Tuesday, 28 February 1989
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Sherlock: Before the adjournment of the debate I had just outlined the objectives of Bord na gCapall established in 1970. I am now asking if the Minister is seriously suggesting that his own Department can undertake all these functions in addition to the many functions they already have. The danger is that with the abolition of Bord na gCapall and with other more influential areas of agriculture competing for the attention of the Department of Agriculture and Food, the non-thoroughbred area will be allowed to deteriorate even further and will virtually wither and die.
As I acknowledged earlier, no one would dispute that Bord na gCapall did not have the success they deserved. There seems to have been a number of personality clashes in the organisation and a conflict between the board members and some of the staff. The press drew great hilarity from a series of events in 1987 when it was disclosed that a  number of stallions bought by the board were found to be defective in an area of some importance to stallions. This episode was seized upon by the Minister who used it to justify his U-turn on the Fianna Fáil pledge to reorganise the board. The matter was not nearly as clearcut as the way in which it was presented by the media or the Minister as anyone who had any real knowledge of breeding would acknowledge.
One of the main reasons for the board's difficulties was that they were under-funded and under-resourced. In 1985, for instance, the last year for which an annual report has been published, they got less than £500,000 from the State and had only a staff of 15. This is probably less than it costs the State to keep Government Ministers in State cars and supplied with official drivers. It was a tiny sum given the scale of the task they faced. This is the usual attitude of Fianna Fáil and Coalition Governments to the State sector. They refuse to provide adequate finance and resources and complain then that they cannot do the job.
There is another important aspect to this Bill. Although it is entitled, Bord na gCapall (Dissolution) Bill, it actually repeals the entire contents of the Horse Industry Act, 1970. A particularly important aspect of the 1970 Act was Part III which dealt with the licensing of riding establishments. If the 1970 Act is repealed, presumably Part III is also repealed and there would be no provision for the licensing of riding establishments. This would be very serious. The 1970 Act set out matters to be taken into consideration when deciding whether to issue licences. These include measures related to fire protection, treatment of horses, disease control, etc. There is also the question of safety.
Horse riding is a growing leisure activity and one that should be encouraged. There is an area of tourist potential there to be developed. Horse riding can also be a dangerous business, especially if the horses are not properly trained and if it is not done under qualified supervision. It is surely in the public interest that there should be provision for the  licensing of these establishments, yet if this Bill is passed there will be no statutory provision for such licensing.
The final point I want to make is that the treatment of the employees of the board was very shabby. Many of the employees had served the board loyally for a long period but their interests received little attention when the Minister made a decision to chop the board and, indeed, they could not even get a meeting with him to clarify their position. We are unhappy with the Bill, with its contents and the way it has been brought to the House long after the board has been scrapped. Unless we get satisfactory answers to the questions raised, we will be voting against this Bill.
Mr. Gibbons: To a large extent, the Bill before us tonight seeking to dissolve Bord na gCapall is only of minor importance. The fact is that Bord na gCapall have effectively ceased to exist for a number of years. This Bill only recognises this reality, even if it does so belatedly. It is important, however, that we ask ourselves why Bord na gCapall should be dissolved. Bord na gCapall is by no means an old institution that has become irrelevant because of changing circumstances.
They were established by my father in 1970, 19 years ago, with a clear intention of tackling the problems and promoting the interests of the half-bred horse industry. They were not established on the spur of the moment. They were based on recommendations of a survey team on the horse breeding industry and had the specific aims of dealing with the licensing of horse riding establishments, the registration of horses, the provision of a national trading centre and miscellaneous problems associated with improving the image of the Irish horse industry both at home and abroad.
The fact that we are here tonight dissolving the board is a reflection of their failure to deal effectively with these issues and to meet the challenges for which they were created. It is important that this House asks why this has come about. One of the essential problems with  Bord na gCapall has always been the makeup of their board. Bord na gCapall have always been poorly served by some members of their board. For example, there was a consistent failure to provide any kind of leadership or drive which is so important for their successful operation. The board were composed of many people who either had vested interests that prevented them from giving their best or who had no interest in advancing the half-bred industry. Party politics was again allowed to destroy what could have been an effective institution. People were appointed to the board as a reward for political favours or support rather than for their interest in or commitment to the ideals of Bord na gCapall.
I recall when such an appointment was made of an individual who clearly had no qualifications, interest or input into the half-bred industry. It was widely accepted at the time that this appointment was due to his participation in a conspiracy to unseat a Fianna Fáil colleague. The general public viewed this appointment to the board as a joke but it angered people and members of the horse breeding industry. It can also be said that Bord na gCapall lost credibility when they purchased stallions that were only half equipped for the onerous task which lay ahead. It was akin to buying a Citroen deux chevaux with one cheval missing.
Mr. Gibbons: The national programme for development has very admirable objectives. I would definitely like to see it succeed. Talking to people in the half-bred industry, I was astonished to hear that there were only approximately 120 draught foals bred last year. I am also aware that Europeans, and in particular, the Swiss, who are constant visitors and who purchase many of our top quality bloodstock, are finding it increasingly difficult to get what they are looking for. We should learn from our mistakes in the past.
There are a few fundamental things that could be done to get it right. Some  kind of national leadership should be given and there should be a small working group carefully selected with specific instructions and guidelines. This selected group should be made up of people who have the interests of the half-bred industry at heart and who can be held accountable. The conservation of the Irish draught bred is at risk and the £400 grant which is being made available has to be welcomed. One of the reasons for the decline in this area was a lack of profitability and this £400 grant should encourage people to keep half-bred mares.
Another area which will have to be given serious consideration is the performance testing of young stallions. This area has been less than satisfactory in the past and our objective should be to breed nice horses with good jumping ability and temperament and all the other necessary attributes. Teagasc should be involved in the performance testing of stallions and I understand that they have done much valuable work in this area at Kildalton in County Kilkenny. However, I believe they lack facilities and the Minister should try to accommodate them in this regard.
Mr. Hegarty: Having some knowledge of the board I must concur with the comments of my colleague Deputy Avril Doyle, and the previous speaker that for one reason or another the board did not work well. There was much self advancement by some members who were not over-concerned about the long term interests of the horse industry and this showed up in some areas under their management. Basically the industry was allowed to run down and the selection of stallions left much to be desired. The present position in the industry is diabolical in that the average age of stallions is 17 or 18 years. That is a frightening statistic and now that the industry is being put back into the hands of private enterprise all these mediocre stallions will have  to be weeded out immediately by the Department. If this is not done we will be in big trouble because the customers who come from overseas will go elsewhere. As Deputy Doyle pointed out, the number of stallions is dropping dramatically and this is very worrying.
Most credit for the success of the industry to date has to go to very dedicated people with whom I worked in the Department of Agriculture. They carried out much dedicated work in trying to maintain a reasonable level of quality in stallions, carrying out inspection programmes and ensuring that Irish draught mares were in fact Irish draught mares. I should like them to continue that work while at the same time carrying out tougher inspections. There are many moneyed people in the industry and it would be in their interests as well as in the interests of the country that only quality animals would be purchased. As was pointed out already, the Irish horse register is very important and thankfully this register has been preserved and protected. The Department now have the onerous job of keeping the register and ensuring that it is accurate. As I have said on many occasions, progeny testing is a must, not merely from the point of view of the offspring but also from the point of view of the mare and the stallion. The Department, and probably our universities, will have to get involved in this area because this is very vital work which will have to be carried out if we want to stay at the top of this league.
As Deputy Doyle said, the advisory body should be self selected. They will probably be a small advisory body and if the Minister and his officials are to get the right advice the only people who will give him that advice are people who are steeped in the industry, the people who depend for their livelihood on the rise or fall of the industry. I am sure that as a Tipperary man, the Minister knows these are the people who will come together, make the right decisions and can be relied on to say the right things. I welcome the introduction of the £400 grant but as I have said already it will not give the desired results if we do not upgrade the  quality of our stallions and draught mares. The advisory body will not achieve very much if the Minister does not abide by the decisions of the advisory body. I should like any body who are set up to have teeth, in other words, that they will be in a position to advise the Minister and will do so in the full knowledge that their advice will by and large be taken by the Minister.
This is a very expensive way of life. Some stallions cost in the region of £20,000 and it is easy to understand why some people are reluctant to get rid of mediocre animals. They hope that inspectors will let their animals through and I believe it is in the interests of the industry for the Department to become quite ruthless in culling. As I said recently at a function which was attended by people involved in the horse industry, the industry needs to be co-ordinated, revitalised and reconstructed. That is my advice to the industry. We must realise that we now have a world platform for our industry. It is an international industry. Thanks to entrepreneurs like Noel C. Duggan, flocks of overseas buyers and competitors come to this country looking for a quality product. Quality is the only requirement these people look for; price is not important. When we talk about the horse industry in this House we forget that unlike, for example, dairy production, there are no restrictions, levies or quotas. There is a world market for our product and that market is made up of moneyed people whose only requirement is quality but if we do not provide that quality we will not be able to participate in that market.
I must refer again briefly to those who helped and advised us when we had to make some decisions. What took place in Millstreet, County Cork, is a model for the future. This happened under the aegis of one man, Noel C. Duggan, who set up his own equestrian forum in Millstreet. As far back as 1969, he hosted the first international conference. He had two Euro-championships in 1980 and 1981 and since then he has held ten international shows in that wonderful arena.  He now has the Young Irelander for three year olds, the Boomerang Final for five and six year olds, the Denny's Gold Medal which is a versatile show, with dressage and eventing. This has been the work of one family. If we could get a few more people like that, the Minister would not have so many problems.
Mr. Hegarty: Let the Minister look for such a person. It is his job. When I was in office, I concentrated on one man. If he can do it, let the rest follow. As the Minister is probably aware, we now have, emanating from all that as a logical outcome of his work, the new company, Millstreet Horses Limited applying for FEOGA grants and it is hoped that those grants will go through. That is the future that is there for the horse industry if the Government take the right advice. Mr. Duggan was in every sense of the term a small businessman, with no particular background in horses. However, he took the right advice, worked hard, did all the things he was supposed to do and did them properly. He is now a very wealthy man, thanks to all that. There are many more who could do the same.
Mr. Cooney: When I told some colleagues I was coming in to speak on this Bill, I was told to be careful because I might get a kick in the House. That is a risk that must be taken. Deputy Gibbons's speech recalled to me one of the first debates in which I ever took part after being elected in 1970, when the Bill which is now being repealed was being put through. It was being put through with high hopes that at long last, after many long years of neglect, the half-bred industry would be set fair for a new deal, that that neglected sector of the agricultural industry would be put on a proper footing once and for all. It was hoped it would get the attention it obviously deserved and needed, that it was a sector that could respond to attention by becoming viable, productive and profitable, thus providing alternative farm income for a great many farmers.
As Deputy Gibbons has reminded us, the Bill that came before us was the result of the report of a survey team which had been set up by another Minister for Agriculture now in high places, the Taoiseach, to investigate the half-bred industry. The survey team examined that industry in considerable depth and produced a comprehensive report. The kernel of the recommendations was the setting up of Bord na gCapall on a statutory basis.
It is obviously a matter of some regret and considerable disappointment that Bord na gCapall have not survived. We could spend much time analysing the reasons for this. There is a mixture of reasons: reasons of differing personalities on the board, perhaps a clash of interest between the board and the industry, perhaps a lack of funding. In the heel of the hunt, the blame for the failure of Bord na gCapall must, I think, lie with the parent Department which have to have an overall responsibility for statutory boards operating under their aegis.
The demise of Bord na gCapall has been in train now for some ten years or so. I must say that what was happening  was apparent. There was wide unease in the industry about the trends that were taking place within the board. It is a matter of regret and I think, a matter of bona fide criticism of the Department of Agriculture and Food that that trend was allowed to continue to the point were the board became a fatality.
To all intents and purposes, we are now back at the position that preceded the report of the survey team set up in the late sixties by the then Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Haughey. It is an incredible admission of failure on the part of all concerned, but principally on the part of the Department of Agriculture and Food, that should have happened. I would class this failure, while not being a failure in terms of magnitude and expense to the country, as a failure on a par with the failure of the TB eradication scheme. There was a total lack of direction and control of something that manifestly needed a hands-on approach from the Department because of the particular sensitivities of the half-bred industry and of the personalities that are involved in that area of agricultural industry. It is a great pity we are now back to square one, because the half-bred industry is a valuable national asset.
One of the objectives in setting up the board was to restore the Irish draught-type horse to a healthy state. Even 19 years ago there was considerable worry that the traditional Irish draught-type, the foundation of the Irish sport horse, was being eroded in terms of numbers and quality. It was seen in those days as one of the prime objectives of Bord na gCapall to arrest that decline and restore that kind of animal to a position of numerical strength and appropriate quality. I am afraid that has not happened. The Irish draught-type inevitably has become more and more scarce in the meantime. I have attended shows and have seen classes advertised as being for Irish draught animals where quite clearly the majority of the animals were half-bred horses and not draught horses at all.
We have reached the situation where the traditional, true type of Irish draught  horse is now a comparatively rare specimen. Whatever regime will be put in place to look after the half-bred industry from now on, an urgent requirement should be to try to rescue and promote the expansion of that type of horse. It is, as I said, the foundation animal for the sport Irish horse which has been such a popular animal for very many years in the past. I do not know if the typical half-bred we knew in the past will be the type of animal sought from now on for competition because the demands of modern competition, either in show jumping or eventing, will require a horse with more quality than the traditional half-bred from an Irish draught mare and a thoroughbred stallion. I read an interesting comment during the week that the competition horse from now on will probably be the produce of a thoroughbred stallion and a half bred mare and it will be a three quarter bred or better.
Mr. Cooney: Nevertheless, to get to that stage one must have a foundation stock of draught mares and the only way that can be ensured is to provide a financial incentive. Very often the people who keep horses do so because they have a taste for the horse first and foremost. In the modern farm there is literally no room for a horse as part of the modern farming activity. It is a hobby with the owner, it may be traditional in the family and something for which the owner has a taste. Many farmers keep horses, it is very doubtful if it is an economic proposition but they are loath to let go a family tradition. Inevitably with succeeding generations and commercial pressures the family tradition attenuates and the horse will eventually disappear unless there is an incentive. I know there is an incentive payable in disadvantaged areas, but having regard to the fact that horse breeding is not, by and large, a big activity in the disadvantaged parts of the country the premium should be extended to the country at large. The amount of  money involved would not be large because the numbers involved are not large. If we reach the happy stage where the numbers become large and the amount of money becomes a problem, our difficulties will be over and we need not continue the incentive. I strongly urge the Minister to look at the narrow limits of the incentives available and to extend them to cover the entire country.
I also urge the Minister to appreciate that the problem of saving the Irish draught mares — if they can be saved at this stage and there must be a question mark over it — is certainly an extremely urgent one. They can only be saved by the problem receiving the careful and serious attention of the Department which, in turn, will have to be supplemented by a substantial cash incentive.
Everything else that was hoped for from Bord na gCapall is, unfortunately, disappearing with the repeal of this Act. Deputy Sherlock referred to the disappearance of the licensing sections. However, riding schools have become self-regulatory and they are run by a body enjoying the acronym “Aire”. I do not know whether that is good or bad——
Mr. Cooney: It is a successful institution. I do not know whether self-regulation is a proper substitute for statutory regulation in an area such as that but certainly self-regulation is well managed by the body concerned and they are entitled to take great credit for that.
It is with some feelings of nostalgia that I speak 19 years on, having participated in my first debate in Dáil Éireann on the setting up of Bord na gCapall. I now find myself participating in a debate on their dissolution. Apart from feeling nostalgic we must all share in the sense of failure that something that was launched with great optimism has now collapsed and the consequences could be serious for a significant part of the agricultural industry. However, more than being a part of the agricultural industry, the half-bred industry is part and parcel of what makes  this country different. It would indeed be a great pity if the Irish sporting horse which has had a supremacy in the western world for many decades will now become — if not a thing of the past — something of less quality than we were used to and an animal which is no longer able to compete with the warm blood from Holland and Poland. I see that Polish horses are now being advertised in British equestrian magazines and, in terms of numbers, the warm bloods come from mainland Europe and Poland. They will probably swamp the Irish horses and take the market that was traditionally ours. The fact that that has already happened is a measure of the failure of the experiment put in place in 1970. Recriminations in regard to the failure are pointless but I hope the reasons for the failure are analysed, identified and avoided in whatever new regime is intended.
Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. O'Kennedy): I should like to thank Members of the House for their contributions which, I must say with genuine conviction, I very much enjoyed and appreciated as they were from people who obviously have a deep interest and a real affection for the issue we have been addressing. We have just had a little nostalgic journey with Deputy Cooney. I remember the event as well, it was not my first debate in the House but I remember we all looked forward to what we thought was the beginning of a well organised and properly motivated programme as the Minister of the day — Mr. Jim Gibbons — introduced the Bill. We all had the same high hopes in putting in place the legislation which we are now, ironically and unfortunately, moving to repeal. In doing so we are all of one mind that the reasons are based on the experience of a failure that could not have been anticipated. There is a certain sense of irony that the son of the then Minister has made a very practical and significant contribution this evening. Even Deputy Martin Gibbons — if I may put it that way — acknowledged that the expectations at the time the board were established had not been realised.
 I do not propose to go back over what Deputy Doyle so eloquently and effectively underlined. She rightly pointed out that I deliberately did not refer to all these things. However, she more than made up for the omission on my part. As Deputy Gibbons said, Bord na gCapall failed to deal effectively with the role with which they were charged. Deputy Doyle referred to the key priorities such as the role in the promotion by the board of the half-bred industry and marketing exploitation. They did indeed concentrate on exports but of a very selective few on behalf of an even more selective few. That is regrettable and I intervened at one point to say that much of what Deputy Doyle said seemed to be an indictment of all who were associated, not just with the board, but with the industry at the time. I remember her questioning me in the House at the time and Deputy Gibbons put it appropriately this evening when he said it was not deux chevaux but one chevau missing. I remember Deputy Davern holding forth here with typical robust Tipperary eloquence on the condition of those who found themselves less than effectively endowed for the purpose for which they were meant to be employed. In that connection I ask Deputy Gibbons to convey our best wishes to the man who introduced the Act we are now repealing, he is not to blame.
Mr. O'Kennedy: If he were here he would be doing the same thing. Deputy Gibbons referred to progeny testing and the education and training for the care, maintenance and development of this very special animal, the non-thoroughbred horse. One of our priorities has to be the establishment of performance centres and progeny testing centres — we can also have marketing centres which I will come back to in a few moments — for which I will be able to provide that kind of essential guarantee for the breeder, owner and potential purchaser. Reference was made to Kildalton. In that connection let me say, and here I make  no criticism, that it was not one of ACOT's functions to train people in the breeding of the half-bred horse which we hope will become a major source of income for farmers. ACOT did not conduct such courses but I am glad to tell the House that I have specifically asked the chairman and director of Teagasc to ensure that they do conduct appropriate courses in husbandry, and in the caring, breeding and training of horses which will have their roots and base, and qualifications exclusively in this country.
Mr. O'Kennedy: We can only build this up. The honest answer to the Deputy's question is “no” but I am quite sure that one could reply with a confident “yes” in respect of the future. I have specifically given them responsibility to develop and promote such courses.
I note that Deputy Carey has come into the House. I am glad to say is a fellow county-man of his and a former schoolmate of mine at St. Flannan's in Ennis who is now the CEO in Kilkenny. He is running one of the best equitation courses there is, along with allied programmes, in Thomastown vocational school in Kilkenny.
Mr. O'Kennedy: As Deputy Doyle has properly pointed out, these courses have recently been linked with Thomond College and I hope they will be extended and promoted throughout the country. I will deal later with Deputy Doyle's well considered contribution. That is one of the reasons I learn something new every day. In her contribution she made reference to these courses. I hope we will be able to channel them into the programme for  the future as they should form an essential part of it.
Mr. O'Kennedy: Let me indicate one of the things that hurt me some time back during the Belgian Presidency of the EC. My colleagues are aware that I am reasonably familiar with that country for one reason or another. Informal meetings are held every six months and these present the country holding the Presidency with an opportunity to point out to the other member states what they see as some of their main achievements in their own country. I thought I knew Belgium fairly well but it was not until I visited some of their equestrian centres that I realised that they were parading our bloodlines to their advantage. What they had done with our bloodlines was a clear demonstration of what we had failed to do. I put it as simply as that. I came away convinced that if this is what they could do with our bloodlines, then surely we could do it also given our tradition and, one might say, affection for the horse.
Deputy Doyle went into great detail in her contribution but it is only fair in the time available to me to try to deal with most of the points made in relation to this matter. It has to be said that she made a number of very valid points. I think she would acknowledge that because many of these are of wide ranging impact it would not be possible for me to answer each and every one now but I can assure her that the general points will be borne in mind when deciding on policy and we can consult each other on these for the advisory committee. I would like to have an informal arrangement with the House in respect of policy for the advisory committee.
Having said that, let me deal with a number of the specific points made. In relation to the register maintained within the Department, it is vitally important that this division — there are not too many of us involved — be visible and personable. I have promoted it as widely as I can. I cannot introduce all those who  work in this division by name but the Principal Officer is Mr. Frank O'Donnell and I know of no other group — and I appreciate that Deputy Doyle has acknowledged this — who devote so much time and energy to their duties. I ask the Deputy to make people aware that this division exists. I accept the points made in regard to the register and passports but it is important that people do not feel they have to go through a layer of bureaucracy. If they cannot find the people responsible directly who are few in number they could try to get on to my own office but I hope this will not be necessary.
The Deputy is quite right in saying that problems have been experienced with the computer facility. I am not going to try to shift blame but we have re-equipped the computer facility in the Department. I have appointed a new director and have assigned additional staff to this facility to help clear the backlog which arose due to the relocation of the horse register section. The Irish horse register section computer and that of the SJAI were incompatible. We are operating the same system as was operated by Bord na gCapall. Therefore, we have not changed.
Mr. O'Kennedy: I understand it is their intention to publish information on performance on a commercial basis and this will largely obviate the need for computer compatibility. As I indicated to Deputy Doyle, we are trying to improve the linguistic facility, if I may use that term, of both computers so that they can interact effectively with each other.
Mr. O'Kennedy: They never suggested they got a bum steer from me, far from it. My discussions with them were open and above board and no one in the equine centre would suggest otherwise. For reasons of their own, and they were good reasons, they decided to abort the discussions and it was not for me to make any comment.
Mr. O'Kennedy: I think they had some communication with some bigger brothers than themselves and it was this that made the difference. Deputy Doyle must know this. She happened to mention a name this evening and that is a clue to it.
Deputy Doyle also referred to the shortage of paper. She was quite right. The problems arose as a result of there being uncertainty over who would run the register. Clearly people did not order the stocks of paper that would be necessary for the issuing of passports and, as a result, stocks became depleted. Perhaps public servants are a bit more prudent than the rest of us and they did not order stocks of paper in the knowledge that something else was being put in place, which as it happened did not turn out  to be the case. What happened to the Deputy's friend was as a consequence of this but I am glad to be able to tell the Deputy now that the issue has been resolved and that this problem will not arise again. I would not like to blame those prudent public servants who saw no reason to order paper which would not be used.
In relation to the advisory committee, I note that Deputy Deasy, who was very good with this kind of thing, has left the House but he is the man, and I tend to have considerable sympathy for him, who said “Do not let them select.”— I was very much persuaded by what he said because he had some hard experience in this area. —“They will pick people from among themselves for the wrong reasons.” I am trying to get the balance right. I hope the committee will be self-selective and will comply with the criteria set down. A letter is issuing indicating that arrangements are now being made to set up this committee in which I give reasons and say what they are to do, and there is no need to go back over that. They are being invited to nominate representatives, one each, for membership of the committee. These will be supplemented by representatives from the Department and others the Minister may deem appropriate — not too many, I assure the House. They are told it will be appreciated if their organisation — we are leaving it to them as Deputy Doyle suggested — would consider at their earliest convenience who shall be represented on the committee, and their decision is sought at an early date.
Mr. O'Kennedy: The letter states that the Minister's only concern is that only people who are fully conversant with all aspects of the non-thoroughbred horse industry both here and abroad and who can be expected to make a positive contribution to the further development of the industry are nominated for membership of the committee. If they are not  fully conversant with all aspects of the industry and are there just to represent a narrow sectoral view, we will not get an effective advisory committee.
Mr. O'Kennedy: OK, I will make it 14. We are talking about political nominations in the broadest sense. We are all politicians, a word often used in a very negative fashion, but in terms of people who have political responsibility our role is to do as may be appropriate. After all, Government elected by the Dáil appoint judges. That is their role. Someone has to appoint them and that is a political appointment if anyone wants to call it so.
I know from some very distinguished leaders in the legal world, such as the late Taoiseach, Jack Costello, whom I was privileged to know personally, that they tried the other way. They appointed people who said they were representative of the Bar Council and the Incorporated Law Society, but it became a most vicious, introspective contest and they never could do anything properly where Government had a role. Right or wrong, politicians can be criticised. At least we can answer here and we are answerable and I hope that will happen here. Since there are internal pressures within all the committees, I hope they will not select someone who eases the path for their own organisations but rather that they will select people who can contribute positively to what we all regard in this House as important. I can assure the House that what has been expressed this evening is the view I have.
Let me refer to the horse register. I am not going to lay down strict rules, but I envisage that a subcommittee of the  advisory committee would oversee its operation and suggest whatever changes are desirable having regard particularly to some of the practical points made this evening. All of those views such as the passport markings Deputy Doyle mentioned, will be taken on board. Many, if not all, of the other areas of concern will be examined by this committee. I propose to appoint them for an initial period of, say, about three years which I think is about right although I have no hang up on this. It has two advantages. They probably will outlive the Dáil — that is giving information — and whatever Dáil comes back will be able to review them.
Mr. O'Kennedy: Deputy Carey and I will probably think there is money on that prospect. Leased stallions have been mentioned. In terms of contractual obligations Deputy Doyle can be assured that the present leases and the legal obligations involved are and will be honoured. This does not constitute a breach of the existing contracts. In fact, in a number of cases there are no contracts in existence because they have already expired. No long-term contracts were made by Bord na gCapall — the longest was for five years. Other schemes also operated. We are giving them the first option nonetheless, but there is no breach of contractual or legal obligations. If there is not a reasonable outcome from that first option, they have to go on the basis of disposal, as I mentioned in my introductory speech. Leasing schemes are formally operated by my Department for other species such as bulls, rams and boars and they are all being wound down as economy measures. We are doing the same here.
Regarding registration of animals bred by AI and ET, we are in a new area on which I am considering whatever advice is available. I do not want to take issue on the basis of knowledge here or to take issue on an intransigent position, but most of Deputy Doyle's comments seemed to be related to the failure of AI  in the thoroughbred area and of embryo transfers.
Mrs. Doyle: No. A private company are operating at the moment in this country in the half-breed area and their fertility rate has been abysmal. In the thoroughbred arena, particularly in Switzerland they have ventured into this area and found it most unsuccessful and because of monitoring and identification of progeny they have abandoned it as an option for the moment.
Mr. O'Kennedy: Just for the moment. That is why I misunderstood the Deputy. There may be difficulties identifying animals bred by AI and embryo transfer. In any event, such animals will not be registered until they are blood tied. That at least will cope with that risk. As regards AI and ET generally, I will be asking the committee to consider all these matters and to take the best advice available to them both nationally and internationally and to report to me immediately in that connection.
We need a higher awareness of the register. Because of the scheme I have put in place I hope the Irish draught will no longer be an endangered species. I can tell Deputy Cooney the grants extend to the whole country, not just to the disadvantaged areas which in themselves already encompass 62 per cent of the country. He and Deputy Doyle talked about the self-advancement of the previous board. It is fairly evident the case has been proved. In the words of the old Latin maxim, res ipsa loquitur, the facts speak for themselves. I have nothing further to add.
Deputy Hegarty mentioned the problems of the original board and self-advancement and said he was concerned about weeding out medicore stallions. That will be a very essential feature because if we do not have selective progeny performance and testing, people will think we are going nowhere. I hope the new advisory body will focus on that. Regarding his reference to Noel C. Duggan, I could not agree more. One man can achieve so much, but there are  others who have the same abilities. This is a measure of what can be done. The Deputy is right about the FEOGA grants and I will be promoting them and similar grants vigorously.
Deputy Cooney talked about the parent Department here. At the end of the day we have to answer. Public servants do what we ask them to do. Collectively we were the people who watched failure for too long. The one thing we have in common is the previous Government came to the decision. I changed it not a whit. I adopted that decision. Despite what someone mentioned as a strange use of words in our manifesto — I think Deputy Sherlock said that——
Mr. O'Kennedy: If it is a reorganisation of Bord na gCapall, I plead guilty to that kind of reorganisation. If that is the only thing we have to answer for when we come before the electorate, I will be happy to go on any platform and say I reorganised it.
Mr. O'Kennedy: I never like to think that we approach anything in a defensive  way and say that to cope with the people coming at us we should do A, B or C. I much prefer the progressive, attacking approach whereby we come at the others.
Mr. O'Kennedy: I would hope that we can restore the Irish draught mare, the foundation stock, as Deputy Cooney has called it. Deputy Doyle has perceptively noted the fact that there are not many around, although there are perhaps two and a half times the number she mentioned.
Mr. O'Kennedy: Deputy Sherlock mentioned the licensing of riding establishments. This section of the 1970 Act was never brought into effect. There was, however, a voluntary scheme in operation under the auspices of the Association of Riding Establishments for this purpose.
Mrs. Doyle: The Minister mentioned a sub-committee of his advisory committee. Would it be out of the question to consider a very small all-party subcommittee of four or five members? The advisory committee would be supreme but perhaps the Minister could allow  members of the Opposition to sit on a sub-committee.
An Ceann Comhairle: As fewer than ten Members have risen in their places, I declare the question carried. The names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of Proceedings of the Dáil.
|Last Updated: 24/05/2011 02:30:21||Page of 152|