National Stud Bill, 1969: Second and Subsequent Stages.

Thursday, 24 July 1969

Seanad Eireann Debate
Vol. 66 No. 17

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Minister for Finance (Mr. Haughey): Information on Charles J. Haughey  Zoom on Charles J. Haughey  I move: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time”.

The Irish National Stud Company, which were set up under the National Stud Act, 1945, as a measure to assist and encourage the breeding of thoroughbred horses in Ireland, have been carrying on the business of a stud farm at Tully, County Kildare since 1946. Up to 1944, when it was transferred to the Irish Government, this extensive property had been used by the British Government as a stud farm. The transfer to the Irish Government, however, included no bloodstock.

The Irish bloodstock industry has increased progressively in value since the War. At the more important Irish and English sales international buyers compete for our foals and yearlings and pay excellent prices for them. The blood lines introduced by Irish-bred sires have enhanced both the quality of the thoroughbred and the image of the Irish hourse throughout the world.

The net export value of the thoroughbred industry is in the region of £4 million a year including the benefits accruing from the substantial spendings of foreign owners who send horses to Ireland for training and their sires and mares to Irish studs. Horsebreeding provides both regular and good, as well as interesting, employment in the Irish countryside.

We must, however, take account of the fact that conditions in the industry, as in many other areas, are changing rapidly. In other countries—notably the United States, Great Britain and [1377] France—with which we have to compete, vast sums are being invested in it.

The directors of our Irish National Stud Company have been reviewing the Company's position in the light of developments abroad and of the recommendations of the Survey Team on the Horse Breeding Industry which reported in 1965. Their conclusions are somewhat disquieting. The National Stud, instead of being the show place that it really ought to be, is not measuring up to the standards set by some of the best privately-owned here or abroad.

Many of the Stud's inherited buildings are now both old and uneconomic. The number of stallions, presently only four, is inadequate to cater for breeders' demands.

“Fashion” is a highly relevant factor in this business. It is five years since the Company bought its last new stallion whereas many good young sires have been acquired by private studs in the interval. Our National Stud should be put in the position of being able to offer at least comparable facilities. In recognition of their responsibilities to small breeders the Stud's fees are low. The Stud's “no foal no fee” basis of charge is not common in the industry generally where high-class sires are concerned. I must stress that this concession is no small boon to the breeder of limited means.

Additional stallions are also needed by the Company to produce extra income to off-set increasing maintenance and overhead charges.

Some £300,000 has been spent since 1960 by the Company on bloodstock and on additions and improvements to the Stud's facilities. The Company's capital resources are now almost exhausted. I am impressed by the case made to me by the Board that a substantial injection of new capital is now urgently needed to purchase additional stallions, to construct new yards for visiting mares and to replace old and uneconomic buildings. The cost of the Company's programme of necessary developments and improvements would entail an expenditure of the order of £500,000 to £600,000 spread over the next three or four years.

The Company's authorised share [1378] capital under the National Stud Act, 1953, is £500,000. The programme I have outlined would require an increase of this capital to at least £1,000,000. The additional finance required would be provided by the Exchequer by the way of share capital taken up by the Minister for Finance under Section 19 of the original Act of 1945 after statutory consultation with the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries.

So far I have been speaking of objectives calling for a total share capital of about £1 million. Section 2 of the Bill before the House provides, however, that this capital should be £2m. and this brings me to the matter of the acquisition by the National Stud of what is termed a “prestige stallion”.

In its 1965 report the Survey Team on the Horse Breeding Industry accepted that the National Stud was providing a reasonable service to small breeders. However, having considered all the available indications of the state of the throughbred industry here and the international standing of Irish horses, the Team recommended (and I quote verbatim) that “there should be at all times at least one prestige stallion standing at the National Stud”. The Directors of the Irish National Stud Company endorse this recommendation although conscious of the risk inevitably associated with the investment of a good deal of money in a horse which might prove disappointing at stud.

The addition of this extra £1m. of share capital is, then merely an enabling provision which might be resorted to in the event of there becoming available what the directors of the Company considered to be the right kind of horse at the right price. The special concern of the Minister for Finance in that contingency would be the ability of the Exchequer at the particular moment to provide the Company with the amount of share capital needed to effect a proposed purchase.

Section 3 of the Bill deals with the Company's bank borrowings which, under the original Act of 1945, are restricted to £100,000 or to the amount of share capital unissued, whichever [1379] is the less. An increase of fixed capital as proposed in this Bill would obviously call for some corresponding increase in working capital and temporary borrowing facilities. The effect of section 3 would be to enable the Company to borrow, as necessary, up to £200,000 without limitation by reference to unissued share capital.

I commend the Bill to the House.

Mr. Rooney: Information on Eamonn Rooney  Zoom on Eamonn Rooney  Realising the importance of the horse-breeding and bloodstock industry, we are in favour of this proposal. Irish horses are world famous and we have had many successes outside the country as owners of these horses which, in most cases, have been sold to other countries. This country is constantly visited by people from abroad who want to purchase first-class bloodstock. We have many reputable trainers and breeders engaged in the racehorse industry. The Bill points out that owing to lack of capital our National Stud buildings and facilities fall far behind buildings and facilities owned by private persons. The idea of having the National Stud is to make a valuable contribution to a very important industry which is considered to be worth £4 million or £5 million net. That represents a substantial part of our economy.

I see that in the National Stud there are at present four stallions. Since it is a national concern it caters more for the small breeder by having a reasonably low fee and also by adopting the principle of “no foal, no fee”. This is very important for small breeders and owners who cannot afford to lose a substantial fee and this is what would happen if they availed of the services of some private concern where famous or well-bred stallions are standing. If the small breeder has to depend on stallions at private studs and risk losing his fee he will be discouraged and, possibly, forced out of business.

History has shown that many of our world-famous horses were bred by small farmers who were interested in horses—people who took an interest in horses and always had one about the place because of their love for horses and their love for thoroughbred animals. These small farmers, by the [1380] manner in which they took care of those animals and by their expertise in breeding them, made a very valuable contribution towards our fame as a country in which bloodstock of a very high class is produced.

In recent times, because the National Stud was so very restricted as far as capital is concerned, many private studs have brought into this country sires of a prestige nature, with the result that the small farmers who made such a valuable contribution to the bloodstock industry were unable to avail of the services of those prestige stallions of international fame from America and Great Britain. I am not sure whether there are some famous French stallions in this country but it is quite true that world-famous animals are in the country outside the National Stud. It is proposed, now and in the future, to have at least one prestige stallion at the National Stud. I suppose a prestige stallion, to be kept at the National Stud, necessarily need not be an animal from outside the country. It could be a famous stallion which was bred here and achieved great success both inside and outside the country, such as Sir Ivor.

The buildings at the National Stud leave much to be desired. I was interested to see that it is proposed to make finance available so that the premises there—the boxes and all the facilities which are normally available where these sires are kept—can be brought up to modern standards. Recently it was found that many privately-owned studs are far more modern and provide much better facilities than the facilities at present available at the National Stud. It is desirable that this change should be made quickly and that the premises should be brought up to a very high standard. This is important to ensure that the small breeder will have all the advantages which would be available to him with the better equipment in private studs.

The National Stud is engaged mainly in producing racehorses for the horse-racing industry—mainly the flat racing type of animal and possibly some hurdlers. I am wondering whether they also cater for steeplechasing stallions at the National Stud, because Irish steeplechasers are world famous.

[1381] In the English Grand National, one of the greatest steeplechases in the world, a quota of Irish horses always compete. I should like to know whether, in fact, the National Stud keeps a stallion of the steeplechasing class to ensure that our world-famous steeplechasing breeds are maintained and expanded. Many visitors to this country are engaged in the horse-breeding industry and are interested in purchasing steeplechasers, although the real money is associated with flat racing and the horses engaged in it.

It occurred to me to inquire whether arrangements could be made also for the National Stud to keep a stallion of the show jumping type of hourse, because show jumping has become very popular in Ireland, Europe and America and even in Japan. The Japanese are very interested in show jumping and they frequently compete here. They certainly come here to purchase show jumpers, and those show jumpers command a very high price when purchased by those countries—so high that very often when a good Irish show jumper is on the market here, no one in Ireland can afford to purchase that animal because our show jumping system is not geared to meet that kind of expense.

The only market which the owner of a good Irish show jumper has is the Irish Army. Our Army should be in a position to purchase those show jumpers if they seem to offer prospects for international show jumping competition at a later stage. It is important, because we are so deeply involved in breeding thoroughbred horses in Ireland, that our Army should be provided with the best possible show jumpers and that our show jumping team should be given every facility to compete in international events in order to maintain our good name and to promote the sale of Irish-bred horses.

We have had successes in the past by our Army riders. I think it is fair to say that we cannot win in those competitions unless the best show jumping horses are available to us. Many of the best show jumping horses are purchased by outsiders. The result is that the Irish Army horses competing [1382] in international events are not good enough to win in these competitions and are beaten by Irish horses which have been purchased by outsiders.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey  Zoom on Charles J. Haughey  I should point out to the Senator that this Bill deals with thoroughbreds. There is a new horse board coming up which will deal with halfbreds, show jumpers and so on. The Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries has a Bill almost ready for that purpose.

Mr. Rooney: Information on Eamonn Rooney  Zoom on Eamonn Rooney  I thank the Minister. I did not realise that. The point I am making is that the encouragement and breeding of show jumpers is very important to this country. I am very glad to learn that a new Bill is on the stocks which will bring our show jumping fame a step further. I note that it is five years since the National Stud purchased its last stallion. That shows, in effect, that they were not in a position to purchase any good stallions that came on the market in the meantime. This Bill gives it the opportunity to go into the market to purchase at least one prestige stallion whenever it wishes to do so, finance permitting. There is a slight difference between a prestige stallion and one that has a very successful record. However, from the international point of view it is important that one of these animals should be there apart from the very good ones which are there already that have made a very good name for this country.

Professor Quinlan: Information on Patrick Michael Quinlan  Zoom on Patrick Michael Quinlan  I think we all welcome this Bill as an effort to develop further the horse-breeding industry here. However, I doubt if the approach is big enough. I should like to see the National Stud Company acting more as a bloodstock development corporation for the country as a whole with the objectives first, of making this country into a training centre for most of Europe and perhaps America, and secondly, of developing very substantially as a breeding centre for thoroughbreds for this area. In our climate and in our conditions we have a great deal to offer, and from the national point of view horse-breeding is a profitable and worthwhile use of our land. The return from bloodstock, when scientific, modern methods are [1383] used, is probably the highest return that can be got from agricultural land. With modern transportation means, it has been proved time and time again that horses trained here can be sent to France or America without suffering in the transportation and can compete on equal terms with the locally trained animals. Of course that has been made possible only in the last few years, and that is a feature which will develop much more. What Sir Ivor did for the industry last year has shown that there are no limits to the possibilities.

I commend the enlightened decision by the Government in this year's Finance Bill to exempt from income tax the earnings of stud farms from fees and so on. That is a positive inducement to owners to send their more valuable animals here, and there should be a great expansion as a result. It is not sufficient to have only four stallions at the National Stud. I should like to see the National Stud operate a system of leasing of other Irish studs. If they take a certain amount of the responsibility for proving some animals, get them to a certain stage and have a few crops of progeny racing from them, then it should be deliberate policy to lease such stallions to other Irish studs or even to sell to these studs, provided there is a commitment that they could not be sold to leave the country within a specified number of years. In that way the influence of the National Stud on the development of the industry would be much greater.

There should be a much more positive approach by the National Stud to the question of the racing of Irish animals. At present we have to rely for all our prestige on American owners. The National Stud should enter this sphere of the industry. It would give tremendous prestige to the industry if his Excellency the President of Ireland were to lead in the winner of the Sweeps Derby.

Irish horses which win the big races in Ireland should also be able to compete abroad. The English national stud used to do this but I do not think it is doing much of it in recent years. This is part of the prestige build-up. An Irish-trained horse owned by an [1384] American is only half as valuable to our national prestige as an Irish-bred horse owned by the National Stud or owned, as the law requires, by the President of Ireland.

Regarding the question raised by Senator Rooney on the development of the other side of the racing industry, that is the steeplechasers and hurdle racers, hunters and so on, I do not think that it is appropriate that what is a prestige flat-racing establishment like the National Stud should be engaged in the other because it would be an opportunity to offer what would be cast-offs from the main flat racing industry. We should have some type of similar establishment set up to do precisely the same type of job that I have outlined for the hunters, because while our prestige in flat racing has increased enormously over the past five years the prestige of our jumpers has decreased very considerably. Something should be done about that.

I am glad to hear that show jumping is to be catered for and that the type of half-breed horse involved will be catered for by a new Bill to come shortly. there is something big here too and I would like that we would now approach it in the line of a major industry capable of contributing not the £4 million a year which it contributes at present but that that £4 million could be quadrupled within the next five years. It certainly would be the most profitable use to which we could put large stretches of our agricultural land.

Mr. Cole: Information on John Copeland Cole  Zoom on John Copeland Cole  I could not quite support what the last speaker, Senator Quinlan, has said as regards making this National Stud into a super racing establishment. I feel that this would probably mean taking the rich prizes from the private breeders.

Professor Quinlan: Information on Patrick Michael Quinlan  Zoom on Patrick Michael Quinlan  From the American owners, not from the Irish owners.

Mr. Cole: Information on John Copeland Cole  Zoom on John Copeland Cole  However, under this Bill it is a prestige proposition. By buying an expensive stallion and bringing him to this country you feel that you do raise a standard or at least give publicity to Irish bloodstock. I feel that there is something more, and that if possible in buying that stallion admittedly with prestige we should aim at one with Irish blood history as much [1385] as possible behind him because in that way you will attract the buyer of Irish stock. A great many breeders who would like to start breeding would and do come to this country for foundation stock. If the National Stud would encourage solid good foundation stock of mares or fillies it would possibly be a very great asset to the country financially if it could be said that there was no country in the world where you get better foundation stock than in this country. That could very well be and possibly is to a certain extent now, and that sort of prestige is more valuable to the country than perhaps buying an Italian, French, English or American sire which had proved himself and whose history had no or very little relation to any Irish breeding in the past. I know that now and again you do bring in some foreign blood, but I would like to see a good foundation of Irish stock supported. I do not know whether they do it now or not.

I would not like to see the stud competing in any large way in racing, but I would like to see them making all the educational facilities available to Irish breeders. They probably do it now. Certainly I would not like to see them in competition with Irish breeders in any respect. I remember years ago attending a course there in the winter months on the care and upkeep of mares and foals. I do not know whether these courses are still going on or not, but then it was quite a considerable job to get a place on one of these courses where they took about 40 people for a week. They were very valuable, and certainly I appreciated it very much and so did all the people who were there with me. This sort of course for Irish breeders would be very valuable.

I do not want to see anything in the way of competition, and if they have a reasonable sire at the stud and he becomes popular I would like to see some way either by lot or by some other way of ensuring that the fees of that horse were not raised according as it became popular because they would be going to give an advantage perhaps to the smaller breeders.

Senator Quinlan was asking about leasing. In the past they have leased, or certainly horses have stood at other [1386] places in the country. There again I would not like to see a horse that has been reasonably successful at a certain fee at the National Stud being leased without some tie on the price that the breeders would have to pay, because you could get a horse that perhaps in a few years time had acquired prestige because he was reasonably good as a breeder when he was at the National Stud and when leased to somebody would suddenly become more popular perhaps for steeplechasers which take a longer time to mature and the lessor would be inclined to raise the fees up and up. We want if possible to keep the National Stud for the advantage of the breeders as well as for horse breeding in general in the country.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey  Zoom on Charles J. Haughey  Once again I find myself in the position of expressing my gratitude to the House for the manner in which it has received a piece of legislation which I am sponsoring. I am glad that the House has expressed interest in the National Stud and has also indicated that generally it would be in favour of a first class national stud and one which would be encouraged to expand its activities, because those are my own views and the views of the Government. We are anxious that the National Stud should be as near to the ideal as we can get. It should be a show place for the Irish thoroughbred, it should be as well equipped as possible, and it should play an increasingly important role in our bloodstock industry. I would hope that this piece of legislation will be the first step in a considerable expansion of the role of the National Stud in our bloodstock breeding and indeed in our agriculture generally.

I shall carefully consider the points that were put forward by Senators, and it is my intention, indeed, at an early date to have a meeting with the board and discuss with them an expanded programme of activity. I agree especially with Senator Cole that the stud could and should have a very important role to play educationally in helping the ordinary breeder—and, indeed, all breeders—to know more about their business, and to cope with their problems more efficiently. The stud should [1387] play an increasingly significant role in this area through the organisation of seminars and classes of all sorts.

Senator Rooney spoke about the Irish show jumper and the situation in regard to the half bred generally. The situation there is that the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries has on the stocks a piece of legislation which will establish an Irish horse board which will have the responsibility of developing a comprehensive programme for the whole halfbred field. I hope the establishment of that board will take place soon and that this board will immediately get down to the business of exploiting the full potential of that unique animal, the Irish halfbred horse, because he is unique. Whatever about others competing with us where the thoroughbred is concerned there is no country in the world which can attempt to come near us as far as the development of the Irish halfbred is concerned.

In fact, I think he is far too good for us and I do not think we have done enough to deserve him. In spite of a great deal of neglect down the years he still remains supreme. I believe the time has come now when we must act to recognise what a wonderful national asset we have in the Irish halfbred. However, that is by the way. What we are concerned about here is the role of the National Stud and the development of the Irish thoroughbred industry. As I said, I will consider carefully the suggestions and ideas put forward by Senators and discuss them with the board of the National Stud who, I hope, will evolve a sound, practical, but expanding programme of activities for the years immediately ahead.

Question put and agreed to.

Agreed to take remaining stages today.

Bill put through Committee, reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.

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