Greyhound Industry (Doping Regulation) Bill 2006: Second Stage (Resumed).

Thursday, 8 June 2006

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 621 No. 9

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Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley): Information on Tim O'Malley  Zoom on Tim O'Malley  Deputy Deenihan, who proposed the Greyhound Industry (Doping Regulation) Bill 2006, outlined his commitment to greyhound racing in some detail. He also spoke about the interventions he made when he was responsible for the industry during his term as Minister of State at the then Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. There is no denying the Deputy’s interest in this area and his endeavours aimed at raising the standards within our greyhound racing industry, in the interests of owners, trainers, spectators and sponsors. He is concerned about the integrity of the industry and about animal welfare in general.

The Deputy will be obliged to admit, however, that no real progress was made in all these areas until the current Government entered office. It has been the first Government to appreciate fully the true value of horse and greyhound racing to the economic and social life of our country. Horse and greyhound racing events are not just great sporting occasions for hundreds of thousands of Irish people, but they also contribute significantly to the incomes and economic realities of many people, especially small farmers, throughout the country.

Race meetings are also great social occasions for the spectators, provide important opportunities for local suppliers and retailers and can be exploited as a unique Irish experience for visitors from abroad.

The Government seized this opportunity, and by introducing a radically new approach to promoting and sustaining the Irish racing industry, namely, the horse and greyhound fund in 2001, the entire industry improved dramatically. By the end of 2005, Bord na gCon had received €65 million from the fund since its establishment in 2001 and it will receive a further €14 million in 2006.

This has enabled Bord na gCon to significantly improve the facilities at the various greyhound tracks around the country, which has led to increased attendances at race meetings, improved betting turnover and increased sponsorship. Bord [421]na gCon also intends to continue its capital development programme in coming years and consequently, the industry can look forward continually to attracting new beneficiaries in the form of patrons, sponsors, corporate bodies and casual racegoers. Given the continuation of the fund announced by the Government in 2004, the Irish greyhound racing industry can expect similar levels of funding until 2008.

It is surprising, given the proud record of the Government in changing the face of Irish greyhound racing so dramatically, that Deputy Deenihan and his party could not wait for a few more weeks, for the outcome of the Dalton report.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  The outcome is known. The Minister announced it. Its findings have been published all over the place.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Minister of State should be allowed to make his contribution.

Mr. T. O’Malley: Information on Tim O'Malley  Zoom on Tim O'Malley  By introducing——

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  The outcome is known. There will be no outcome. It has been all over the newspapers. Members know that.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Deputy Deenihan is being unhelpful.

Mr. T. O’Malley: Information on Tim O'Malley  Zoom on Tim O'Malley  By introducing this Bill at this stage——

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  If I did not introduce the Bill now I would not be able to so do until November or December.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should not interrupt the Minister of State.

Mr. T. O’Malley: Information on Tim O'Malley  Zoom on Tim O'Malley  One must wonder whether his motivation is to introduce real, lasting and proven benefits to the industry, as the Government has done, or to cause mischief in the pursuit of hollow publicity.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  This is ridiculous.

Mr. T. O’Malley: Information on Tim O'Malley  Zoom on Tim O'Malley  I wish to comment on some of the issues.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  There is no mischief involved here. I gave a commitment.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy has the right of reply.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Before the Minister of State, Deputy Tim O’Malley, continues, he should withdraw that remark. I promised this Bill before the Dalton report was commissioned and before——

[422]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy has the right of reply.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  ——Mr. Dalton was assigned to this job.

Mr. T. O’Malley: Information on Tim O'Malley  Zoom on Tim O'Malley  I wish to comment.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Minister of State should be allowed to continue without interruption.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Very well.

Mr. T. O’Malley: Information on Tim O'Malley  Zoom on Tim O'Malley  May I continue?

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  The Minister of State should not personalise this simply because I have made an effort.

Mr. T. O’Malley: Information on Tim O'Malley  Zoom on Tim O'Malley  There have been several statements. As Deputy Deenihan is aware, this matter is in the public arena and the Minister with responsibility, the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy O’Donoghue, has constantly asked people to refrain from public comment because many names and other matters have been revealed, which does not constitute due process. The Minister is being responsible in ensuring due process will take place, because this is a significant, important and growing industry. Many people depend on it for their employment and it is essential too for the public to have confidence in it.

The Minister also noted that, in the greyhound and horse industries, as well as the entire sports arena, Ireland’s anti-doping control procedures must be the best. It must strive for best practice in this regard. This has already been achieved in respect of sport in general and the Minister is being extremely responsible in ensuring that best practice and procedures will be implemented by Bord na gCon after this matter has been investigated. It is not good for the industry for comments to be made about a report which has not been published and which has not yet gone before the Cabinet.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  All Members agree with that.

Mr. T. O’Malley: Information on Tim O'Malley  Zoom on Tim O'Malley  It is extremely important that everyone should perform their business properly and that due process takes place, especially for those who are involved and for those whose names are in the public arena. Therefore, it was premature of Deputy Deenihan to bring forward this Bill.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  While it may have been premature, it was not mischievous.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Order, please.

Mr. T. O’Malley: Information on Tim O'Malley  Zoom on Tim O'Malley  Why could Members not wait for due process for all concerned?

[423]Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  There is none.

Mr. T. O’Malley: Information on Tim O'Malley  Zoom on Tim O'Malley  We must have due process, as this industry is too important——

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  There is no due process involved here.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Order, please.

Mr. T. O’Malley: Information on Tim O'Malley  Zoom on Tim O'Malley  ——for the people involved.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Members should be allowed to make their contributions.

Mr. T. O’Malley: Information on Tim O'Malley  Zoom on Tim O'Malley  It is too important for our country——

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Just the ones who flout the terms in this instance.

Mr. T. O’Malley: Information on Tim O'Malley  Zoom on Tim O'Malley  The integrity of the industry must be allowed to endure.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Perhaps there is a new definition of due process.

Mr. T. O’Malley: Information on Tim O'Malley  Zoom on Tim O'Malley  This is a significant and a growing industry which is of major benefit to many small farmers and to those who train greyhounds.

The introduction of this Bill is as effective and timely as trotting around Shelbourne Park three days before the derby final.

Mr. O’Connor: Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  I wish to share time with Deputy Peter Power——

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  I hope the Deputy will be more constructive.

Mr. O’Connor: Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  Earlier, I listened to Deputy Burton stating the sun was shining outside the House and that all Members were in great form. I am glad to see Deputy Deenihan co-operating in this regard. Moreover, last weekend I watched the television programme “Reeling In The Years” and the Deputy looked to be in fine fettle then. I am glad nothing has changed.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to make a brief contribution to this debate and I welcome the attendance of my party colleague, the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy O’Donoghue. I wish him continued success in his great work. My constituency of Dublin South-West is delighted with the announcements made by the Minister this week in respect of the lottery capital sports programme. A number of projects in my constituency have been grant-aided, including the pavilion project in Tymon Park, the Greenhills Park bowling green, Kilnamanagh Football Club, in conjunction with the Kilnamanagh Family Recreation Centre, the Dodder Park — Old Bawn project, the Kingswood community [424]centre and the Sacred Heart Boxing Club, Killinarden.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  These are very important grants.

Mr. O’Connor: Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  These are important grants and it is good the Government recognises a major population centre.

Mr. McHugh: Information on Paddy McHugh  Zoom on Paddy McHugh  What about the Tallaght grannies association? The Deputy did not mention it.

Mr. O’Connor: Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  We are happy in Tallaght. I will not be distracted because I am proud of the work being done in my constituency. I am delighted to bring this news from Tallaght and Greenhills to the Minister.

As for the Bill, I note the Minister opposes it. As the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O’Malley, stated, it is premature to accept the proposed legislation before the finalisation of the Dalton report on certain matters affecting Bord na gCon. Its terms of reference include an examination of Bord na gCon’s existing greyhound doping procedures.

While Members will probably taunt me to the effect that I know little about greyhounds, I attend race meetings. Only this week, I was in Harold’s Cross.

Mr. McHugh: Information on Paddy McHugh  Zoom on Paddy McHugh  They are four legged creatures, with two at the front and two at the back.

Mr. O’Connor: Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  Last Monday, I enjoyed a marvellous night’s entertainment when St. Jude’s GAA Club in Templeogue ran a night in Harold’s Cross which I attended. I understand the Minister’s exaltations of the merits of greyhound racing, as it is a great night out. I compliment Harold’s Cross in that regard.

As Members are aware, in January 2006 the board of Bord na gCon decided to terminate the employment contract of its chief executive. This was the culmination of a series of events surrounding the chief executive, which included a direct communication from Mr. Tynan to the Minister alleging shortcomings in corporate governance practice at Bord na gCon, and that procedures dealing with doping infringements by the doping control committee were not in accordance with best practice.

In February 2006, the Minister established an independent investigation to be carried out by Mr. Tim Dalton, the former Secretary General of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, into those issues relating to corporate management in Bord na gCon, as well as its management of the positive tests for banned substances. I understand the terms of reference of the independent investigation were as follows. It was to review the allegations of shortcomings in corporate governance practice at Bord na gCon [425]made by its chief executive in his letter to the Minister of 18 January 2006. Moreover, it was to review a response dated 30 January of the chairman of Bord na gCon to those allegations. In addition, taking into account the possibility of legal proceedings taking place, it was to examine the circumstances surrounding the decision of the board on 26 January to terminate the contract of employment of the chief executive officer with immediate effect, and to report when and if possible, in light of the said legal proceedings, its findings to the Minister, and in any event to advise on any action considered necessary to ensure adherence to best corporate governance practice.

The terms also included consideration of the manner in which Bord na gCon procedures dealing with doping infringements are carried out at present, to comment on the adequacy of existing procedures, and to advise whether there should be changes or modifications put into effect. Mr. Dalton presented his report to the Minister in April and his Department immediately sought guidance from the Attorney General’s office on how to proceed regarding the issues raised. In accordance with the Attorney General’s advice, copies and, in some cases, extracts of the report were sent, on a confidential basis, to persons to whom it referred to afford them an opportunity to submit observations to the Minister by close of business on Wednesday, 31 May 2006. The submissions received were made available to Mr. Dalton for the purpose of finalising his report, following which the Minister will present proposals to his Cabinet colleagues to deal with the recommendations in the report.

The Minister will also seek approval for immediate publication of the report. He made it absolutely clear, as recently as last week when replying to parliamentary questions, that all those mentioned in the report would be afforded due process and sufficient time to submit their observations. He also stated that he does not intend to comment at this stage on any aspect of Mr. Dalton’s report until it is formally released into the public domain.

Under the Greyhound Industry Act 1958, the Minister appoints the seven members of the board of Bord na gCon, which comprises a chairman and six ordinary members. The term of membership of an ordinary member is three years with two ordinary members retiring each year. An ordinary member may at any time resign by letter to the Minister and the resignation takes effect on receipt by the Minister of the letter. The Minister may at any time remove an ordinary member of the board. An ordinary member of the board whose term of office expires is eligible for reappointment. The Minister appoints the chairman, as the occasion requires, and he or she holds office at the pleasure of the Minister. The chairman may, however, resign at any time by way of letter to the Minister and his or her resig[426]nation takes effect from the date of receipt of the letter by the Minister.

The Minister appointed Mr. Seamus Mallon, former MP and MLA, and Mr. Dick O’Sullivan, manager of Punchestown racecourse, to the board for three years, with effect from 23 May 2006, to replace Mr. Cathal Curley and Mr. John Hegarty whose terms of office expired on 23 January. The Minister will be warmly complimented in many communities for his foresight in making those appointments. While Mr. O’Sullivan is well known, Mr. Mallon is a revered figure in domestic politics. I am glad he has taken up this assignment and I wish him well.

My knowledge of greyhounds is restricted to attending Harold’s Cross greyhound stadium to support local events. Bord na gCon, which is a commercial semi-State body, was established in July 1958 under the Greyhound Industry Act to control greyhound racing and to improve and develop the industry. The board’s functions are: the control, promotion and operation of greyhound racing; the overall control of coursing; the promotion of greyhound exports; the operation of betting; the regulation of public sales of greyhounds; the making of grants for prize money; the allocation of grants to improve amenities at tracks; the licensing of greyhound tracks and their officials; the authorisation of bookmakers to conduct business at tracks; and the collection of levies on course bets. Of the State’s 19 greyhound tracks, Bord na gCon owns nine — Shelbourne Park, Harold’s Cross, Cork, Tralee, Waterford, Youghal, Limerick, Galway and Clonmel. It also has a 51% share in the Mullingar track but there are no plans for a track in Tallaght.

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. S. Power): Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  This debate on the greyhound industry, which has been taken for granted in many respects, is welcome because the industry has not received much coverage in the House. We were fortunate that two Ministers in the previous Government, Deputy Walsh and Mr. Charlie McCreevy, were familiar with the greyhound racing and horseracing industries and they brought forward legislation to secure funding for both industries. This resulted in significant investment in both industries in recent years which has been reflected in attendances at meetings. The people have spoken with their feet.

I was a greyhound owner in the past and my family was involved down through the years in the industry. I like a night at the dogs. In recent years, the issue of clerical abuse has received a great deal of publicity. However, as a former altar boy, my experience of the church was much different. I was an altar boy to a priest who loved both horse and greyhound racing and I had the pleasure of travelling around the country to attend horse and greyhound race meetings and even the odd coursing meeting. I learned a great deal and my experience with this priest was joy[427]ous and educational. I am grateful for the education I received about greyhounds and horses.

Mr. Healy: Information on Seamus Healy  Zoom on Seamus Healy  Did the Minister of State win anything with his dogs?

Mr. S. Power: Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  Unfortunately, no, but they were good at eating.

Many tracks had poor facilities until recent years. Kevin Heffernan, who is associated more with gaelic football than with greyhounds, was one of the people responsible for much of the change that has taken place. He identified what was required to improve the industry but at the time, unfortunately, the necessary resources were not available. Much needed investment and development has been undertaken and this has led to the modernisation of facilities at greyhound tracks under the chairmanship of Paschal Taggart. I acknowledge the tremendous part he has played and the leadership he has given in modernising the industry, for which there is great appreciation throughout the State. While the changes were much needed, the board also realised the industry faced stiff competition. People have other options and unless good, modern, clean facilities are provided, they will go elsewhere. Many of the tracks provide restaurant facilities and so on and a night out at the dogs has become more attractive. For example, many office groups and clubs go to the dogs for a night out.

Mr. F. McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  The Minister of State has gone to the dogs.

Mr. S. Power: Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  The profile of those attending greyhound meetings has changed significantly in recent years. For example, many more young people attend than did so a few years ago. I acknowledge the leadership given by Paschal Taggart and the other members of Bord na gCon. I also acknowledge the transformation of the greyhound industry.

It is somewhat unfortunate that Deputy Deenihan is bringing forward his Bill at this time. The Dalton report has not been made public.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  What about the article in the Sunday Independent? It has been leaked all over the place.

Mr. S. Power: Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  Extracts have appeared in newspapers but, in fairness to the people involved——

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  They are entitled to due process.

Mr. S. Power: Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  Of course they are.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Due process has been given a new definition.

[428]Acting Chairman (Mr. Carey): Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  The Deputy should allow the Minister of State to continue, without interruption.

Mr. S. Power: Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  I am not sure in what light Paschal Taggart and the other members of the board will be portrayed in the Dalton report. It may decide they acted improperly or it may vindicate them.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Not according to the leaked report.

Mr. S. Power: Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  Regardless of how the report treats the people concerned, the doping scandal, as it has been called, is only one aspect and we should not forget the good these people have done in terms of transforming the industry. We in Ireland like to build people up, only to knock them at the first opportunity.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  The Minister of State should look around himself.

Mr. S. Power: Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  For their own reasons, some people love to take advantage of opportunities to criticise others but the achievements made under the chairmanship of Paschal Taggart must be acknowledged. I do not know Mr. Taggart very well, although I met him on a few occasions. Most of those directly involved in the greyhound industry are appreciative of the role he played and the changes he introduced. It is important that we acknowledge these changes and express sincere appreciation for his and other members’ foresight. They have encouraged many more people to become involved in the industry, which for a long time had to struggle with the same old faces, limited prize money, poor attendance and facilities in need of modernisation.

The changes made in recent years are due in many respects to the funding provided when this House enacted the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act 2001. Funding has been secured for the horse and greyhound racing industries, making the task of planning for the future a little easier. One of the smaller parties in this House tends to criticise the Government for the stance it has taken in that regard, although most of the contributors to the debate on the Act were happy with the proposals being made.

The matter is often depicted as if we were giving the money directly to the horses or their wealthy owners but the greyhound and horse racing industries employ a large number of people, even if they are not the best paid workers in the country. I have been personally involved with the Stable Staff Association and have seen the changes which have taken place. For a long time, many workers in the industry were abused by their employers but their terms have changed for the better in recent years. We should be conscious of that instead of making rash statements. Deputies have responsibilities and they should [429]not abuse their positions by making wild accusations.

I acknowledge Deputy Deenihan’s love for and understanding of the greyhound industry but he has been somewhat premature in respect of this Bill. The Government supports all aspects of greyhound racing and that is appreciated by everyone involved in the industry, from the small owner and breeder to the thousands of spectators who enjoy the racing experience at tracks across the country. The Government’s introduction of the horse and greyhound racing fund dramatically changed the landscape by transforming what was a struggling sport into a high quality and well financed industry with state of the art facilities for trainers, owners, dogs and paying customers.

The sport can only thrive on the basis of trust and integrity on the part of those involved. Spectators and punters must be satisfied that a dog’s performance, whether it wins or loses, is genuine and truly reflects the animal’s abilities and talents. Once trust and confidence are lost, everything else goes. Every effort should be made to improve the procedures and levels of integrity in the area of dope testing. The record of this Government cannot be matched when it comes to ensuring that Irish sports are conducted in an environment of fair play and integrity. Prior to the Government’s establishment in 1999 of the Irish Sports Council as a statutory body responsible for the promotion and development of sport in Ireland, we did not have a national anti-doping programme. We can now boast of having one of the best anti-doping programmes in the world and of procedures which the World Anti-Doping Agency holds up to other countries as a model to be copied. This commitment by the Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism to the highest standards of integrity, transparency and fair play is no less evident in his approach to greyhound racing and his insistence that the most effective and appropriate procedures are put in place in Bord na gCon.

Given that the Minister requested Mr. Dalton to address this area in his report, it would not have been unreasonable to expect Deputy Deenihan to wait a short while to allow this critical issue to be given the attention it deserves. The Minister has urged everyone concerned to desist from public comment so that Mr. Dalton’s work can be finalised. It is a pity that did not happen. The people mentioned in the report should be afforded adequate time to make their observations and for the Government to decide on the best response. We all share Deputy Deenihan’s concern for this industry, which forms an important element in the economic, sporting and social lives of Irish people. However, we also want to act properly with regard to integrity and regulatory functions in the organisation of the sport. Jumping the gun does not serve the interest of the Irish greyhound industry in any meaningful way. There will be a time and a place to address [430]these issues in a calm and constructive manner but today is not the time.

I thank all those involved in the greyhound industry because the recent radical changes to the sport have not happened by accident. A night out at the dogs is a family event which can be enjoyed equally by a five or a 95 year-old. I wish the industry continued prosperity and look forward to attending many tracks over the summer months.

Acting Chairman: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Before calling on the next speaker, I remind the House that Members should show restraint and should not criticise or make charges against persons outside the House as they are defenceless against accusations made under privilege, other than having the right of reply under Standing Order 58.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  I welcome any attempt to increase public confidence in greyhound racing which, with an excellent track in Tralee, is an important sport in my constituency. It is vital that such an important sport conducts itself in a completely transparent manner.

Last Saturday night, I attended the greyhound track in Tralee with other Deputies from my constituency to take part in a fundraising event by the Spa, Churchill and Fenit communities for a playground for young people. It is a fantastic facility and I compliment everybody involved.

Going to watch greyhound racing is, as the Minister indicated, a wonderful social occasion. He used the word “integrity” and it jumped out at me because the integrity of the industry is important. Unfortunately, there is a sense of doubt in many people’s minds. In the majority of cases there is no problem and only a small minority have anything to fear from drug-testing of dogs and other safeguards to ensure that the sport is pursued fairly and with due regard to the safety and health of animals involved. This issue is of interest as a result of recent controversy regarding the position of the chairman of Bord na gCon, particularly in respect of leaks from the Dalton report into the sacking of the former chief executive, Mr. Aidan Tynan. That sacking centred on Mr. Tynan’s claims regarding the failure to publish the results of dope tests. If that report recommended the introduction of mandatory testing, as leaked to the newspapers some weeks ago, this Bill merely anticipates what will be an early initiative on the part of the Minister to ensure that this is done.

I agree with proposals to ensure that drug testing on greyhounds is carried out in a more professional and secure manner. Procedures are loose and while nobody is alleging that abuse is widespread, there is scope for it. As previous speakers stated, there are many stories on how easy it would be to mask evidence of certain drugs in samples.

On the sacking of Mr. Tynan, there is the issue of accountability. Should a person harbour [431]serious concerns on the manner in which greyhound racing is administered, he or she should be able to air them without fearing that his or her position will be threatened. That lies behind many concerns regarding the state of the sport in this country. There is a perception, rightly or wrongly, that cliques have developed, which have particular connections and interests. In any sphere of life, this leads to rumours. The solution is generally to ensure a regular turnover of people in positions of authority so that there is a healthy intake of new blood and ideas and that people have confidence in those in authority.

The Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism has a major responsibility in respect of the manner in which he appoints the members of Bord na gCon and maintains relationships with them. Members of State boards should be seen to be impartial. While they must have a background and interest in the sport, they should not be seen to ally with any interests in it. The Dalton report will hopefully lead to greater transparency in greyhound racing and the Government will address any areas of concern that will cast a shadow on a successful and positive sport.

I stress that allegations have been made. I do not say that they have been substantiated but I hear them constantly, as do other Deputies from rural areas who have an interest in the industry. There have been allegations of political interference. In the interests of public confidence, it is necessary to ensure that people’s concerns are allayed. I have no difficulty supporting the proposal contained in this Bill.

Mr. McHugh: Information on Paddy McHugh  Zoom on Paddy McHugh  I welcome the Greyhound Industry (Doping Regulation) Bill 2006. Great strides have been made in respect of the development of the greyhound industry in recent years. A pragmatic, dynamic approach has been taken by Bord na gCon to the development of the industry and this has been supported by the current and previous Ministers and the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism. The progress made can be seen in County Galway, where the greyhound track has been refurbished and renewed. On Friday nights, the greyhound track is the place to be, not only for greyhound racing but also for the craic. As we are dealing with doping regulations, I had better explain that the “craic” I mentioned refers to fun and socialising.

Mr. F. McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  I was getting worried.

Mr. McHugh: Information on Paddy McHugh  Zoom on Paddy McHugh  As a result of the controversy that has affected Bord na gCon recently, the great strides made have been tainted. That controversy should be nipped in the bud before further irreparable damage is done.

The Fine Gael Bill proposes the establishment of an independent regulation and control body to deal with doping and illegal drug use in the greyhound industry. When I hear about another [432]independent body being set up, I have nightmares because I have visions of another unaccountable body. However, the principle of independence from Bord na gCon is vital. The ongoing controversy illustrates and underlines this. One cannot have a body investigating itself. For the system to operate without any suspicion attached, it is imperative that any member of a new body not be a member of Bord na gCon. The greyhound industry is intimate and small and everyone knows everyone else. Even if the people carrying out doping tests are scrupulously honest, the close nature of the industry means that it will always be possible for certain people to raise suspicions. Such a scenario does not create confidence in the independence of the process and is, therefore, not good for the greyhound industry.

Mr. Healy: Information on Seamus Healy  Zoom on Seamus Healy  I welcome the opportunity to support this Bill. Any action to lift any clouds that might hang over the industry is important and should be taken quickly. This is a small but important industry, particularly in the area from where I come in south Tipperary in which the Clonmel track is located and which hosts the national coursing festival each year. They greyhound and coursing industries are important and give much employment and support to other industries and business in the town of Clonmel and much enjoyment and sport to the many people involved at all levels.

As other speakers stated, there has been much welcome development in the industry in recent years and it is fair to compliment Bord na gCon on this. I hope those developments will extend to Clonmel in the near future. We are seeking €5 million for the development of the track there. We have had difficulties which have been resolved and I hope the €5 million will become available soon to extend and improve the facilities at Clonmel.

I welcome, if true, news that the Dalton report will indicate that mandatory testing is necessary. Such testing should be introduced sooner rather than later. This is an important industry over which no clouds must hang. We must have trust and confidence in the industry, which must be transparent in its operation. This Bill would achieve that. In the interests of the sport, I support it.

Mr. Connolly: Information on Paudge Connolly  Zoom on Paudge Connolly  This Bill is to be welcomed as an attempt to restore, or perhaps give, a good name to the greyhound industry, which has been dogged by controversy for some time.

Greater transparency in drug testing has been demanded and with the ongoing turbulence in Bord na gCon, it is past time for a separate, independent doping and appeals agency if the testing procedures are to have any credibility. The abuse of greyhounds by the administration of performance-enhancing drugs in unsporting and detrimental to the industry, which is popular with many people. For a night out at the greyhound [433]track, one must book well in advance. There is an onus on us to do something about that. Unfortunately, a number of the top owners have come under suspicion of having their greyhounds doped. There have been many unexplained deaths of top greyhounds that can only be associated with doping. Race fixing involving doping is said to be rife and is unfair to punters. In many cases, it can be lethal to the dogs. The drug most associated with it is EPO, which presents a serious temptation because owners can gain a number of lengths advantage for their dogs by administering it to them. Performance-enhancing drugs are not the only drugs given. Dogs are often blocked and this must be examined. It may be equally difficult to pick up. The result is that when a dog enters a race, it has a number of lengths in hand. Those issues must be addressed.

Bord na gCon had a policy of naming and shaming corrupt individuals in the weekly sporting press published by the Irish Coursing Club. After 2003, it altered this practice and distinguished between those who dope dogs and those who bring the sport into disrepute. I would like to know what is the difference. Where gambling is involved, people are tempted to cheat.

Mr. F. McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill and other sporting matters. I am always amazed at how other sporting groups are treated. How do the greyhound and horse racing industries receive major investment and tax breaks while the Eircom League is ignored? Shelbourne Football Club, my local club, deserves the support of the Government. I commend the Shelbourne supporters development group for great work in supporting a local club and demanding Government support for the Eircom League. We must support, fund and assist clubs in the Eircom League to the same extent as the greyhound and horse racing industries. We need leadership and vision to deal with this issue. Why can there not be a top quality league in Ireland that all families can enjoy, rather than watching Premiership football?

I support the plan to end doping and rigging of greyhound races. I demand standards in the industry to root out doping and sleaze. Although it is an important social and family event, the downside of it is coursing, on which we need a debate.

Mr. Gregory: Information on Tony Gregory  Zoom on Tony Gregory  This Bill is welcome if it can clean up one corrupt aspect of the greyhound industry. Regrettably, the industry is riddled with corrupt practices and a complete investigation into all aspects of the industry is needed. I refer in particular to the illegal, disgraceful practice of blooding greyhounds with live rabbits, hares and kittens. RTE ably exposed these practices some time ago.

Greyhound welfare is also an issue. Thousands of dogs are put down as soon as they are no longer useful for racing. Many are cruelly treated [434]and there are many instances of dogs being dumped with their ears hacked off and throats slit rather than a vet being paid to humanely put them down. The owners should be traced and dealt with severely. Many dogs are exported to Spain in inhumane conditions and treated in an appalling manner. This is the tip of the iceberg.

Live hare coursing — a medieval and cruel practice — is still legal and should be banned outright as has been done in more advanced countries. Even the most prominent owners and trainers are involved in doping. The dog that won the coursing greyhound of the year award, Boa Vista, is owned by Vinnie Jones and others. It also won the Irish Cup 2005-06, sponsored by J.P. McManus, receiving prize money of €80,000. It tested positive for a banned drug following that win but we still do not know what drug was involved. The Irish Coursing Club is a law unto itself and is not fit to regulate anything involving animal welfare.

Mr. Gogarty: Information on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Zoom on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  I echo Deputy Boyle’s comments on the Dalton report, which was leaked. God help us if any report on sexual offences is treated in the same way. I agree with the sentiments of this Bill and will support its attempt to regulate the greyhound industry.

Greyhounds must compete on merit and should not race after taking painkillers or other drugs to boost performance. Much concern has been expressed about the health and safety of the greyhounds but only a handful of Deputies have referred to the health and safety of hares. Deputy Gregory referred to the continuing practice of blooding and cruelty to dogs. Greyhounds are treated as commodities and put down once they have outlived their usefulness. The same applies to hares. Even in the regulated system where dogs wear muzzles, hares are held for up to six weeks and may be killed by stress or mauling during coursing meets.

I have nothing against the greyhound industry per se. I acknowledge that a night at the dogs could be an enjoyable event but not at the expense of unnecessary cruelty and mistreatment of animals. Studies have shown that drag coursing provides a similar training for dogs without cruelty to hares.

Notwithstanding the manner in which dogs are treated, a societal issue must be addressed. Many Deputies and well-heeled members of society enjoy going to the dogs and buying dogs. I am sure they would not condone the use of animals as commodities or cruelty to animals but this happens in the greyhound industry. Surveys show that 75% of people living in the countryside and 90% of those in cities oppose hare coursing, a considerable amount. The sport has blood on its hands and is under a cloud, irrespective of the contents of the Dalton report. An industry based on cruelty and exploitation should not be allowed to continue as it is.

[435]The greyhound and horse racing industries are hugely profitable. Nevertheless, some 37% of funding from the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism is allocated to these two profitable industries. Does one person become healthier, fitter or better off spiritually as a result of this investment? They do not but, as Deputy Finian McGrath outlined, a major deficit exists in respect of sports clubs where people are involved in sports. This morning I referred to obesity and the lack of exercise by children. Track and field sports, Gaelic games, rugby, hockey, soccer, swimming and tag rugby, which is catching on nowadays, allow people to interact socially, increase fitness and improve health. There is no exploitation in these sports. Receiving an elbow from Deputy Deenihan in an all-Ireland final may be labelled as blood sport but that is legal and I endorse such blood sport between human beings.

  12 o’clock

Dumb animals are being exploited but even dumber animals are keeping the industry going. There is something wrong when three times as much lottery funding for sports is allocated to Kerry as to Dublin and north Kildare. Money is available if we transfer it from industries that provide no exercise to local clubs and communities, enabling us to address the health crisis. This will avoid getting involved in the exploitation of animals.

Mr. Stanton: Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  I propose to share time with Deputies Hogan and Tom Hayes. No one can dispute Deputy Deenihan’s interest in and knowledge of sport, particularly this area. He has been committed to the industry for many years and in 1999 he promised to publish a Bill. It is important this is debated now because this is the last opportunity we will have to debate a Private Members’ Bill before the end of the Dáil term. Deputy Deenihan has generously given Private Member’s time to put this Bill before the House. This should be noted, as doubts have been raised with regard to the industry.

The Dalton report, mentioned not by Deputy Deenihan initially but ad nauseam by the Government, has put a cloud of doubt over the industry. This must be lifted. The best way to do that is with this Bill. I am amazed the Government, and the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism in particular, has come in to rubbish, more or less, what Fine Gael is trying to do.

Three issues are involved. These relate to the corporate governance of Bord na gCon, banned substances and a separate issue. The first two are the major factors, and they are on two separate tracks. It should be possible to deal with doping regulations separately. It would be important to have this Bill on the Statute Book. The Minister has stated he would be happy to engage with Deputy Deenihan on aspects of his proposal if and when he was in a position to do so. Everyone accepts that action must be carried out. The Government has not put forward any valid reason [436]for it not being done. It has mixed up and confused two separate issues for its own end.

I spoke to somebody this morning involved in the Youghal greyhound racing track in my constituency. I am pleased to state that Bord na gCon will invest significantly in that track. Although it is a small track, it is very important to Youghal. We have recently been decimated in Youghal because of closures in industry. The greyhound track is one of the biggest industries in the town. I have been told that €250,000 is being made immediately available for stands and kennels, and this will upgrade facilities so people can have a meal and a nice evening there. It is a fantastic area down by the sea.

I was told that only for Mr. Paschal Taggart, the track would have caravans on it and be growing water lilies. There was much support for Bord na gCon and what it has done over the past number of years. Mr. Taggart created possibilities, not only in Youghal but across the country.

The UK has a flying squad which is independent. Deputy Deenihan is proposing a similar section, independent within Bord na gCon, to regulate the industry with regard to doping and illegal drugs, which is crucial. This is probably the final opportunity before the summer recess to debate this legislation and bring it forward. If we must wait for the Government to bring legislation forward, we will be waiting for the next Dáil, or perhaps beyond that. I do not see any opportunity to do it next year. I ask the Government not to go against the Bill and allow it to go forward. If it needs to be amended later, we have much of the work done already.

It does not make any sense for the Government not to accept the Bill. It should co-operate with Members on all sides of the House. All Members, including those in Government, have stated that legislation such as this is necessary, important and positive. Nobody on the Government side has explained how this legislation interferes with due process. It does not, and it is a separate issue. This could go forward as such.

The Government has raised the Dalton report, all aspects of which have been made available in the press. It has been leaked. Perhaps there should be an inquiry as to how that happened, who leaked it and why it was done. I understand the report recommends that a control committee should become a committee of three, independent of Bord na gCon, which should have an appeal mechanism. This is being proposed in the Bill. The Government is missing a golden opportunity to advance the issue. It is playing politics with the issue, and the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism is missing an important opportunity.

Mr. Hogan: Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  I thank Deputy Stanton for sharing time on this very important matter.

Mr. B. O’Keeffe: Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  I hope the Deputy will be refurbishing Kilkenny in his speech.

[437]Mr. Hogan: Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  First, I declare my interest in that I am a greyhound owner. I am proud of this. When I come to speak about Kilkenny, I will expect the support of the Minister of State, Deputy Batt O’Keeffe.

Mr. B. O’Keeffe: Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  Absolutely.

Mr. Hogan: Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  I praise the great work done by a former Minister of State, Deputy Deenihan, when he had an opportunity to act with regard to the greyhound industry. He did not just talk about action. He developed a forward-looking greyhound plan, which could be widened to the larger community. This resulted in the significant increases in attendances and the development of first-class facilities around the country.

There is no doubt the current chairman of Bord na gCon, Mr. Taggart, and his board of directors, in conjunction with the support received at the time from the Department of Agriculture and Food, have done a tremendous job in uplifting an industry which was a Cinderella sport, but has now grabbed the imagination and attention of the wider public.

The important economic aspect of the industry is not to be underestimated, particularly with regard to owners, trainers and the wider community. A number of people are involved because there is a tradition in the family, and also because new syndicates are emerging which are bringing great sport, enjoyment and entertainment to the wider community. This is similar to how the horse racing industry has developed, with many people involved in various syndicates. That is giving a new outlet in terms of entertainment, and the greyhound industry is the same.

The barrage of accusations by the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy O’Donoghue, that Deputy Deenihan’s proposals smack of political opportunism does not sit well. To level such accusations is not the right tone to strike on an issue such as this, the Greyhound Industry (Doping Regulation) Bill. I was disappointed with the Minister when he stated that Deputy Deenihan’s proposal “smacks of political opportunism on the part of the Deputy and seems to be contrary to the spirit of impartiality, openness and fair play that he appeared to espouse when preparing the Bill”.

As with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform last week, I do not believe that to be the right tone. More than anybody in this House, Deputy Deenihan has espoused, in a very impartial and open way, his desire to see the greyhound industry developed. He put his money where his mouth is when he was Minister of State for the period 1995 to 1997.

I would like the Minister to give credit where it is due and get on with the job of ensuring we have a board of directors in place in which we and the Minister can have full confidence. There should be a proper chief executive rather than an acting chief executive, which we have at the [438]moment, with the capacity to deliver on board decisions. There should be certainty regarding the budget of Bord na gCon.

All these issues have been in limbo for far too long. The Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy O’Donoghue, has failed to take the necessary decisive action to ensure we have a continuation of the good work carried out over the past number of years.

It was a mistake for the Government to transfer responsibility for the greyhound industry to the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism. I know the political reasons for this occurring when a former Minister, Deputy Walsh, left office. It has not served the industry well. There was much expertise in the Department of Agriculture and Food, built up over a long time. This facilitated officials being in contact with various programmes which had to be worked out with the EU and in conjunction with Bord na gCon and the tracks around the country. There was a good working relationship. I am disappointed we do not have the decisive action needed to ensure the industry has confidence to go forward.

I hope the Minister will take the opportunity, as he promised in his contribution, to provide clarity in the next week or two for the industry and give leadership by appointing a chief executive immediately. He should ensure there is sufficient funding to complete a number of tracks around the country, not least the track in Kilkenny.

The killjoy attitude of some of the speakers, particularly Deputy Gogarty, leaves much to be desired. I cannot understand somebody representing a Dublin constituency who cannot see the immense entertainment constituents can get from events in Shelbourne Park and Harold’s Cross. It has nothing to do with the Deputy’s so-called attitude to attention to animals. The sport is properly regulated, and the owners and trainers look after their animals to the highest standards. No amount of a killjoy attitude, as adopted by Deputy Gogarty, will convince me other than that the wider community wants this sport developed and takes great entertainment and enjoyment from it. The record attendances show that.

The independent verification of doping has been a controversial aspect and Deputy Deenihan has outlined a way forward. This has not been dealt with by successive Ministers after nine years in office and that is far too long. Deputy Deenihan is accused of political opportunism because the Minister is about to take action, but he and his predecessors have had nine years to do it yet they have not done it. There needs to be certainty in the verification of the doping of greyhounds and that should not be in the hands of the board. That independent verification is enshrined in this legislation in the best possible way.

I ask that the best possible ministerial support be given to departmental officials to ensure the proper budgets are in place to complete the prog[439]ramme in Limerick, Kilkenny and Clonmel. I hope the programme is completed by the end of 2007 and that we continue to have the highest possible standards in the greyhound industry under the leadership of Bord na gCon and Mr. Taggart. The clouds surrounding the industry must be lifted by the Minister, Deputy O’Donoghue, in the next couple of weeks.

I support Deputy Deenihan’s initiative to ensure we get the type of action necessary to lift the gloom around the industry and to give us back the certainty necessary to go forward.

Mr. Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  I am pleased to have the opportunity to say a few words on this important Bill. I commend Deputy Deenihan for having the courage to table a Bill that we can discuss. We all have the opportunity to discuss an industry about which much has been written, some of it unfair. This industry is vital to the economy. It brings in €300 million in revenue and over 1.3 million people attend dog tracks every year. That includes dog owners, dog breeders, trainers and the general public, who all support events in the different stadiums around the country.

Since Deputy Deenihan’s time in office there has been much change in the industry. Under Paschal Taggart as chairman of Bord na gCon, the industry has gone from strength to strength. I attended the Produce stakes in Clonmel only a few weeks ago. That track was closed four years ago and greyhound racing was abandoned, but the place was chock-a-block that night with people interested in the industry. There were many young people having a good night out away from other troubles. There was also great pride for the people who won the race.

Parts of the Dalton report were leaked the weekend of that race and Paschal Taggart addressed the public at the meeting. It showed how much the Government is out of touch. The Minister for Arts, Sport, and Tourism slated Deputy Deenihan and that attitude was typical of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform last week when he showed he was out of touch with the people on the street. The Minister, Deputy O’ Donoghue, is certainly out of touch because people want this industry sorted out. The Dalton report was leaked to every newspaper in the country and everybody knows what is in it. Deputy Deenihan is trying to put in place legislation that will help this industry.

Australia provides an example of a system where a dog can be tested on a weekend and the results delivered early the next week. We have excellent standards in technology and there is no reason we cannot put such a system in place. The reality is that the greyhound and coursing industries have been getting bad press due to a lack of knowledge. People have come into this House and have spoken of terrible things that have happened, but these things are against the law. I have heard of no-one that regulates and runs this [440]industry that breaks the law. Only two weeks ago, I visited Newpark stud, owned by Mr. Seán Burke. Those who are opposed to this sport should visit this stud and see the professionalism he has brought to the business, such as using artificial insemination to produce the best dogs, cleanliness, hygiene and everything else that is used in the production system. Mr. Burke is now a top breeder, but there are many more like him and there is potential for more and more young people. As agriculture changes, there is an increasing need for such developments. Places like Newpark stud should be encouraged rather than knocked.

The people involved in the greyhound industry are very dedicated. They like their dogs, their entertainment and they like winning because they are competitive by nature. This industry needs support rather than negativity. Whether we are in Government or Opposition, we should be fair to the industry. It brings in a huge amount of revenue to the State and if 1.3 million people are attending dog races then the industry needs support. It is unfair to condemn it. If one drives a car on the Dublin to Cork road at 100 mph, then one is breaking the law. We are not differentiating between those people who are committed to the industry and those who are abusing it. The law is there for such people. There are bad apples in every orchard but we must support the industry. Deputy Deenihan’s Bill is timely and I commend him in having the courage to bring it before the House. Anybody who criticises him is not facing reality and is out of touch with what is happening.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. B. O’Keeffe): Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  I declare an interest as I am the proud part-owner of a number of greyhounds.

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Has the Minister of State won much?

Mr. B. O’Keeffe: Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  No one doubts Deputy Deenihan’s genuine interest in the successful operation of greyhound racing and his anxiety to ensure an independent, autonomous body is given responsibility for dealing with doping and illegal drug use in the industry. It is of paramount importance that the integrity and regulatory structure of greyhound racing is of the highest calibre. It must be seen to operate in an open and transparent fashion, whereby everyone is treated equally and fairly in accordance with clear, unambiguous, published criteria and procedures.

As a member of the Committee of Public Accounts in April 2004, I addressed issues around the anti-doping procedures in place in Bord na gCon at the time. I was concerned then, as I am now, that the most effective and appropriate systems are being operated in this important sport and industry. However, as the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism has already pointed out, this Private Members’ Bill, introduced before the [441]Dalton report has been finalised and considered by the Government, is not at all helpful. It is unfair and unkind. It is uncharacteristic that he, as a Kerryman, would try to use the opportunity to pull the rug from a respected public servant such as Tim Dalton.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  It has absolutely nothing to do with the Dalton report.

Mr. B. O’Keeffe: Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  Deputy Deenihan is seeking to deny an opportunity for proper consideration of the Dalton report.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  That is not the case.

Mr. B. O’Keeffe: Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  He is trying to deny a considered response to any recommendations or observations brought forward by Mr. Dalton in the interest of Irish greyhound racing and with due concern for the people mentioned in the latter’s report.

Once the Government has considered the various issues and recommendations in the report, the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy O’Donoghue, will take whatever actions are appropriate and required. The Minister has at all times acted in an honourable manner in accordance with due process and the advice of the Attorney General. It would have been far more advisable and less politically expedient for Deputy Deenihan to have awaited the outcome of this process, after which the Government’s views on the recommendations will be known and put into effect. In light of this, there is no option other than to oppose this Bill. It would be quite extraordinary——

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  It would be extraordinary.

Mr. B. O’Keeffe: Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  ——that we would allow somebody of the calibre of Tim Dalton to originate this report, bring it to Cabinet, allow the latter to have its say and, in the interim, not provide those people identified in the report with an opportunity to respond. Surely the Opposition sees that in terms of fair play and people’s rights, the individuals mentioned in the report should be given the opportunity to respond to what has been said about them.

At that juncture, the Government should consider the report, its recommendations and the responses received from those to whom it refers. The Government must have all the facts before it. When it does, all Members of the House and those involved in the industry will want to ensure that the recommendations contained in the report will form the blueprint for an anti-doping strategy that will operate within the Irish greyhound industry in the future.

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  I wish to share time with Deputy Deenihan.

[442]Acting Chairman: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  We must conclude at 12.38 p.m.

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Will the Acting Chairman advise me when I have spoken for five minutes?

Acting Chairman: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Yes.

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  I congratulate my colleague, Deputy Deenihan, on introducing this. In what is a first during the many years I have been a Member, I did not hear a single word of criticism, either yesterday or today, from the other side of the House.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  They did not even refer to the Bill.

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  There is nothing wrong with the Bill. It is the first time that has ever happened during my tenure and I congratulate Deputy Deenihan on it.

The Bill is watertight. Nobody can say that it was not well researched or well thought out. It obviously fits the bill.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  If it was, that was the issue.

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Politics being politics——

Mr. B. O’Keeffe: Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  No comment was made on it.

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  ——I must state, in fairness to him——

Acting Chairman: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  The Deputy must address his comments through the Chair.

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  ——-that the Minister of State is a great supporter of the greyhound industry and possesses great knowledge in respect of it. He knows only too well the importance of the Bill. However, that is politics and another story. We will come to it later.

If ever a sporting success story existed, it is the greyhound industry. I am not involved in it. On a number of occasions, however, I was present at meetings at the new Galway greyhound track and it is a most pleasurable experience. I noticed all different types of people, families and communities were out for a good evening’s entertainment. It is becoming a huge conduit for the collection of funds for various causes throughout the country. The Galway track, under its excellent managerial team, does extremely well and I see a great future for it. I could not help but think that some of our colleagues, particularly those in the Green Party, are, based on what they stated earlier, opposed children playing “ring a ring a rosie”.

It was pointed out that everything that happened in this industry was good, with the exception of one matter. The national profile and image of the sport has increased and it is now affordable to the most ordinary working man and woman, which is important. The number of grey[443]hound breeders has also increased. Many of the families traditionally involved and extremely successful have been joined by others. Many young people are involved.

Although I do not know whether it is correct, I am informed that doping occurs in some shape or form. I do not know the extent to which that is the case and I do not make a case one way or another. The industry would not be as successful were it not for the robust and good chairmanship of Paschal Taggart. Surely, in the interests of Bord na gCon, it would be most normal and natural for an independent body to transparent results. It should test dogs by employing the methods of the flying squad, with no opportunity, high up or low down, for tampering. It would be seen by the public as the cleanest sport of all. The only way we will arrive at that is through an independent testing facility, about which there is nothing unusual. This Bill goes no further than seeking to deal with that specific matter.

We know that we will be beaten on the floor today, which is unfortunate for the greyhound industry. However, I guarantee the Minister of State that whatever about the Dalton report, a comma will not be moved when the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism introduces his Bill. The Bill before us will stand as a monument to good sense by Deputy Deenihan and it will be seen as such by the people within the industry. All that will happen is that many people will ask why the Government did not accept this Bill when it knew it was watertight.

Mr. Stanton: Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Absolutely.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  I thank all Members who contributed to the debate on the Bill. As I stated at the outset, it afforded us a three-hour opportunity to discuss the greyhound industry. Unfortunately, the Government side took a negative approach to what I am trying to do. Apart from the Minister of State, Deputy Seán Power, the majority of them were on message, came with prepared scripts and all made similar statements. They did not at any stage address the Bill or its contents. They had one mission, namely, to ridicule the Bill, make it appear irrelevant and accuse me of being mischievous and opportunistic.

I will outline the background to this Bill. I have been a Member for a long period and I do not get excited by taunts from the other side of the House. Normally, I do not make utter such taunts. I do not believe in that type of politics. However, it is in the Fianna Fáil philosophy that one should get one’s retaliation in first. It deals with the Opposition and then its own. I accept that is the type of bloodsport in which members of that part engage.

Mr. B. O’Keeffe: Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  There are also a couple of harriers on Deputy Deenihan’s side of the House.

[444]Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  I also find that when people are under political pressure, as the Minister was on one occasion at a meeting of Kerry County Council, they like to refer to an incident that happened in Cork for which I do not believe I was at fault. They like to throw that at me at certain times, but I am sure the Acting Chairman will agree that whatever I, as a Kerryman, did on the football field was honourable and for the sake of my county.

I am disappointed but not surprised by the Minister of State’s response to this Bill. The Government is constantly accusing the Opposition, especially Fine Gael, of not bringing forward policies and legislative proposals. When we do, it ridicules them or leaks them to the media, as happened two weeks ago. This is now the approach of the Government——

Mr. B. O’Keeffe: Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  On a point of information, the Government did not leak them to the papers.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  ——and it is doing no good for our democracy.

Acting Chairman: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Senator Deenihan, without interruption.

Mr. B. O’Keeffe: Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  It is important to set the record straight.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  The Minister said last night——

Mr. B. O’Keeffe: Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  The Government did not leak the report to the press.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  ——that the introduction of this Private Members’ Bill can only damage the process of ensuring that all the parties to the Dalton inquiry receive due process. The Government should note that the process has been damaged already with the leaking of the report to a number of our national newspapers and the subsequent publication of the conclusions and recommendations put forward by Mr. Dalton. The whole matter is outlined in the Sunday Independent. We could have a debate on the report today based on the leaked information in the lead article of that newspaper and The Sunday Tribune. The content of the final report will not differ in any way from the existing material. The information was leaked to the reporters concerned and they did what any reporter would do, that is, publish it.

As far as the people, including the greyhound fraternity, are concerned, the Dalton report has been published. It featured not only in the lead articles in both the Sunday Independent and The Sunday Tribune but also on RTE’s “Prime Time” and in a number of daily newspapers and radio stations subsequently. Does the Minister honestly believe the parties affected by this report have been granted due process given that they received the report for their observations three days after it was published as the lead story in our main [445]Sunday newspapers? Is this due process? One will realise these people have been condemned, irrespective of what side of the argument one is on. Those of us who are fair-minded in this House should at least support due process. Given the deliberate effort by Government sources to spin a specific view on the Dalton report, the use of the term “due process” is a total joke and a misdemeanour. It should not be used because there is no due process. It is not our fault on this side of the House and it has nothing to do with this Bill, it is because of the spin the Government has put on the report.

Does the Minister of State honestly believe Mr. Dalton’s final report will differ substantially from the one leaked to the media following the submission of observations from those individuals mentioned therein? It will not. Given that there is already a report, does the Minister of State believe Mr. Dalton will issue a different one? He will not because his credibility would then be at stake, and that is the bottom line. The process has been destroyed because of Government incompetence and mischief. I was accused of being mischievous today, but the mischief is on the other side of the House. Mr. Dalton already had in-depth interviews with all the individuals concerned and he was very much aware of their views before he drafted his report. These people will not change their views because they have been asked for observations on the report. Mr. Dalton knows how all the main players think about this issue already.

Having read the leaked report, it is clear that Mr. Dalton will recommend that the control committee I am proposing be independent of Bord na gCon and that it consist of three or four members, including a judge or barrister and a veterinary expert. This was already published in the newspaper and therefore Mr. Dalton is recommending my approach. Why not accept it now and make amendments later? Bord na gCon also favours this approach given that the chairman and other members said they do not mind handing over control. They would have done so years ago if my Bill had been accepted by the then Government, as I pointed out last night. However, as with everything else, the Government ignored it.

I will outline clearly the background to this Bill and I hope somebody is listening. I made a commitment on 28 January on RTE that I would bring forward a Bill immediately to take the control of doping out of the hands of Bord na gCon and I said I would introduce it in the Dáil at the first opportunity. I published it on 16 February. I did so rapidly because I had available to me a section of the 1997 Bill, which I nearly had ready [446]for introduction in that year. I worked on that Bill and did not leave the job to officials. I made a commitment to several interested media representatives that I would introduce the current Bill during Private Members’ time before the summer recess and did so before the Minister, Deputy O’Donoghue, appointed Mr. Dalton on 1 February. As we all know, very little legislation will pass through this House when we return in the autumn. Business will be conducted in a helter-skelter manner before the election and a Bill of this type will not be considered a priority.

Today represents a repeat of history. I was looking over some papers in preparation for today’s debate and noted that on 14 December 1955, James Dillon, the then Minister for Agriculture, introduced a Greyhound Industry Bill in this House. It was opposed all the way by the Fianna Fáil Members, including Sean MacEntee. However, after the change of Government in 1958, Mr. MacEntee, then a Minister, introduced a Bill with the same provisions as the one he had rejected and fought against for two years. Mr. Dillon stated in his reply in 1958:

I hope I will not have to say this.

My Bill will have the same fate as that of the 1950s. There is no other solution to the problem. A Bill I once proposed on the mothering of greyhounds was opposed by the then Government but, lo and behold, it introduced the same Bill a couple of months later. I am introducing the Greyhound Industry (Doping Regulation) Bill using all my knowledge of the industry. I believe I have some credibility in this regard because I appointed Paschal Taggart in 1995. I did not do so for political reasons but because I believed he was the right man for the job. He has been in his position for 11 years and the Government claims credit for what he has achieved.

This is a sad day for this House. The issue that has arisen has nothing to do with the Dalton report. Last night, when I was introducing the Bill, I did not even mention the report. However, the Government focused its discussion on the report because of its intentions. It is obvious that it did so deliberately because a certain spin is being put on the issue for a certain reason. I commend the Bill to the House and will put it to a vote.

Question put.

[445][447]The Dáil divided: Tá, 54; Níl, 72.

Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Boyle, Dan. Information on Pat Breen  Zoom on Pat Breen  Breen, Pat.
Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Broughan, Thomas P. Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Bruton, Richard.
Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Burton, Joan. Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Connaughton, Paul.
Information on Paudge Connolly  Zoom on Paudge Connolly  Connolly, Paudge. Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Costello, Joe.
Information on Simon Coveney  Zoom on Simon Coveney  Coveney, Simon. Information on Jerry Cowley  Zoom on Jerry Cowley  Cowley, Jerry.
Information on Sean Crowe  Zoom on Sean Crowe  Crowe, Seán. Information on John Deasy  Zoom on John Deasy  Deasy, John.
Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Deenihan, Jimmy. Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Durkan, Bernard J.
Information on Damien English  Zoom on Damien English  English, Damien. Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  Enright, Olwyn.
Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  Ferris, Martin. Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Gilmore, Eamon.
Information on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Zoom on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Gogarty, Paul. Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Gormley, John.
Information on Tony Gregory  Zoom on Tony Gregory  Gregory, Tony. Information on Marian Harkin  Zoom on Marian Harkin  Harkin, Marian.
Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  Hayes, Tom. Information on Seamus Healy  Zoom on Seamus Healy  Healy, Seamus.
Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Higgins, Joe. Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  Hogan, Phil.
Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Howlin, Brendan. Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Kehoe, Paul.
Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  McCormack, Pádraic. Information on Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  McGinley, Dinny.
Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  McGrath, Finian. Information on Paul McGrath  Zoom on Paul McGrath  McGrath, Paul.
Information on Paddy McHugh  Zoom on Paddy McHugh  McHugh, Paddy. Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  McManus, Liz.
Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  Mitchell, Olivia. Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  Morgan, Arthur.
Information on Catherine Murphy  Zoom on Catherine Murphy  Murphy, Catherine. Information on Gerard Murphy  Zoom on Gerard Murphy  Murphy, Gerard.
Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  Neville, Dan. Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Ó Snodaigh, Aengus. Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Jim.
Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  O’Shea, Brian. Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Jan.
Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry  Perry, John. Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Rabbitte, Pat.
Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Ring, Michael. Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  Ryan, Eamon.
Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Shortall, Róisín. Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Stagg, Emmet.
Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Stanton, David. Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  Timmins, Billy.
Information on Mary Upton  Zoom on Mary Upton  Upton, Mary. Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Wall, Jack.



[447]Níl
Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Ahern, Dermot. Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Ahern, Noel.
Information on Barry Andrews  Zoom on Barry Andrews  Andrews, Barry. Information on Seán Ardagh  Zoom on Seán Ardagh  Ardagh, Seán.
Information on Niall Blaney  Zoom on Niall Blaney  Blaney, Niall. Information on Johnny Brady  Zoom on Johnny Brady  Brady, Johnny.
Information on Martin Brady  Zoom on Martin Brady  Brady, Martin. Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  Breen, James.
Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  Brennan, Seamus. Information on Joe Callanan  Zoom on Joe Callanan  Callanan, Joe.
Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Callely, Ivor. Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Carey, Pat.
Information on John Carty  Zoom on John Carty  Carty, John. Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Cassidy, Donie.
Information on Michael Collins  Zoom on Michael Collins  Collins, Michael. Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Coughlan, Mary.
Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Cowen, Brian. Information on John Cregan  Zoom on John Cregan  Cregan, John.
Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Curran, John. Information on Noel Davern  Zoom on Noel Davern  Davern, Noel.
Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Dempsey, Noel. Information on Tony Dempsey  Zoom on Tony Dempsey  Dempsey, Tony.
Information on Jimmy Devins  Zoom on Jimmy Devins  Devins, Jimmy. Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John.
Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  Finneran, Michael. Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Fleming, Seán.
Information on Mildred Fox  Zoom on Mildred Fox  Fox, Mildred. Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
Information on Jim Glennon  Zoom on Jim Glennon  Glennon, Jim. Information on Noel Grealish  Zoom on Noel Grealish  Grealish, Noel.
Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin  Hanafin, Mary. Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  Haughey, Seán.
Information on Jackie Healy-Rae  Zoom on Jackie Healy-Rae  Healy-Rae, Jackie. Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  Hoctor, Máire.
Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Jacob, Joe. Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia.
Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  Kelleher, Billy. Information on Peter Kelly  Zoom on Peter Kelly  Kelly, Peter.
Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Kirk, Seamus. Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  Kitt, Tom.
Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Lenihan, Brian. Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  McDowell, Michael.
Information on Tom McEllistrim  Zoom on Tom McEllistrim  McEllistrim, Thomas. Information on John McGuinness  Zoom on John McGuinness  McGuinness, John.
Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Martin, Micheál. Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  Moloney, John.
Information on Donal Moynihan  Zoom on Donal Moynihan  Moynihan, Donal. Information on Michael Moynihan  Zoom on Michael Moynihan  Moynihan, Michael.
Information on Michael Mulcahy  Zoom on Michael Mulcahy  Mulcahy, Michael. Information on M. J. Nolan  Zoom on M. J. Nolan  Nolan, M. J.
Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Ó Cuív, Éamon. Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  O’Connor, Charlie. Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  O’Dea, Willie.
Information on Liz O'Donnell  Zoom on Liz O'Donnell  O’Donnell, Liz. Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  O’Donoghue, John.
Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  O’Donovan, Denis. Information on Noel O'Flynn  Zoom on Noel O'Flynn  O’Flynn, Noel.
Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Batt. Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Ned.
Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona. Information on Tim O'Malley  Zoom on Tim O'Malley  O’Malley, Tim.
Information on Tom Parlon  Zoom on Tom Parlon  Parlon, Tom. Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  Power, Seán.
Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Roche, Dick. Information on Mae Sexton  Zoom on Mae Sexton  Sexton, Mae.
Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  Treacy, Noel. Information on Dan Wallace  Zoom on Dan Wallace  Wallace, Dan.
Information on Mary Wallace  Zoom on Mary Wallace  Wallace, Mary. Information on Ollie Wilkinson  Zoom on Ollie Wilkinson  Wilkinson, Ollie.
Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Woods, Michael. Information on G. V. Wright  Zoom on G. V. Wright  Wright, G. V.

[447]Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kehoe and Stagg; Níl, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher.

[447]Question declared lost.


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