Private Members' Business. - Adjournment Debate—Sale of Tulyar; Purchase of Vimy.

Wednesday, 9 November 1955

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 153 No. 4

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Mr. O'Malley: Information on Donogh O'Malley  Zoom on Donogh O'Malley  When I put down this question I did not realise that the necessity would arise for me to raise the matter on the adjournment debate. The question is of the greatest public interest and, in my innocence, I was convinced that the Minister would see fit to give a comprehensive and lucid reply, dealing with all the matters raised by me. But the only information we got from the Minister was that the National Stud is a separate entity and, as such, can do exactly what it pleases. The Minister adopts the attitude that he has no functions whatever in the matter. When speaking on the debate dealing with the purchase of Tulyar on 26th February, 1951, the Minister for Finance, then Deputy Sweetman, stated:—

“It is no good for the Minister to shelter behind others and say this is not his decision, that it is a matter for the directors. This is the people's property and, no matter by whom the decision is taken——”

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  I do not want to interrupt the Deputy, but lengthy quotations are not desirable on the adjournment debate. The discussion must be conducted directly on the matter raised in the particular question.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Donogh O'Malley  Zoom on Donogh O'Malley  To summarise it, the present Minister for Finance then Deputy Sweetman, said that the matter was of such public importance the Minister for Agriculture at the time should not shelter behind the [669] directors of the National Stud. But to-day the Minister for Finance, Deputy Sweetman, himself sheltered behind the directors of the National Stud. I do not think it is good enough that the public should not be fully informed. I asked the Minister to make a statement as to the conditions of the sale of Tulyar and the purchase of Vimy. We were given two figures: £240,000 for the sale of Tulyar and £105,000 for the purchase of Vimy. There is no mention there of any incidental expenses such as fees due to the negotiating agents who took a 6” double column in some of the daily papers to inform the public that they had negotiated the sale of Tulyar on behalf of the purchaser and had also negotiated the purchase of Vimy. Does the Minister suggest that these people are working for nothing? When he gave that figure to-day, surely he should have mentioned what cut, if any, they got. I hope when the Minister is replying now he will let us know exactly what the conditions were.

The point I am anxious to elicit in this debate is why Mr. George Hancock and his associates, and they alone, knew that Tulyar was for sale. No one else knew that he was for sale until a hint was given in the Evening Press that Tulyar would be sold.

Mr. McQuillan: Information on John McQuillan  Zoom on John McQuillan  Out of the horse's mouth!

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Donogh O'Malley  Zoom on Donogh O'Malley  According to expert opinion amongst bloodstock breeders in the United States of America it is considered highly probable that if it had been generally known that Tulyar was for sale, it is not £240,000 which could have been obtained for him, but close to £500,000. There is a queer one for you!

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  The Deputy is going into administration.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Donogh O'Malley  Zoom on Donogh O'Malley  It is very bad administration.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  It may be, but the Deputy cannot discuss that now. (Interruptions.)

Mr. McGrath: Information on Patrick McGrath  Zoom on Patrick McGrath  We were talking about this for six weeks before.

[670]Mr. O'Donnell: Information on Patrick O'Donnell  Zoom on Patrick O'Donnell  The mayor is getting lonely now.

Mr. McGrath: Information on Patrick McGrath  Zoom on Patrick McGrath  That is the kind of remark I would expect from the man who made it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  The Deputy should cease interrupting.

Mr. McGrath: Information on Patrick McGrath  Zoom on Patrick McGrath  The Lord Mayor of Cork should not be insulted.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  I did not hear the Lord Mayor being insulted.

Mr. McGrath: Information on Patrick McGrath  Zoom on Patrick McGrath  It is suggested that the mayor is getting lonely. They are trying to laugh themselves out of it now.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  Deputy O'Malley on the subject of the question.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Donogh O'Malley  Zoom on Donogh O'Malley  We in Fianna Fáil have set a good precedent for mayors who get a bit cocky because we removed the chain from some of them. I want to know this. Do not all the details of the transaction require the sanction of the Minister?

Mr. Briscoe: Information on Robert Briscoe  Zoom on Robert Briscoe  Is that not a fact? The Minister must sanction these transactions? Say yes or no. Do not nod the head.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  What is Deputy Briscoe's interest?

Mr. Briscoe: Information on Robert Briscoe  Zoom on Robert Briscoe  The truth is my interest, not the giggling of the Minister for Lands or the cheap insults of his colleague.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  Both sides are very disorderly and I am calling Deputy O'Malley to speak on the subject of the question.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Donogh O'Malley  Zoom on Donogh O'Malley  This is turning into a hurdle race and Tulyar was never cut out for hurdles. The Minister for Lands nearly got apoplexy during this debate in 1953. I was reading what he said. Of course, all through the country Fianna Fáil were blamed because we bought the horse, but the Government has disclaimed all responsibility for the sale now.

[671]A Deputy:  They will take the profit.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Donogh O'Malley  Zoom on Donogh O'Malley  The profit would have been a lot more if they did what I told them. Mr. George Hancock before he left Shannon Airport said we could buy it back in three years if we so wished. Is there any such contingency in the agreement? The Minister did not say that to me to-day when I asked.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  I do not know what hare-brained rumours you heard. That is not true.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Donogh O'Malley  Zoom on Donogh O'Malley  This is not a harebrained rumour.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  I can tell the Deputy that is not true.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Donogh O'Malley  Zoom on Donogh O'Malley  This is a statement made by the purchaser of the horse to reporters from very reputable newspapers at Shannon Airport. I am very sorry it is not true because this has been a damaging blow to the bloodstock industry. The Minister said the directors of the National Stud recommended unanimously that Tulyar be sold, but the Minister should have seen through the position that after making a hash of the Panaslipper affair the directors of the National Stud were afraid the lot of them would get the hammer and so to redeem themselves and do what they thought might be a popular thing they turned round and flogged the horse. Even at this late stage I would ask the Minister to see if the deal has definitely gone through, because the most eminent authorities in the Bloodstock Breeding Association maintain that it was a bad day for Ireland that Tulyar has been sold.

The Minister for Finance and the Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Dillon, both spoke in favour at the time of the purchase of Tulyar and the Minister himself used the words that “we must take the long term view”. Now after three years we are disposing of the horse. As the then Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Walsh, remarked at the time, when we are calculating the monetary value of Tulyar we are considering a period of 12 years not of three years and even at that [672] time Deputy Walsh calculated that the income would be in the region of £12,000. In actual fact I understand that £39,000 was received in stud fees in respect of Tulyar. It is bad enough to have made a hash of the Panaslipper job—buying him for stud purposes and then racing him. As I say, if the National Stud or any other State body could not make a mistake without being castigated it would be a bad thing for the country, but having made one mistake when they disposed of Royal Charger, they should have seen that with Royal Charger gone, all we had in the National Stud of any value to-day—I do not want to undermine the other sires—is Preciptic. We have Black Rock and the others——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  The Deputy is travelling far beyond my range. The Deputy is not entitled to discuss the administration. The Minister is entitled to get certain information and if the Deputy thinks that information has not been given to him or that it has not been given in the proper way, that is his case against the Minister.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Donogh O'Malley  Zoom on Donogh O'Malley  That is my case against the Minister and the Minister for Finance who is substituting for the Minister for Agriculture, in particular. We hear a lot of talk about factories to bring dollars into the country. In Tulyar, we had a readymade factory and a ready output per annum and in three years, through the investment of £250,000, £500,000 was obtained from his progeny. If that is not good business I do not know what is. A sum of £250,000 made £500,000 and we still had him after three years. Now the goose that laid the golden egg is gone.

Mr. Briscoe: Information on Robert Briscoe  Zoom on Robert Briscoe  The horse that laid the golden dollars.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Donogh O'Malley  Zoom on Donogh O'Malley  Three or four years ago the National Stud's attitude was that they wanted a sire, a long distance sire, but when they got him something happened along the line. I am not criticising the officials. I am not criticising Mr. Hyde. The person I am looking for is the Jekyll, wherever he be. The Minister cannot accuse me of raising any scare. What I am discussing is merely the criticism [673] that is being made by experts at present. I am particularly amazed that this Government should have sanctioned the sale—a Government of which the Minister for External Affairs and the Minister for Finance are members.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  I told the Deputy early on that he is not entitled to discuss the sale or purchase, because the Minister is not responsible for the sale or purchase of horses.

Minister for Lands (Mr. Blowick): Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  It is not entirely Deputy O'Malley's fault. It is Deputy Briscoe who is prompting him all the time.

Mr. Briscoe: Information on Robert Briscoe  Zoom on Robert Briscoe  On a point of order, is it not a fact that the purchase or sale is subject to the sanction of the Minister?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  The Act provides that the company shall furnish to the Minister such information in relation to policy, activities and decisions——

Mr. Briscoe: Information on Robert Briscoe  Zoom on Robert Briscoe  And the Minister decides yes or no.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  The company shall furnish him with information. I told the Deputy that if he had fault to find with the way the information was given or disseminated, he is entitled to pursue that line, but the Minister is not responsible for the purchase or sale of horses.

Mr. Briscoe: Information on Robert Briscoe  Zoom on Robert Briscoe  The decision to purchase this horse——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  I have decided, and Deputy Briscoe will allow me.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Donogh O'Malley  Zoom on Donogh O'Malley  Of course, Sir, the Act is very ambiguous.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  All Acts are.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Donogh O'Malley  Zoom on Donogh O'Malley  In 1955, the sales to America from this country amounted to £500,000 and the total sales came to £700,000. One of the main reasons for that was that a lot of buyers from America and elsewhere came here to buy, if possible, the progeny of Tulyar.

[674] Some succeeded and some did not, but they did not go away, in very many instances, empty-handed. Tulyar was the greatest money-spinner we ever had in that line, and I charge that there is consternation throughout the country to-day by reason of this ill-fated decision.

It would have been a day's work well done if the Government had given the matter deliberate consideration. The point I stress more than any other is the secret manner in which Tulyar was sold.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Fintan Coogan  Zoom on Fintan Coogan  And bought.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Donogh O'Malley  Zoom on Donogh O'Malley  You are very quite now about the sale, although you were one of the individuals who did most of the slanging.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Fintan Coogan  Zoom on Fintan Coogan  And we sold him, too.

Mr. Briscoe: Information on Robert Briscoe  Zoom on Robert Briscoe  You sold him for less than his value.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Donogh O'Malley  Zoom on Donogh O'Malley  When Fianna Fáil brought in the measure to increase the capital of the National Stud, which incidentally facilitated the purchase of Tulyar, there was a certain section of the Opposition who feared he might not be fertile, but now there are 98 progeny born or about to be born after three years.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Fintan Coogan  Zoom on Fintan Coogan  And who benefited?

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Donogh O'Malley  Zoom on Donogh O'Malley  The breeders of this country benefited, and the reputation of this country as a bloodstock breeder benefited; and, above all, they earned valuable dollars for the country for which the Government and everyone else are screaming. You all know that you have made a faux pas and that you are guilty, and, in my opinion, what you have done borders on a criminal act.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  The Chair objects to being charged with committing a criminal act.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Donogh O'Malley  Zoom on Donogh O'Malley  I said “borders on a criminal act”.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  The Deputy is using the second person.

[675]Mr. O'Malley: Information on Donogh O'Malley  Zoom on Donogh O'Malley  I am accusing the Government that their actions border on the criminal and it will be a long time before they can live this down— what I can only deem to be the petty prejudice of certain members of the Government. They wanted to get rid of this horse at all costs and we want to know who the prime mover in his sale was. We would like to have the haze lifted—h-a-z-e.

I conclude by saying that the Minister has not given the House sufficient information and if he would make a comprehensive statement—I am sure he has all the relevant data—it would obviate unnecessary questions in the future.

Minister for Finance (Mr. Sweetman): Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  Deputy O'Malley to-day asked a question and suggested that the answer I gave to it was not a lucid one. I am afraid I must beg leave to differ from the Deputy. What I said to-day in reply to the question and to the Deputy's supplementary questions was quite specific. The Deputy seems to be entirely under a misapprehension in relation to many of the matters he has mentioned to-night. When this matter of Tulyar was discussed here some years ago, it was discussed because of an Act which Deputy Walsh, then Minister for Agriculture, brought to the House for the purpose of increasing the share capital of the National Stud. It was made quite clear by him at that time, and properly so, that it was that question was under discussion. The National Stud was set up by Act of this House, and, by the Act of this House, the choice was made as to the manner in which the stud would be run. The House then determined that it would be run, not by a Government Department, but by a company set up under the Companies Acts, with all the legal implications that involves, as regards the board of directors.

Deputy Walsh must have been feeling somewhat uncomfortable while Deputy Briscoe was interrupting to say whether a horse should be bought or sold was a matter requiring the Minister's sanction because Deputy Walsh said many times, in my hearing, that it was not. You have the Board of the [676] National Stud set up to do this job, a board which, if my recollection is correct, had all its members, with one exception, appointed while Fianna Fáil was in power. I think I am right in saying that only one member of that board is not a Fianna Fáil nominee. The Board of the National Stud, on this occasion, informed the Minister that they proposed to sell Tulyar. They were not bound to do so under the terms of the Act.

It was not a question, like it was on the previous occasion, when the board had not the money to carry out the act which they wished to do. On this occasion it was a question of a sale and the funds had not to be specially provided. The Minister for Agriculture informed the board that the question of the sale was a matter within their discretion. He takes the view, and I agree, and the Government agrees, that in any question where the stud is concerned it has got to be run directly by their direction. The only alternatives you have are to keep them in office or get rid of them. You cannot blow hot and cold at the same time —you cannot leave the directors in control of the company and at the same time say that you will not permit them to carry on their job.

The Board of the National Stud decided that they would negotiate for the sale of Tulyar. I do not know the reason which operated in their minds as to why they decided to do so but I do know that if I, or any other Deputy, was going to sell a house we would go to an auctioneer and decide for ourselves the most suitable auctioneer to deal with our property. If we wanted to sell by private treaty we would leave it to the auctioneer. The Board of the National Stud decided to adopt what they thought was the best method and I think they were right.

If they, having decided to sell Tulyar, published that fact to the world, and then were unable to sell at the price they thought suitable, they would have done great damage to their own property. They would have depreciated his value without any question if they had dealt with the matter in the way the Deputy suggests and were not able to dispose of him at a price they considered suitable.

[677] Deputy O'Malley stated that he has got expert opinion to the effect that Tulyar was sold too cheaply. I hope he will agree with me that I know a considerable number of people in the bloodstock industry and everyone I met told me a different story. Their view was that the board was lucky to be able to get out at that price. I am not going to suggest that Deputy O'Malley has invented the opinions he quoted and I know he will not suggest that I have invented the ones that I have mentioned. If he makes inquiries amongst bloodstock breeders he will find that the opinion I have quoted is far the more prevailing and has been accepted by bloodstock breeders all over the country.

Deputy O'Malley has also suggested that Deputy Dillon was responsible for the sale of Royal Charger. Royal Charger was sold when Deputy Walsh was Minister for Agriculture.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Donogh O'Malley  Zoom on Donogh O'Malley  I did not say that Deputy Dillon was responsible.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  I know the circumstances, as Deputy Walsh knows the circumstances, in which Royal Charger was sold and again there is no doubt in my mind that the board was right in effecting that sale. I think Deputy O'Malley is embarking on a complete mare's nest when he suggests that it was possible in any shape or form to get anything in excess of the price paid for Tulyar. I said to-day, and I repeat it now, that the decision to sell Tulyar was taken by the unanimous resolution of the board of the National Stud and that the decision to sell at that price was the unanimous decision of the board of the National Stud.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Donogh O'Malley  Zoom on Donogh O'Malley  And the decision to buy a French horse?

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  I want to ask the question if the decision to purchase Tulyar at the price for which he was purchased was the unanimous decision of the National Stud?

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Donogh O'Malley  Zoom on Donogh O'Malley  I am looking for information.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  I suggest that you ask your colleague, Deputy Walsh. I [678] thought that I had made available to-day to Deputy O'Malley the salient points in accordance with the practice built up over the years in relation to companies of this kind. There has been a long history of precedents in regard to what one might call State sponsored companies as to what information would be given and what would not be given. I think the information I gave is in accordance with that precedent. It was because I wanted it to be in accordance with that precedent that I gave the information and limited it the way I did.

I have no desire to hide anything from Deputy O'Malley or from this House, but it has been said again and again by the Ministers of the two Governments that it is undesirable in certain circumstances to disclose every detail in relation to State sponsored companies such as would be done in respect of departmental matters. I feel that there are matters that should sometimes be disclosed and details that should not be disclosed. There are differences.

I think that the information I gave to-day was the proper information to give and if the matter had been left at that it would be all right. Deputy O'Malley has asked specific questions and if the position was that I did not answer those questions there might be a suggestion that there was something wrong about it. We all know that when an agent is appointed for any transaction, be it auctioneer, or solicitor or engineer, he gets paid for the work he does. In this case an agent was appointed by the directors of the National Stud and acted for the company in connection with the sale of Tulyar and that agent was paid commission by the National Stud for so acting.

So far as the purchase of Vimy is concerned I do not know anything more than the advertisement I saw in the paper and that the deputy also saw. With regard to the deal that has been made by the National Stud, let me be quite clear that if I had been asked to give my formal approval to it I would have given it because I believe that the sale of Tulyar in these circumstances was in the best national [679] interest. I believe that we have sufficient of that blood in the country now and I believe that it would be quite wrong for the National Stud, having got sufficient of that blood in the country, to have all their eggs in one basket. I am sure of that because it could be, and I hope it will not happen, that the progeny of Tulyar, when they come to race in 1957 and 1958, might not be a success. When the former National Stud Bill was going through the House I said I thought it was better policy for the [680] National Stud not to buy one horse only and so use up all our money for that purpose but that in the interests of the bloodstock industry it would be better to have more sires for the total amount of money available so that they could serve a very much larger number of mares throughout the country than obviously could be served with the limited number of mares available to a horse like Tulyar.

The Dáil adjourned at 11 p.m. until Thursday, 10th November, 1955, at 3 p.m.


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