance between men and women in the composition of the membership of the Board." This is all blather. It is of much more significance to have expertise rather than this kind of politically correct nodding in the direction of gender balance.What is needed is expertise. If there are women who have expertise in this area, that is wonderful and we should let them on the board, but why stress this in the absence of any direct relationship to the professional qualifications of members of the board?
Senator Ruane's amendment is strikingly obvious. We must have a veterinarian on the board. These people are charged with looking after the welfare of animals. One of the objectives of the Bill is to look after the welfare of animals. I strongly support the subsequent amendments that deal with the export of greyhounds, which is an abominable practice. They are exported as flesh and bones to be manufactured away.
It is extremely important that the membership of the board shall include one or more than one veterinary practitioner of at least five years' standing. That is perfect. I appeal to the Minister of State to accept the amendment. It seems to be perfectly reasonable and logical and it fleshes out the existing section 9, in which there is no mention whatever of the veterinary profession. I find that extraordinary. I urge the Minister of State strongly to take this on board.
Senator Paul Daly's amendments deal with representatives of the greyhound tracks, as well as greyhound owners, breeders and trainers. That is fine. They are all significant players. I welcome Senator Daly's statement that he regrets that he did not include veterinary practitioners and views his failure to do so almost as an oversight. We have strong support from Fianna Fáil for these four amendments and I hope they will be all passed by the House.
I support the first amendment. It is sensible and opportune to have someone with veterinary expertise on the board given the welfare issues that exist, including the drug issue. That is a major issue, which we will address in subsequent sections. I support that amendment without qualification.
One of the concerns I have relates to the Irish Greyhound Board and the proposal to increase the membership up to eight ordinary members as well as the chairperson. There is a general point about increasing the size of boards. There is no international evidence available to suggest that increasing the size of a board, whether of a company in the private sector, a public limited company or a semi-State body, leads to an improvement in decision-making, accountability or transparency. There is no evidence that I am aware of to support increasing the number of members of the board. The proposal to increase the size of the board is being taken at a time when the revenues are falling in the Irish Greyhound Board, especially income from the tote and stadiums. There are major difficulties in this area.
I agree with Senator Norris. There is clear need to have people on the board with impeccable expertise, especially around the issue of the business model of the company. This organisation continues to lose money. Certainly, there is a strategy to improve the governance and income but it is dependent on the taxpayer for a large proportion of its income. In 2007, the IGB depended on taxpayers for approximately 20% of its income. This year, its dependence on the taxpayer stands at approximately 40%. That raises grave questions about the way the board has been headed until now.
I realise the board has a new chairman and chief executive and I wish them well. However, there is a need for new direction and to listen to the stakeholders, something that has not been happening heretofore. The board, especially the previous board and its chairman, had serious questions to answer. They failed to answer those questions. We need to have independent people who can bring some transparency to the board and have no vested or conflicting interests. That problem has dogged this industry. Whether it is true or otherwise, there is a perception that the stakeholders in the industry believe there are too many vested interests at the table where the board sits. If that is the case, it needs to be rooted out. There is no point in changing or increasing the size of the board if we do not deal with those issues. Bringing in proper expertise involves appointing individuals who can add value, are independent and do not have the conflicts of interest that have marred the greyhound industry in recent years. I support Senator Ruane's amendment for these reasons.
My good colleague, Senator Paul Daly, has also proposed an amendment. I have spoken to the Irish Greyhound Owners and Breeders Federation, which is not seeking a position on the board. The federation wants people appointed who can bring something to the board, are independent of mind and transparent in their decision-making processes. If the federation is to be provided with a position on the board, that is fine. The nomination of that person should be made by the federation and be elected from the federation in a democratic manner through its internal structures. I imagine Senator Daly would agree with that. Both amendments aim to strengthen the Bill.
I may introduce an amendment on Report Stage. What is the rationale for increasing the board size? Some of those who appeared before the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine recommended increasing the size of the board. However, increasing board membership does not necessarily bring about better boards. We could increase the numbers on the board. The question is whether that adds to productivity, efficiency or the effective running of the board. There is no evidence to suggest it does.
The amendment on including a veterinarian on the board is very important. There should be veterinary expertise on the board to understand the complexities around animal welfare and deal once and for all with the drugs issue that has marred the sport in recent years.
I spoke on Second Stage about the need to have a representative from the Irish Greyhound Owners and Breeders Federation on the board. I know the Minister of State was heavily involved with parallel legislation dealing with Horse Racing Ireland, HRI. That legislation clearly stipulates who shall be on the board of HRI. The Minister has only two representatives on that board, whereas it appears from the legislation before us that he will have all nine representatives on the Irish Greyhound Board. The Minister of State should consider the provisions for the board of HRI. There are too many people on the board of HRI with vested interests from a racing perspective. They are all, if Senators will excuse the expression, getting something out of it. I am looking at this board. That is why I have talked about the greyhound owners and breeders, because they have a federation. Each body involved contributes to racing financially because they pay for the trainers and they pay entry fees into racing. Ultimately, the breeders pay as well because they have to register pups. All those associated with the greyhound breeders and owners federation are contributors. That is why I would like to see them represented on the board.
It is also necessary to appoint independent persons to the board, perhaps individuals who have no association with greyhound racing, because they bring a different perspective. That is a key point. I am keen for the Minister of State to bring in some people who have an association with the industry, similar to the provisions in respect of Horse Racing Ireland. As I said, the provisions on the HRI are over-the-top because there are nine members on the board. The Minister has an opportunity through the legislation to stipulate what type of board should be in place, including provisions providing that some appointments should be left to the Minister's discretion. As previous speakers noted, the independence of the board is vital. Previously, some members of the board had an excessive vested interest and were in it for what could they could get out of it, rather than for the good health of the industry.
I welcome the Minister of State. Sinn Féin welcomes both amendments to section 9, particularly Senator Ruane's amendment. If we had a hospital board that did not have any medical practitioners or medical expertise on it, it would seem a bit-----
Yes, the Senator will, and we will have ample opportunity to listen to him prattle on.
The point has been made by the two Senators who spoke on the amendments that what is proposed is a break-up of the old boys' club. I do not necessarily agree with Senator Norris who said that expertise rather than gender balance is important in terms of the board. I agree that expertise on the board is important but it has been shown that the addition of women to boards, including the boards of companies, improves transparency and the decision-making process, and they also lift the energy of the company, in this case, the energy of the greyhound board. We need to support a cultural change in the greyhound industry. For too long its culture has been one of the old boys' club with everybody patting each other's back and nobody on the ground knowing what is going on and being kept in the dark. We should do away with the old boys' club and bring women onto the board. I agree with the amendments proposed by Senators Ruane and Paul Daly to section 9.
I thank the Senators for their comments. I will stick to the Greyhound Racing Bill in my contribution. Regarding the amendment in the names of Senators Ruane, Black, Grace O'Sullivan and Higgins, the then Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Coveney, commissioned Indecon consultants in 2014 to carry out a review of certain matters relating to Bord na gCon. That report made a number of recommendations regarding the board and among those was a recommendation regarding the skill set of the board. The report identified the requirement for a senior legal professional, a marketing expert, a board with a depth of financial expertise in addition to a veterinary expert, and, as a matter of policy and in accordance with the recommendations of Indecon, to ensure there is a veterinary practitioner on the board. This has continued and will continue into the future. I do not believe, however, that it would be appropriate to set down in primary legislation the requirement of a veterinary practitioner on the board as I also believe it would not be good practice to single out veterinary skills when a balance of skills is required.
Regarding Senator Daly's amendment, as I have stated, one of the areas examined by Indecon was the structure of the board. The increase in the board size from six to eight ordinary members was one of the recommendations made by Indecon and this has been included in this section. Indecon recommended a skilled board rather than the representative board proposed in the Senator's amendment. This issue was not identified as part of the pre-legislative scrutiny process, so I do not believe it would be appropriate to set down in primary legislation the specific skills of board which may change over time. Therefore, I do not propose to deviate from the recommendation in these reports.
With regard to Senator Ó Domhnaill's specific reference to the board size, as he will be well aware, I have seen boards where it has been recommended to reduce the size as opposed to increasing it. To have right mix of skill sets, it was considered important to get the right size rather than a bigger or smaller size. Specifically in this case, it was recommended to increase it by two so that a broader range of skill sets could be included. Horse Racing Ireland's board increased in size from 13 to 14 members on the recommendation of a committee to provide for industry sector employees to have a position on that board, as was recommended.
We are trying to get the balance right here. The Public Appointments Service, PAS, process will be undertaken. I reassure the female Members that an effort will certainly be made to get the gender balance as equal as possible. It is a specific ambition but that is not to say that people will be restricted or chosen just on gender. The broad thrust of this section covers the constitution of the board, which is specifically laid out. The PAS process will be used to bring forward the membership recommendations, and those will, in turn, be appointed by the Minister.
The Minister of State has given a number of bland non-reasons for not accepting this amendment. He said nothing convincing for not accepting it. He put on the record of the House the recommendations of various committees that were commissioned to write reports and they indicated it was important to have veterinary practitioners and people from the greyhound industry on the board. By accepting these four amendments, the Minister of State would be find himself in accord with the recommendations that he has quoted to the House. I see no reason whatever for him to refuse to accept this amendment. I am surprised he did not refer to the new proposed subsection (7)(1)(b) of the principal Act which reads "8 ordinary members, who have, in the opinion of the Minister, experience of or shown capacity in matters relevant to the functions of the Board". I would have thought that was his let-out because it is stated there that we can appoint veterinary practitioners or people from the greyhound industry. As I prophesied, however, the Minister of State spoke about people who were accountants and those with other skills, but it is much more important to have a veterinary practitioner, someone who is interested in the welfare of animals, on the board. I see nothing whatever wrong with this amendment. I hope Senator Ruane, seconded by myself, will call for a vote on this amendment because I believe we would win it. I believe the House is with us on this one.
In response to the Minister of State's deliberation, we can use language in any way we so desire. To portray an image of stakeholders within the industry on a board as having vested interests can sound whatever way the speaker from the Government side wants it to be heard. Who else is appropriate to be on a board other than people who have an interest in the workings of that board? My amendment specifically reads "one shall be nominated for appointment thereto by such persons as the Minister considers to be representative". The Minister is having a say in who he believes are the representatives of the breeders, owners, trainers and independent tracks. He will also have the final say in vetting their nominee.
Taking the two amendments together, we are talking about four people - three on foot of my amendment and one on foot of Senator Ruane's amendment. That is still four out of nine so, collectively or individually, they still cannot dominate the board but they will be a voice for the stakeholders in that industry. It is ludicrous for the Minister of State to talk about putting a board together to run an industry, leaving the stakeholders in that industry, the people who have vested interests in the success of the industry and whose day-to-day workings are keeping the industry alive, outside the room and not having any input in any way. It is not as if they will come in and take over the board. We are talking about four nominees on a board of nine who, even collectively, cannot dominate the board.
I note the Minister of State referenced the Indecon report on a number of occasions. He will also know there was an Indecon report on Horse Racing Ireland, which recommended that the board of Horse Racing Ireland should have all various sectors that are represented on that board. The Minister of State referred to certain people with skill sets other than specific knowledge of greyhound racing and who may not be greyhound owners. He might consider bringing forward an amendment on Report Stage whereby he might be open to including some of the suggestions made in this debate.
I have been involved in the greyhound industry all my life and have been an owner and a breeder for the past 25 or 26 years. The amendment which proposes to have representatives of greyhound owners and breeders on the board is all over the place.
It is all over the place. Nobody seems to know what is going on or who is chair of this or that group.There are different organisations and groups, and there is bickering and fighting going on. It is all over the place. Therefore, we cannot approve this.
The industry and many of the associations inside the greyhound industry have to take a look at themselves. I saw people being nominated for this House in the most recent Seanad election, and although they did not get elected, they were people who did not know the back of a greyhound from the front in certain cases, and some of them were never even inside a greyhound track. The genuine people who should have been nominated were told it had been done secretly, the envelope was gone, and it was done and dusted. I recommend that these industry groups, breeders and owners come together and unite under one body, and not have different groups and it all done in secrecy. It is not good enough. Something has to happen.
I have the utmost respect for Senator Butler's involvement in the industry all his life and the major contribution he has made. However, if he reads amendment No. 4, he will see that it states "one shall be nominated for appointment thereto by such persons as the Minister considers to be representative of authorised independent greyhound tracks". I have pre-empted this because the Minister has to recognise it as being the representative body and it cannot be a willy-nilly organisation.
I want to reiterate that the Indecon report on matters relating to Bord na gCon recommended a skilled board rather than a representative board, so the representatives are bound to be skilled. We are caught here between vested interests being needed, on the one hand, and, on the other, excessive vested interests not being a good thing. Let us be clear about it. This is a balancing act. As an example, Horse Racing Ireland moved from 13 to 14 finally, but it removed a certain number from the Turf Club, replaced them with industry representatives, and was left with one from four or five, if memory serves me. We have tried to get the balance right. Everybody in the industry, the representative organisations and stakeholders, can put themselves forward within the Public Appointments Service system. This is not to say the skilled board will not have representatives from the various stakeholder groups, be it the trainers, the breeders, the owners, the greyhound tracks or the bookies. It is a matter of trying to get the board right and having independence on the control committee and the appeals committee. At one time people would have said there were too many people from the industry and no objective eyes within the board, so we have to get that balance right.
I will not agree to change this now. I believe we need to have faith in the PAS system to allow us to bring forward a skill set that is representative, if I could put it that way.
Ivana Bacik, Gerard Craughwell, Mark Daly, Paul Daly, Maire Devine, Alice Mary Higgins, Colette Kelleher, Pádraig MacLochlainn, Gerald Nash, David Norris, Grace O'Sullivan, Ned O'Sullivan, Brian Ó Domhnaill, Lynn Ruane, Fintan Warfield, Diarmuid Wilson.
Colm Burke, Paddy Burke, Ray Butler, Jerry Buttimer, Martin Conway, Maura Hopkins, Billy Lawless, Anthony Lawlor, Tim Lombard, Michelle Mulherin, Kieran O'Donnell, Joe O'Reilly, James Reilly, Neale Richmond.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 12, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following:“(2) Of the ordinary members of the Board:(a) one shall be nominated for appointment thereto by such persons as the Minister considers to be representative of authorised independent greyhound tracks;
(b) one shall be nominated for appointment thereto by such persons as the Minister considers to be representative of Greyhound Owners and Breeders; and
(c) one shall be nominated for appointment thereto by such persons as the Minister considers to be representative of Greyhound Trainers.”.
Ivana Bacik, Gerard Craughwell, Mark Daly, Paul Daly, Maire Devine, Colette Kelleher, Billy Lawless, Gerald Nash, David Norris, Grace O'Sullivan, Ned O'Sullivan, Brian Ó Domhnaill, Lynn Ruane, Fintan Warfield, Diarmuid Wilson.
This is grammatically completely unnecessary. It means exactly the same thing. "Board, a committee" means "Board or a committee". It is unnecessary, but if the Minister of State wants to make the amendment, it is fine by me. However, on the section-----
I know that these things are put in as a matter of course, excluding Members of the Seanad, the Dáil and the European Parliament, but why? I ask the Minister of State to give me the rationale. What exactly is so poisonous about being a Member of the Oireachtas? Why should somebody who one day is sufficiently qualified to be a member of Bord na gCon be ruled out? I do not see the need for this and have opposed these sections on many occasions. It seems daft to me, unless it is because one assumes Members of Parliament are fully occupied with being Members, but I would not think being a member of Bord na gCon was a very onerous duty. I would think most people involved were full-time professionals of some kind. I do not see the time constraints. If we trust people to legislate, what, in the name of God, prevents them from being on the board for the greyhound industry? I do not see any reason for it. It is self-flagellation by politicians to show that we are incorruptible. The public does not believe it anyway and thinks we are all corrupt. If one was to take off all of one's clothes, give all of one's money to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and dance naked along the roof of Leinster House, people would still ask, "So what?" The public is not impressed. I question why Members of the Oireachtas should be excluded from membership of the board. One cannot even be a director of a subsidiary if one is a Member of the Oireachtas. It is complete nonsense. I oppose the section.
Following on from Senator Norris's point, it does not just relate to this board but to all State boards. The Senator has raised a wider point with which I agree. I would be interested in hearing the response of the Minister of State.
In this section and as referred to in section 9, there is an issue with a board member whose term expires. Until such time as there is a vacancy, that member is not replaced, which is wrong. If we are trying to bring forward a timeframe in this legislation in order that board members will serve no more than two consecutive terms, once the second term is up, they should be gone and the vacancies filled immediately. I am not sure why that is not the case as it is mentioned in section 8(10). Perhaps I might deal with the matter on Report Stage.
With regard to an organisation which was castigated by another Member, while I appreciate that everyone has the right to exercise his or her opinion, I state categorically that the Irish Greyhound Owners and Breeders Federation is the only legitimate body with a democratic mandate representing owners and breeders. They have an opportunity to nominate two people to contest Seanad elections. On every occasion they have done so to the best of their ability, in nominating people who have supported, helped or have a connection with the greyhound industry. I am honoured to be one of the representatives for the Irish Greyhound Owners and Breeders Federation which has unearthed a lot of dirty laundry about the industry. Were it not for the work of the federation, the Bill may not be on the floor of this House this evening. I acknowledge its work and contribution. It was steadfast in its contributions and in 2015 bringing this issue to the attention of the agriculture committee, under the stewardship of the Minister of State who did an excellent job as chairperson of the committee in hearing the views of all stakeholders. The federation's contribution should not be undermined or understated. That is all I want to say on that topic.
I agree with Senator Norris on the membership issue. It is an interesting point. I am not sure why Members of the Oireachtas or the European Parliament are excluded. It is not necessarily the case that they should be the first persons to be appointed to any board, but they certainly should not be excluded from being members of the board. One sees many former Ministers and Members of the Houses on various boards. Perhaps current Members might contribute equally as well as former Members to any board.
It is a standing position for Members of the Oireachtas and the European Parliament since members of State boards have a fiduciary function and duty to the boards and there is always a risk of a conflict of interest, as opposed to the time involved or duties of somebody who is a legislator and policy maker. That is the rationale. If it was to be changed, it would be the subject of a wider debate. Voting moneys to State boards by elected Members would seem to be inappropriate and a conflict of interest.
I do not really wish to comment at this stage on some of the other observations or contributions made. There is a technical issue with section 8(10) in being members of the board. We can seek clarification for the Senator, if he so wishes.
I took on board the comments made by Senator Lawlor on Second Stage that this provision was unwieldy and his request that the Parliamentary Counsel examine it. I believe the new wording addresses the issues raised and makes the section easier to read.
On greyhounds that are banned in another jurisdiction, section 21(1) states: "The Board may, after consultation with the Minister, make regulations for the use, management and control of greyhound race tracks". Under section 21(2)(n), it provides that it may prohibit "the entry to a greyhound race in the State of a greyhound the subject of a sanction of a foreign greyhound racing jurisdiction". That provision is fine and correct but a full stop should follow the word "jurisdiction". Instead, the paragraph continues: "or where agreement has been reached with the other greyhound racing jurisdiction". Let us say a greyhound that raced in England is found to have been banned because illegal substances had been administered. Under this provision, the board has the discretion to allow such a dog to race here. That is wrong and I ask the Minister of State to reflect on section 21(2)(n) and insert a full stop after the first instance of the words "racing jurisdiction". Any dog banned for illegal substance abuse in another jurisdiction should be banned here until such time as the process has been concluded. There should be no grey area around the use of drugs in the industry, particularly class A drugs. This is one of the recurring themes that emerges from greyhound owners and breeders. They are the ordinary people in the industry, not those who sit on the board or those who benefit from the financial rewards generated by the greyhound fund. Ordinary punters have serious concerns about this issue. There should be no misconception or grey area. It should be spelled out in black and white, which means we should abide by the outcome of any drug test done in another jurisdiction until such time as the process has concluded. If a dog is found to have a class A drug such as cocaine in its system after, let us say, a race in Manchester on a Saturday night, under no circumstances should it be allowed to race in Clonmel the following Tuesday. That would be wrong and there should be no grey area around doping.
I support Senator Ó Domhnaill. It seems to be perfectly obvious that if a dog has been subjected to a doping test in England and the owner has been convicted of doping, it would be extraordinary that the dog would not be banned from racing at an Irish racecourse. A ban would be absolutely obvious so I completely agree with the Senator. I hope the Minister of State will take his point on board and, if not, I hope Senator Ó Domhnaill will table an amendment on Report Stage, which I will strongly support.
We all have no problem with dogs in other jurisdictions being banned from racing if they have been found to have drugs in their system. A dog would not be allowed to run in Manchester one week and run the following week in Ireland because the dog would have to undertake a clearance trial. A dog, bar it was an open class dog, would be banned automatically.
Dogs are banned for other reasons. In England, some dogs do not chase the hare or certain hares so they are banned. We would have to include them in any ban in this jurisdiction as well. Dogs are banned on the basis of a failure to comply with other rules and regulations.
The Senator referred to various organisations ruling the roost when it comes to greyhound owners and trainers. I could prove that shenanigans went on in many greyhound and breeders organisations when it came to choosing people to run for the Seanad. I know what went on because I have been involved in the industry over the years. The process was far from clean and I stand by my words.
I take on board the comments made by the Senators. Perhaps there is clarification needed about where agreement is reached. Perhaps it has not been established that a dog has either been subject to a ban or banned for some other reason such as the one outlined by Senator Butler. Where a dog may be the subject of a sanction, we can clarify what that entails, perhaps in a Report Stage amendment.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 25, line 5, to delete “may” and substitute “shall”.
The contribution that I have prepared on the amendment deals with all of the amendments. I ask the Senators and the Minister of State to bear with me for a few minutes. When will the debate adjourn?
Amendments Nos. 7 to 13, inclusive, are to sections 26, 28 and 29. Essentially, they are identical amendments tabled to the sections that relate to the artificial insemination of greyhounds, the traceability of greyhounds and the welfare of racing greyhounds. The overall affect of the amendments would be to increase and clarify the regulatory responsibilities of the Irish Greyhound Board in respect of these three areas.
By replacing the word "may" with "shall" and inserting the words "each of" before words "the following", the amendments taken together would mean that the board's regulatory powers would cease being statutory capabilities and become statutory responsibilities. In addition, every subsection in which the board is currently able to regulate would no longer be optional and at the discretion of the board but a statutory requirement set out in law.
Section 26 is on the artificial insemination of greyhounds. As drafted, the Bill would allow the board to skip section 26(1)(n) as it issues its regulations in this area. Section 26(1)(n) refers to "measures relating to the health and welfare of greyhounds at such centres". We do not want the health and safety requirements within this Bill to be optional. We want them to be as strong as possible to safeguard the welfare of the animals. With our amendment to section 26, we would simply strengthen and clarity the regulatory responsibilities of the board.
Another example can be found in section 28, which refers to the traceability of greyhounds. This is an extremely important issue for maintaining the oversight of the welfare of animals and general accountability of the industry. Section 28(1)(a) to (h), inclusive, set out strong and comprehensive provisions for the practical ways a traceability database will work. What we seek to achieve with our amendments Nos. 9 and 10 is to ensure that the board has a statutory responsibility to issue regulations in this area and that every area outlined in section 28(1) must be regulated for, with no exceptions. The amendments would increase the effectiveness of the overall intention of section 28 and strengthen the tracing framework. It would be a worthy addition to the Bill.
We also propose amendments to section 29, which is significant as it is the main section that refers to the health and welfare of racing greyhounds. We want this section to be as strong as possible. The addition of the words "shall" and "each of" would increase the effectiveness of the provisions and raise welfare standards in the industry. We want all parts of the section to be compulsory in terms of the board's regulation of this area. This is what we seek to achieve with amendments Nos. 11 to 13, inclusive.
Amendment No. 14 is tabled in a similar vein to fix what would appear to be a grammatical error in section 29(1)(a)(i). Section 29(1)(a) states:
(a) requiring persons involved in greyhound racing to—(i) provide information for the purposes of the proper administration of the industry, or
(ii) protect the health and welfare of a racing greyhound.
From my reading of the paragraph, it appears that the provision makes regulations requiring persons involved in greyhound racing to "protect the health and welfare of a racing greyhound" optional. I believe those same persons should simply provide information for the purposes of the proper administration of the industry. This appears to be a drafting error as it would make the statutory responsibility to protect the welfare of greyhounds optional. My colleagues and I seek to replace the word "or" with "and" to make the paragraph (a)(i) and (ii) compulsory.
Amendment No. 15 would make an additional provision in the regulatory powers of the board and allow for the board to make regulations on provisions for the health and welfare of a racing greyhound that has been retired by its owners.In other words, these are retirement plans for the racing dogs. While I recognise that much progress has been made in recent years on conditions for dogs following retirement, with notable decreases in 2014 and 2015 in dog pound figures for greyhounds being put to sleep and a notable rise in the number of greyhounds being transferred to welfare groups, there are still no industry-wide standards and regulations on the best way for a dog's welfare and health to be managed in its retirement. We are, therefore, seeking to place responsibility on the board to take on this task and issue those guidelines for how these dogs should be treated. The amendment is supported by Dogs Trust Ireland.