Racing Board and Racecourses (Amendment) Bill, 1975: Second Stage.

Wednesday, 18 June 1975

Seanad Eireann Debate
Vol. 81 No. 12

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

The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  The objects of the Bill are to enable the Racing Board to charge higher levies on course bets with bookmakers and to establish an appeal committee to which bookmakers may appeal from decisions of the Racing Board to refuse, suspend or revoke course betting permits. The Bill envisages better control over bookmakers' records with higher penalties for offences. It also provides for ministerial control over the pay of the board's chief executive and for staff superannuation schemes.

Essentially the Bill may be seen as a measure to help the bloodstock industry, an industry which has a long and successful tradition in this country and now represents a total investment of over £75 million. The number of bloodstock in the country at present is 20,000, the number of horses in training is 4,600 and the annual attendance at race meetings is almost one million. In 1974, total prize money at Irish races was £1.4 million and total betting at races reached £19.8 million—£18.4 million on course bets with bookmakers and £1.4 million on the totalisator.

The bloodstock industry gives considerable employment, dispersed throughout the country. It contributes [1200] over £6 million each year to our export trade. It is a major attraction for tourists and it continues to enhance the world wide reputation of the Irish horse. Nevertheless, the industry has to face increasing competition from other countries and to compete with the many and varied attractions offered by other sports. To ensure the future progress of the industry one has to pay increasing attention to bloodstock quality and management, to the level of prizemoney at races and the standard of amenities for patrons.

The present Bill, by providing for an increase in the revenue of the Racing Board, will in turn enable the board to increase their investment in racing.

I should like to refer briefly to the work of the board and the other two State agencies associated with bloodstock, that is, the National Stud and Bord na gCapall.

The Racing Board were established in 1945 under the Racing Board and Racecourses Act of the year to promote horse breeding and horse racing. The board have 11 members, appointed by the Minister for Finance in consultation with the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. Members have to be associated with bloodstock breeding, racing or bookmaking and six of the 11 must be members of the Irish Turf Club and/or the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee.

The 1945 Act gave the board authority to own and operate racecourses and to regulate the management of private courses. They own Leopardstwon course and they have a controlling interest in Limerick Junction. The other 24 courses are privately owned. The board may grant, refuse, suspend or revoke course betting permits for bookmakers. They get their funds from levies on course bets with bookmakers and bets on the totalisator, and redistribute this revenue for the benefit of racing.

The board's income in 1974 was £1.39 million, the main items being £896,000 from a 5 per cent levy on course bets with bookmakers and £420,000 from a 20 per cent levy on losing bets on the tote. They reallocated £1.22 million to racing, of which £770,000 went for stakes, [1201] £160,000 for carriage of horses and £120,000 to the Turf Club. Since 1969-70 the board have got a capital grant of £100,000 each year from the Exchequer, which, together with part of their current surplus, is used for the payment of capital grants or loans for buildings, equipment and other amenities at racecourses.

The National Stud Company maintain a corps of high quality stallions for service to breeders at reasonable fees. They also co-operate with research workers in equine research and they conduct training courses in stud management. The company's share capital, which is held by the Minister for Finance, is used to buy stallions and to provide buildings, yards and other facilities at the stud. The present investment in share capital is £1.5 million. The allocation for capital for the stud in 1975 is £300,000.

Bord na gCapall are primarily interested in equitation. They also operate various incentive schemes for horse breeding which were formerly operated by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. The board promote sales of horses, give grants to show societies and teams competing in international competitions. They conduct training courses and register riding establishments. They hope to establish a national equitation centre later. The State grant to Bord na gCapall for 1975 is £650,000.

To sum up, the total amount available to the horse industry in 1975 from the three State agencies is £2.5 million.

I will now describe the provisions in the Bill before the House. Section 1 contains the usual definitions. Under section 2 the consent of the Minister for the Public Service has to be got before the Racing Board determine the remuneration of their chief officer. This is in line with similar procedure in other Acts.

Section 3 (1) (a) provides that, in the case of winning bets, bookmakers will charge the levy on total winnings and deduct that levy from the amount being paid to the punter. This has been the practice for several years: it is now given statutory recognition. Section 3 (1) (b) increases the maximum levy hargeable on course bets with bookmakers [1202] from the present 5 per cent to 10 per cent. The actual levy will be fixed by the Racing Board subject to the approval of the Minister for Finance and I am informed by the Board that they intend to recommend a revised levy of 6 per cent on the passing of this Bill.

Sections 4 and 5 provide for an appeal committee and prescribe their constitution, powers and procedures. This committee of three will hear appeals from bookmakers in cases where the Racing Board refuse, suspend or revoke course betting permits. Section 6 gives more authority to officers of the Racing Board for inspecting bookmakers' records in order to prevent evasion of levies.

Section 8 prescribes bigger penalties for bookmakers for operating without permits, failing to pay levies, failing to keep or falsifying records, obstructing officers of the board when inspecting documents or failing to produce documents.

Section 7 gives the board authority to operate staff superannuation schemes subject to the approval of the Minister for the Public Service. The board already have such a scheme. This section merely gives them formal authority for such a scheme. Section 9 is the usual provision for laying statutory regulations before each House of Oireachtas.

In short, there are three main changes in the Bill. It provides for an increase in the levy, it provides for an appeals committee which was not available in the parent Act and which is similar to the provision in the Bord na gCon Act, and it provides under section 9 for the laying of the statutory orders before each House of the Oireachtas. Again this was not in the parent Act. This is a similar provision to that in many Acts where orders are made by a Minister and subsequently laid before the Houses. I recommend the Bill for approval.

Mr. W. Ryan: Information on William Ryan  Zoom on William Ryan  My contribution will not be very long because I do not happen to be a racing man. I suppose I should be sorry to say this because I come from an area where we are steeped in racing. All around my home we have numerous racing stables, both [1203] big and small. We have a number of stud farms and we have quite a number of small bloodstock breeders. I live quite close to Limerick Junction racecourse. Nevertheless, it is a sport in which I have never taken very much interest. I was surprised to discover yesterday when speaking to my colleagues on the Fianna Fáil side of the House that they also knew very little about racing. Of the 15 Members here, very few of them take an active interest in racing. Racing may be the sport of kings and beggars but it does not seem to be the sport of the people at this side of the House. I venture to say that with the exception of the Curragh there is no part of Ireland more deeply involved in the horse breeding and horse racing industry than County Tipperary. I say that with the exception of the dairying industry, which is very popular there, racing and horse breeding come second.

As I have said, I know very little about racing and if I make any blunders in what I have to say I hope you will forgive me. I wish to welcome the Bill. Having listened to the Taoiseach and having read some of the debate on this Bill in the other House, I am convinced it is a good Bill which will help racing and the horse breeding industry in a big way. The bloodstock and horse racing industry is one of our chief industries. Apart from the fact that bloodstock breeding brings in quite a lot of foreign revenue, it gives considerable employment to a very large section of our community, starting with the stable boy right through to the bookie's clerk. Like the dairying industry, it is a seven-day week job. It is one of the few industries in which we have had no redundancies nor are we likely to have.

We all know that for the past two or three years the horse breeding industry is having a lean period. Breeders are finding it difficult to sell yearlings and young horses. The price has dropped considerably. While I know this Bill will not help that in any way, I am suggesting that the Government should take notice of that fact and possibly help the breeders in some way.

I have from time to time spoken to people in the racehorse industry, especially [1204] trainers, and their greatest complaint was always that the prize money paid at our racecourses is very small. I have been told that if you were to divide the amount paid out in prize money among the total number of racehorses that we have in training here it would only amount to approximately £300 per horse. We all know that the cost of training horses has risen considerably in recent years. One trainer has told me that it is costing him about £2,000 a year to train a horse. If that is the position, unless there is a considerable increase in prize money a number of racehorse trainers will go out of business.

The people, of course, who will be most affected are the small trainers and owners who race horses in this country at our smaller racecourses. The bigger stables that race horses in England and France have a much better chance of survival. If this Bill is able to help the smaller man in any way it is a Bill that we should all welcome very much.

I understand that this Bill is asking us to increase the levy from 5 per cent to 6 per cent, that is a 1 per cent increase. There is, however, a loophole that might allow a further increase. It can be increased to 10 per cent without any further reference to this or the other House. The Taoiseach assured the Members of the other House that that would not happen. Nevertheless, the loophole is there and I am fully convinced that within a year or two the Racing Board will make such a good case to the Government that they will allow an increase. If an increase is necessary they should get it but they should come back to the Houses of the Oireachtas and explain why they want the increase and give an account of their stewardship.

In the other House an amendment was proposed by Deputy O'Malley to this and it was not accepted. It was put to a vote and beaten. There is no point in putting it to a vote here since this is a money Bill. Even if we were successful with the amendment it would not be made effective. The amount of money involved would warrant a return here——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on James CI Dooge  Zoom on James CI Dooge  This Bill is not a money Bill.

[1205]Mr. W. Ryan: Information on William Ryan  Zoom on William Ryan  I was told last night by a prominent man that it is.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on James CI Dooge  Zoom on James CI Dooge  As far as the Chair is concerned it is not a money Bill and if it were it would be indicated on the Order Paper.

Mr. McGlinchey: Information on Bernard McGlinchey  Zoom on Bernard McGlinchey  What is the betting we would not be able to amend it?

Mr. W. Ryan: Information on William Ryan  Zoom on William Ryan  The amount of money involved would warrant it returning here because 5 per cent of present-day value would be almost £1 million. Therefore the Government should seriously consider that if the Racing Board want to to increase this further at any future date they should come back and get the permission of both Houses.

I am aware that a number of our smaller racecourses are finding it difficult to carry on. As far as I can recollect, a few years ago the Racing Board named a number of those small courses for closing down. I presume the way they would do that would be to withdraw their licence or grants or whatever they get. However that has not happened yet. It is something I should not like to see happening because the small racecourses that we have are situated in rural Ireland and if that little town lost its racecourse, where they may have only one day's racing in the year, it could be a big blow to that town. I hope that in the future the Racing Board will not try to close the small courses but that they will do everything in their power to help those racecourses. It is almost impossible, financially, for them to carry on now. The small courses should get more help than they are getting. Everyone looks forward to the one or two days' racing that is held in those towns. I can remember hearing the older people in my area talk about a famous racecourse near Tipperary town known as Barronstown.

When Barronstown racecourse ceased to exist, Limerick Junction Racecourse Company took over. For a number of years afterwards they continued the Barronstown tradition by having two days' racing early in June at which there was free admission to a large part of the racecourse. That was a great help to [1206] make people interested in racing. Everyone went to the races at Barronstown, later Limerick Junction. They did not go for betting alone. They went to see the horses running and to see all the other side-shows that go with race meetings. When the war intervened, the Limerick Junction Company dropped the two days and they were never revived after the war.

Racing is big business now but at the same time these small things should not be forgotten. If you want to keep all the people interested in racing something like the days of Barronstown should be revived by the Limerick Junction Company. The Limerick Junction racecourse is partially owned by the Racing Board.

We in County Tipperary are fortunate that we have three first-class racecourses, at Limerick Junction, Clonmel and Thurles. As a result of this Bill I hope those racecourses will be able to increase their prize money, like the other racecourses throughout the country. I have no more to say on the Bill except to repeat that it gives me great pleasure to support the Bill with the exception of the section which deals with the increase from 5 per cent to 6 per cent and maybe later to 10 per cent. This is the one section we are opposed to.

Mr. Russell: Information on George E. Russell  Zoom on George E. Russell  I have very little to contribute to the debate. I join with Senator Ryan in welcoming it. Many people do not appreciate the value of horse breeding and the racing industry in this country, a country which is peculiarly suited both by climate and by the love of the people for horses. The Taoiseach in his speech introducing the Second Stage gave some indication of the amount of investment in money terms in the industry, which is now in the order of £75 million annually. Even these monetary terms cannot give an adequate idea of what this industry has meant to Ireland over the years and will obviously mean to it in the future. It is impossible to assess the numbers of people who benefit directly and indirectly from the breeding and racing of horses and from horseshows all over the country. It is certain that if the total numbers could be added together it would be seen that this industry is, next [1207] to agriculture, the most important in the country.

It is essential that adequate funds are made available to encourage, as Senator Ryan has said, the small breeder in particular to continue to breed the type of horses that make the headlines not only in this country but abroad. It is equally important to encourage the small trainer to stay in business. Finally, the small country racecourse which was threatened with extinction not so many years ago but has managed to survive many lean years, should be encouraged to remain in business. It is impossible now for a small country racecourse to remain viable unless it gets substantial help from outside sources. With the possible exception of the metropolitan courses and possibly Limerick, I think every other course finds it difficult to continue and would certainly go under if they did not have the funds made available from the Racing Board.

It is interesting to note, in terms of levies, that the levy from the course bookmakers brings in more than twice as much as from the tote, which is a clear indication that Irish people prefer to bet with the bookie rather than the tote. We like the human involvement: the taking or giving of money to a bookmaker appeals more to the Irish temperament than going to a little box and putting the money in through a small aperture to an anonymous person on the other side of the counter. Most people would like to continue to bet with the bookie. There is a friendship between the bookie and his client. I hope that will be maintained in the future. It is noticeable that in bigger countries the relationship between the bookie and his client is less personal.

The contentious part of the Bill is the raising of the levy with the implication that the maximum could be as high as 10 per cent. The Taoiseach has given a fair explanation and has certainly given us an assurance that the Oireachtas will have the opportunity, before any changes are made, of having a look at this. It would be very unwise to make a rapid or very substantial increase in that levy. At the moment it is bringing in a very substantial sum of money. If the levy is £850,000 now, the extra 1 per [1208] cent should bring it over £1 million, which is a very substantial contribution from the racegoer but is very conveniently collected by the bookmaker. I do not think we should overplay our hands with regard to the bookmaker. He is making a very substantial contribution to the whole industry. We should do all we can to make things as easy as we can for him while at the same time ensuring that adequate funds are made available for this valuable industry.

I should like to say a word or two about a section referred to in the Taoiseach's speech, which does not concern the bookmaker, that is Bord na gCapall. I am not quite certain of the relationship between Bord na gCapall and the Army Equitation School. However, I should like to suggest that the present policy in regard to the purchase of horses for our international jumping team is not altogether the best one. It would be far better if we could get back again to the policy of past years, which made the Irish international jumping team famous and successful all over the world.

In the days of the Corrys, the Hartys and the others the horses were purchased unbroken and were broken in the Army Equitation School. They were hunted a few times by the Army officers and then they went out into world competition and beat the world. I understand that many of the horses are purchased broken. Perhaps some of them have already been successful showjumpers and they make headlines in the newspapers. Then a price of £8,000, £10,000 or perhaps more is paid for a horse that has been successful in showjumping. I am informed that a showjumper is not necessarily a good jumper in international competition.

I should like to see the system that was successful in past years being at least partially adopted again. I should like to see members of the Irish Army going around the country, going to horse fairs in West Clare, West Cork, Kerry, Wexford and elsewhere, the traditional place where the three-quarter bred horse is still bred from three-quarter mares, and buying their horses there. Nothing could give a [1209] greater fillip to country shows in Spancel Hill in Clare, or Kilrush, than to see an officer of the Irish Army coming down from Dublin, even if he bought nothing at the fair. It would be far better policy to go to a fair to buy five or ten horses say at £1,000 each than to buy one perhaps successful showjumper for £10,000 which might not prove a success afterwards.

I am not an expert on this matter and am passing on information given to me by people who know the business inside out. I am informed that in some cases three-quarter mares are not being kept. They are being sent for slaughter, which is a tragedy. If a farmer has three-quarter bred mares and his son is not interested in breeding the mares are sent away for slaughter. There should be a system of grants where farmers are encouraged to keep three-quarter bred mares under certain conditions, a sort of retainer fee, so that they are sent to suitable sires and the foals are available for rearing as potential jumpers.

I should like to see that system introduced. It would give encouragement in a widespread area, particularly in the traditional areas like West Clare, West Cork, Wexford and such places that always bred the best jumpers. The farmers in those areas, where the tradition is tending to die, should be encouraged to go back into this business. The Irish people have a feeling for animals. It is a pity that we do not cash in more on that inherited love for and ability to handle animals. It might be better in some cases, instead of encouraging the development of factories in certain areas, to develop the breeding of livestock, particularly horses.

I want to put those few points forward. I think they are in order in the context of this Bill. I support the Bill, as Senator Ryan has done. I do not want to be too rough on our bookmaker friends. We should all appreciate the contribution they are making to racing both as personalities and also financially in the course of this levy. I hope the Taoiseach, if he thinks there is something worthwhile in the comments I have made in regard to the encouragement of the three-quarter bred horse, will do something to ensure that the years of tradition in the successful [1210] breeding of these horses are not wasted. I hope the Irish international jumping team will again find their place at the top of the list in international jumping competitions all over the world.

Mr. Dolan: Information on Séamus Dolan  Zoom on Séamus Dolan  I do not come from an area of the country where people have the opportunity of visiting racecourses and enjoying everything that goes with racing. I have been reflecting on something that has been said regarding the establishment of a second channel for broadcasting and comparing the legitimate protest by other areas who have not multi-channel broadcasting. We, in the north western areas, have not any opportunity of enjoying many of the amenities that these people enjoy who go to races and I wondered if we should clamour for an extension of racecourses to bring us into the picture.

I am in favour of the Bill. As Senator Ryan has said I am not happy about granting more than 1 per cent. If money is needed they should come back and bring the matter before the Houses of the Oireachtas and have it approved. We are not sufficiently conscious of the great potential so far as our economy is concerned provided by horses, racing and everything that pertains to it. We have had a love of horses through the centuries. History tells us that even the old Fianna and Fionn MacCumhaill went around on horseback on many occasions. Napoleon's “Marengo” and other horses like that were world famous.

In this country we have produced over the years many world famous horses. This gave the Irish people a great thrill. During the greatest steeplechase in the world, the Grand National at Aintree, on nearly every occasion we have Irish bred horses winning or being placed. There are few countries in the world who are able to accomplish that. Even in my part of the country, where we have not got racecourses, I am glad to say that we produced “Red Freeman”, “Caughoo” and a few other famous horses that accomplished feats as good as those of horses reared in the south of Ireland.

It is important for a nation to bear this in mind. I was reflecting on the great hullaballoo that was created here [1211] some years ago because the Fianna Fáil Government purchased “Tulyar” to ensure that we would be able to breed the best possible type of horse. It is well known that within a year or two all the money spent on that horse was recouped and was of tremendous benefit to the nation.

Senator Russell mentioned international competitions. They are very important because the prestige of our country is at stake when we go abroad with our horses and our jumping teams. Over the past year these people have been doing very well. I do not know what financial assistance they get but it would be money well spent to ensure that they are adequately equipped when they go on any of these missions abroad. In Longford, where Eddie Macken won recently in many competitions, the people were delighted to see young Irish boys and girls able to compete with the best that the world can offer in international racing. It is something that should not be lost sight of. It is money well spent. It is enhancing the name of Irish horses. As Senator Russell said, we have the climate, the grass and the horses. Therefore, we should cash in as much as possible on it.

I see from the statement issued by the Taoiseach that there are roughly 24 courses. I gather from what Senator Ryan said that in the past many of them were in financial difficulties. From the point of view of tourism, Bord Fáilte, and from the point of view of the number of people employed in the industry, we should try, if at all possible, to provide the finances needed to keep these courses in existence.

As Senator Ryan said, in many cases they are established yearly events and it is a pity to see something like that, which has been kept alive by voluntary effort and private funds over the years, going out of existence now. It breaks a link with the past and it is in the other direction, if at all possible, we should be moving. In other words, we should try to bring in some areas where they have not had the benefits that racing often confers on an area. People may say that it teaches people to gamble and so on but people must have some relaxation. [1212] I know the media cash in in every way by featuring the various types of head dress worn by the ladies at the races. It is a type of social event and a safety valve so far as the nation is concerned. It is something that we should try to preserve.

The only part of racing that I was ever connected with was the bookmaker. They usually operate, irrespective of where the racecourses are. They have provided employment in a lot of small towns. If you go to a racecourse the bookmakers create part of the atmosphere that is generally associated with racing. I am not familiar with tote betting and the machines but there is a lot to be said for the personal approach. I would not like to see the bookmakers disappearing from the racecourses.

Apart from that, I am in agreement with the Bill. It may not have attracted a great deal of attention all over the country but racing is a very important part of our economy. It also adds to the national pride by showing what we, as Irishmen, can do and what Irish jockeys can accomplish on the international field. That is very important in so far as the prestige of a country is concerned. It is also important in attracting buyers of horses into the country. I travelled today from Killeshandra and I did not see a horse anywhere in a field on the way up. It is an indication of what is happening in our midst. In the last nine or ten years farm horses have been disappearing.

Senator Russell adverted to the fact that many good chasers and jumpers were actually farm horses. Some of them were actually working under a cart in the field when they were brought over to Liverpool and carried off prizes. “Red Freeman” was one of them. For that reason I think the whole Bill is important. The Taoiseach is doing the right thing in this respect. I have reservations regarding what Senator Ryan said about giving a further percentage increase without coming back to the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  Together with the other Senators who have already spoken on this measure, I should like to welcome the Bill, particularly sections 1 and 2 which regulate the power of the board to ensure that their staff are properly [1213] dealt with in regard to remuneration, pension rights and so on. However, the Bill also gives us an opportunity of saying something on an industry recognised by everybody as being of vital importance to the economy of the country as a whole, because of the vast amount of employment provided, directly and indirectly, for large sections of our community, particularly the agricultural worker.

When I spoke on the Agricultural Workers Wages Bill I intimated that the vast majority of our agricultural workers are engaged in the bloodstock breeding industry. For this reason any legislation which ensures there are ample funds available to the Racing Board to benefit, through prize money, the breeders of horses particularly and those engaged in racing and therefore ensure that there is a continuance of employment in the industry, must be welcomed by all sides of the House.

It is relevant to quote from an editorial of the Stud and Stable of April, 1975 which, if one reads it in the light of this Bill, is very important. It says:

It is inevitable that everybody professionally engaged in racing (used in its widest sense) tends to view problems to some extent, however hard he may try not to, from his own sectional interest. Racecourse executives look at innovations from the point of view of racecourse finance and attendances, trainers from the aspect of full yards or breeders from the viewpoint of the strength of the yearling market. So, understandably, Timeform says that “when we speak of racing, we mean entertainment, and the entertainment aspect of racing is betting. If the betting public deserted racing, then everybody would be sunk”.

This indicates that the betting public who attend race meetings are the most important section involved.

We are through a measure like this ensuring that the racing public contribute additional taxation. One per cent has been outlined by the racing board as the amount they will probably go for although they have provision under the Bill for a higher rate, which is as it should be because they are charged with the responsibility of ensuring that [1214] ample funds are available from the various sources of income they have.

The income of the additional 1 per cent, which is gathered by the bookmakers and presumably deducted from the punters, amounts to less than £200,000. Small as that is, the punters must be made aware of how important it is that if the entertainment they enjoy now is to be preserved and improved we must ensure that this money generates valuable employment in rural districts where no industrial employment is available. In Tipperary, which is in the heart of the Golden Vale, the bloodstock breeding areas and the county which produces some of the best known trainers in the world, quite a lot of valuable employment is given. We must convince the punter that this money is being used wisely and can be justified by all concerned, irrespective of how low the taxation proposals are.

Senator Ryan was of the opinion that this Bill would not improve the lot of the breeder but the Racing Board have it within their structure to ensure that money collected is not alone passed on in prize money to the owners of horses but can also be passed on as prize money to the breeders of horses. This is done on a wide scale in France where at present quite a number of people have horses in training because of the greater prize money available portion of which may be paid to breeders. Prize money is paid not alone in respect of first, second and third places but also fourth place. Approximately 10 per cent of the total winnings in races may go to the breeders of horses. Some might say that if you increase the amount of money available to breeders you will only encourage increased production of yearlings which, as everyone in the bloodstock industry knows, is one of the root causes of the problems the industry has been facing. There is overproduction of meagre type pedigree animals.

The proper incentive should be given through the Board to breeders to improve their breeding and not just increase production. In my own village of Bansha we have a small breeder—I am sure he would not object to his name being put on the record of this House as it is on the breeding records of [1215] the international bloodstock world— Dr. Russell who has bred “Rhinegold”, one of the most important horses ever to come from this country, a horse that won with distinction the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe in France. Dr. Russell, a small breeder with two mares, had the courage and good fortune to breed into that bloodline. Because the horse won a race in France, Dr. Russell who could have benefited tremendously from a breeder's prize, unfortunately did not benefit. He sold “Rhinegold” as a yearling on the open market at a give away price at the time because no breeder's prize was available to him in this race in France. If he were a French breeder, the French racing authorities would have ensured that he was adequately compensated when that horse passed the winning post. It is important that this money, because it can be donated to increase prizes, be donated to prizes for the breeders of horses and thereby ensure that bloodstock lines are improved here.

Anybody with any common sense will appreciate the exemption of this industry from the current taxation Bills before the Dáil. Because people believe there is big money in the bloodstock industry they ask why it should be exempted. It is of great importance to our economy to ensure that the best bloodlines can stay in this country, are available to breeders and therefore provide a significant contribution to the balance of payments. I welcome the fact that they were exempt from the wealth tax proposals. To plough your money into bloodstock is the highest single risk factor in any form of money making because so much depends on luck and good fortune. In the process it generates a tremendous amount of employment in the rural parts of the country and without which many rural areas would not survive.

The Taoiseach in his speech referred to the proposals under section 6 and section 8 which give various powers to inspectors to ensure that bookmakers comply with regulations. I wonder if there are any statistics to justify the need for these sections. These colourful people, known as bookmakers, are a most important part of a race meeting. The bookmaker has all the horses in the [1216] race running for him whereas the punter just has one. That probably gives the false impression that the bookie is out to look after himself. I have the gravest doubts about sections 6 and 8 being necessary. Most of our well-known bookmakers—some are Members of the Oireachtas—are associated with racing all their lives. They are always available for the pay-out.

I welcome broadly the outlines of the Bill and hope that the Racing Board can ensure that sufficient funds are available, particularly for the breeder. Compliments have been paid to the Racing Board, Bord na gCapall and to the board of the National Stud, which has done tremendous work in the breeding industry. Bord na gCapall, now that they have their feet firmly on the ground, have done a lot of excellent work in the registration of half bred and three-quarter bred horses for the average breeder of the non-throughbred type. Bord na gCapall, having brought in a standard of registration and identification and also regulated the nominations available, are serving a very useful purpose in the whole bloodstock breeding industry. If every other section produced as much return for £2½ million, our economy would be the better for it.

Professor Quinlan: Information on Patrick Michael Quinlan  Zoom on Patrick Michael Quinlan  I join with the other Senators in welcoming this Bill. Unlike a few of the speakers I do not see any particular objection to the punters contributing a little more to ensure the success of the bloodstock industry as a whole. As Senator Ferris said, there are many facets to the bloodstock industry and we have to evaluate the contribution made by each. Apart from the enjoyment factor, which is something that appeals very much to our national temperament—we have a love for horses and racing—it is a very legitimate and characteristic form of entertainment. On that score alone, we must ensure its continued success and development. Looking at it more from the point of view of the economy, last year it contributed over £6 million to our export trade. Is that a net figure? In any case I do not think the amount of imports would be very high in the balance. There are about 20,000 bloodstock in the country, which would [1217] probably mean the utilisation of 60,000 acres.

Therefore, the net export from that is almost £100 per acre. This makes the bloodstock industry a very productive one indeed. Given those figures, it is almost as productive as the dairying industry. It is much more valuable than the store cattle trade and most forms of tillage. It is a big export earner. Admittedly, the amount of land devoted to it, about 60,000 acres, is its best facet. There are other facets of the industry covered by Bord na gCapall, the pony societies and others. It is not comparable to dairying in extent but it is a branch of our agricultural industry and land utilisation that we should develop and encourage in every way. I hope to see it expanding in the future.

The employment content is very high, especially in training establishments, where there is one man employed to care for every two or three horses. Because of its labour intensive content it should be supported. Any contribution we make is a prudent investment in development. I am amazed at the smallness of the State contribution, £100,000 a year to the Racing Board. That should be substantially increased because we know the difficulties involved and the amount likely to result from an increase of 1 per cent in bookmakers' tax will probably amount to only £200,000. I would have no objection to a rapid increase in this tax over the years, in steps acceptable to the punters, up to 10 per cent.

I was surprised to learn that the tote take is untouched. A figure of 20 per cent is a fairly high take but this is from losing bets only. It would be simple to deduct this from winning bets also, or at least from the original stake. That would bring in a little extra from the tote and would prevent the impression being given that this was penalising or taxing, additionally, the person betting with the bookmaker and not with those who place bets with the tote. It might result in a slight increase in tote betting.

I spent many happy afternoons at racecourses in America, especially in Santa Anita, and I occasionally had the good fortune to be able to cheer home an Irish bred horse. It was like cheering for the home team. The State of [1218] California is almost entirely financed from the betting tax and it is the same for many other States. A high proportion of the education budget is financed from betting tax. There is a tremendous amount of money obtained from gambling there.

Off-course betting does not contribute in any way to the activities of the Racing Board, whatever it might do indirectly by way of the State annual grant. This is in a different category from course betting, which has an element of participation and enjoyment in it. Off-course betting lends itself more easily to addiction and abuse. In the event of extra taxes being imposed next week, off-course betting tax could stand a little increase. In order to encourage this industry because of its high labour content, the Government should consider increasing substantially the contribution being made to the Racing Board. Their contribution to Bord na gCapall of £650,000 seems reasonably generous. The board are doing good work and it could make good use of an increase in funds. They are encouraging and developing the horse breeding industry as distinct from the work of the Racing Board. This is a section which we can develop substantially in equitation, pony trekking, horse riding and so on. These are natural amenities obtainable here. In the years to come when we hope to have more tourists from Europe and more leisure time, obviously horse riding, pony trekking and hunting would be attractive.

As I said, there is a high labour content in the training of horses. Our top trainers have demonstrated that they can run their horses in England, France and other places in Europe quite successfully. The horses do not suffer any discomfort from air travel. There is no disadvantage to them; they can compete on equal terms with all other horses. We could well aspire to becoming the training ground of Europe in this regard. If it results in intensive utilisation of land, we should all encourage that development by every means possible. With the large populations and shortage of suitable land in Europe, the way is open for us to do this. We have many excellent trainers and many young men interested in following this pursuit. The speed with [1219] which some of our trainers have got to the top proves that they must have outstanding ability in this field.

Barriers to movement within the EEC are progressively decreasing and this will aid participation in European horse races. While the French racing industry is a very lucrative one many of their races are confined and our trainers cannot enter horses in them. They are not eligible to compete. I expect that in the future this will not hold.

I am not happy with the adulation for American breeding sweeping this country and of the type of prestige attached to owning an American bred. Irish breds at far less money are very often superior. Indeed, it took an Irish bred from County Kildare who had to be exported first to Italy and brought back to England to win the 2,000 guineas this year. Unfortunately, the two competitors from this country were American bred.

If we are putting this investment into stakes our trainers who are concerned with the development of bloodstock should be equally concerned to try to point out to their clients the value of Irish breeding and to encourage them to use the Irish bred. It should be a black mark against any trainer here who has more than 50 per cent of his training establishment in foreign breds. He is not making the contribution that should be made to the development of the Irish bloodstock industry.

In providing stakes the Government, especially for the races just below classic level, could earmark a number of them for Irish breds. That would be a legitimate type of development and of encouragement for Irish breeding. That may seem to contradict what I said about being able to read the races in France. I have no objection if, due to the EEC, that limitation has to be for EEC bred horses but I do not look with favour on seeing a headline in a newspaper which says: “Four Races Won By American Breds”. I do think it is to the benefit of this country because very often their attributes do not lead to the development of a tough and a durable type of racehorse that we have had from here in the past.

I single out American breeding [1220] because many of the top owners are Americans. They could well have a good portion of their strength from Irish breds and if we had some way of tempting the balance that way it would gently encourage, or force them, to do this. In doing this we would be following the American pattern because one will find on any American race track that they are concerned with promoting the industry, not in the United States, but in their own State. On a typical race track in California, Santa Anita, at least half of the races are confined to Californian breds. Back east one will find that races are confined to those bred in Kentucky and so on. That is perfectly legitimate. I hope the Government, through their contribution to the Racing Board, will see whether something can be done about this.

I welcome the Bill and hope we achieve our aims for the bloodstock industry, its expansion and the utilisation of more of our agricultural land for it. It is a high productivity industry and one with actual employment figures. I am happy with what has been done but I urge the Government to do more to keep this industry in the forefront of the EEC in bloodstock.

Mr. Markey: Information on Bernard Markey  Zoom on Bernard Markey  This Bill is welcome. I always assume that the Racing Board, the Turf Club, and the other controlling bodies associated with our racing industry, do a reasonably satisfactory job in their responsibilities of coordination and control. The success of the racing industry here depends on the owners, the punters and the racegoers, even the casual racegoers, being satisfied in regard to what they feel they should get out of racing. If we look at it from the angle of each of the three bodies and assess whether they are satisfied or not we would get a good picture of the state of the industry.

The owners are, of course, the key factor in the whole business. Without the owners we cannot have any racing, even if the flood of punters or casual racegoers arrive on the scene. We must have the owners supplying horses in sufficient numbers to keep the race programme filled. We must have them reasonably satisfied that they are obtaining something in return for their contribution to the racing industry. In [1221] this respect it is vital, of course, that small owners are able to stay in business. This is not an easy matter today when costs have risen to such an extent.

We have heard that it costs about £2,000 to keep a horse in training. With that sort of figure it is no wonder that small owners have had to combine to provide horses for racing. There is not a person here who would not like to own a horse and who would not like to field a horse in a race programme. They are not doing it to obtain a pile of money in prizes; they are doing it because they can be regarded as an aficionado of the racing industry and they get personal satisfaction out of owning a horse and seeing that horse run. Prize money, of course, is important and the racing industry has been fortunate that sponsors have been forthcoming in recent years, particularly in the last decade, to the extent that they have given an attractive image to various race meetings around the country. But sponsorship is, at the best of times, an elastic matter and its availability and its being forthcoming depends to an extent on the economic situation.

Of the extra 1 per cent, which will bring approximately £200,000, a proportion of this will have to be allocated to the prize funds because sponsors may not be available and may not be forthcoming of the extent that they have been in the past. The contribution to the transport costs has always been welcome to the small owners. It is very encouraging to see that a large proportion of the funds at the disposal of the Racing Board have been devoted to this aspect.

Punters are nearly a breed apart in all of this. There is an old saying: “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”, but I feel that only mad dogs and punters go out in all sorts of climate and weather we have here in the depths of winter when one would not expect to see a dog out in such bad weather conditions. They go because they are devoted aficionados of the racing industry. While they like to win money the winning is not the be all and end all of their interest.

In going to a race meeting the punters seek first of all an interesting race programme which gives them a real [1222] choice and a real sense of gamble. This is what they want. It is disheartening to find a big number of races at the various meetings having so few runners which does not present a real chance to the punter. The handicap races supply this element of a real choice and a real gambling aspect to the punters. We should try and have some more of these. We have the counter attraction of televised race meetings, particularly in the multi-channel area. There is no doubt that the punter is at the stage that if he feels that a race meeting from Sandown Park, Goodwood or wherever it may be, presents a more varied choice to him, he may well stay at home. The punters are as vital as the owners in the racing industry.

We cannot forget the third category of people, the racegoers, the regular racegoer or the casual racegoers. I distinguish these from the punters because they go for the social event, for an afternoon or an evening's outing. They go in some cases because they like to see horses running without having a particular interest in putting a lot of money, or even a flutter, on the horses. We must look at the business from the point of view of these people. What do they want out of racing to entice them to go in sufficient numbers? Amenities are very important not only in regard to seating accommodation and making it a little bit less exhausting for the racegoers on racecourses. Apart from Leopardstown, the Curragh, and one or two others, the number of racecourses here which are still basic and primitive is considerable. Every effort should be made to improve the amenities, to entice the racegoers, casual or otherwise, to attend these meetings.

The totalisator situation—I regard myself as a casual racegoer in the sense that I might go to about six or seven in a year—is not all that satisfactory. The tote obtains the small bets as distinct from the bookmakers who obtain the large bets. There is always congestion at the tote in any racecourse, particularly on bank holidays and festive occasions. There is congestion in queueing up to deposit a bet and at the pay out windows. Something will have to be done about this. In the early sixties the greyhound racing industry took a tremendous increase in its popularity [1223] by putting at the disposal of the casual greyhound racegoer improved amenities and facilities at the tracks. What they did resulted in a considerable increase in the numbers attending those meetings.

Amenities are important. I see from the Taoiseach's speech that the Racing Board leave allocations for the provision of amenities to the capital grant they obtain from the Exchequer, plus any part of surplus they may have over. They should try to do a little better than this in the future to encourage people who have not hitherto gone to race meetings to any extent to turn out in future.

There are three very important factors, the owners, the punters and the racegoers. They are all equally important to ensure that we have a thriving racing industry here. I do not think that the levy of 6 per cent will be a counter incentive to any of these people. This is a small amount and, seeing what the Racing Board are doing with the levy, few people will mind an increase in a reasonable number of years from 6 per cent to something higher.

Mr. Keegan: Information on Seán Keegan  Zoom on Seán Keegan  I welcome the opportunity to make a few comments on this Bill. When we deal with the racing industry, we deal with an entirely Irish industry. I do not know if the importance of this industry to the Irish economy is fully understood or realised. The raw material can be produced on Irish soil; the industry creates employment for Irishmen without the necessity of importing expertise or expensive equipment from other countries. This industry has stood the test of time. Therefore, as we progress more emphasis and support should be given to this industry because of the various elements involved in the composition of racing.

We learned that betting at races in 1974 totalled £19.8 million. That is a sizeable amount of money in terms of the Irish economy and it is a clear indication of the support for betting. We are often described as a nation of gamblers but, to me, this is an indication of the support for the racing industry. We have, as the Taoiseach stated, 24 [1224] racecourses. Being associated with one of those in a big way I know the enormous difficulties involved in trying to keep racing alive, especially when dealing with a voluntary committee. I know all the problems that confront those race committees in their efforts to promote racing.

Therefore I am disappointed that the Bill does not go further and ensure greater support for the local bodies who are doing such a wonderful job. We are disappointed when racetracks are closed. One of the more prominent racecourses in the midlands, Mullingar, which had six race meetings each year, had to close down because of financial difficulties. The only other racecourse in the midlands which has survived the test of time is Kilbeggan, the course I am associated with. We are glad we have three race meetings each year there. What worries me is that the Racing Board decide on the standards that must be laid down. They decide on the standard of maintenance necessary in order to keep racing alive but when they lay down those standards they should ensure that adequate financial support is forthcoming to enable those voluntary committees to survive and promote racing in rural areas.

I expressed my opposition to the effort made to close all the small racecourses in Ireland some years ago. I fought bitterly against that. It would have been the death knell to an industry which is based on rural Ireland because of the number of stud farms we have in the rural areas, particularly in my own country. I am glad that racecourses were given the chance to survive, with the support of the Racing Board. That was a wise move because of the high employment content of the industry. A lot of people are involved in the industry, including the Racing Board, the owners, trainers, stable boys, bookmakers and officials of the Department of Finance.

I should like to mention a regulation which the Racing Board stipulates to local committees in the running of the races. They decide at each race meeting how many people they will send to a race committee to assist in the running of a meeting. The local committee must pay those people and must also pay the [1225] insurance stamp if the race is held on a Monday. That is worthy of reconsideration because it is imposing a heavy burden on committees. If they have to pay for an insurance stamp for a staff of 60 or 70 people they do not directly employ but who are being sent down by the Racing Board to assist in the running of a local race meeting, it imposes a heavy financial strain on the local committee. If they come on a Monday, they are there for five or six hours and the committee are obliged to pay the full social welfare insurance stamp for those groups for the day. They are also obliged to supply them with refreshments and so on. I would ask the Taoiseach in his reply to give some assurance that that problem will be looked into.

The capital outlay which is involved each year in the running of races is increasing and the standard of racecourses and of racing in general is improving. The Racing Board notified the secretaries of the various race committees of further improvements which should be carried out if racing is to be continued. This work has to be carried out and it imposes a heavy financial strain on the committees, but I should like to point out that they receive grant aid towards the cost of that work. Even the press people require certain standards and the local committees are again obliged to erect a stand for them to ensure that they adequately cover the race meetings and report the results.

It all goes to show the importance of the industry and the involvement of the many people in it. We cannot stress often enough its importance to the economy. As I already said, it is an Irish industry giving valuable employment and it is based on the abundance of raw material which we have, namely, the Irish horse. We have always been told that Irish soil was most suitable for the breeding of the super thoroughbred. We should do everything possible to give that industry further boosts in the future. It is disturbing in days of high costs and inflation to see stud farms closing down. I am always disappointed when I see redundancies in that industry. Stud farms are closing down in Westmeath at the moment with pending unemployment. Therefore [1226] more should be done to enable the small stud farms to survive.

I do not know how it could be done, whether it would be by direct subsidies or by some other form of support. If any other industry gets into difficulties direct financial assistance is forthcoming. This, too, is an important Irish industry not based on the importation of foreign raw materials. Greater support should be forthcoming for the stud farms that get into difficulties through no fault of their own because they, like every other section of the community, have to face continued and increased inflation. The cost of running a stud farm is enormous. The cost of feeding and producing the future racehorses is enormous, as well as the cost of maintaining the staff. Almost every Senator has mentioned the high labour content which is involved in the racing industry and in the breeding of race horses.

I would ask the Taoiseach to consider the small racecourses in the country which find it so difficult to survive, and the establishment of a fund to enable the smaller stud farms which get into difficulties through no fault of their own, to continue. The racing industry is scattered all over the country. It goes beyond the Curragh. I would like to see greater support for the rural racecourse. Commentators seem to overstress the importance of the Curragh and tourist resorts like Killarney, Tramore, Galway and so on. They do not stress the importance of the smaller race committees that have been granted a reprieve in recent years, namely, Laytown, Courtown, Roscommon, Kilbeggan, Thurles and so on. Those committees have made tremendous efforts in order to keep racing alive in the midlands.

Therefore, greater support should be forthcoming, because this industry is important to our economy and to the tourist industry. Much of the support has been given to race meetings which are held in the more prominent and popular tourist resorts. I would ask that an effort would be made to increase the stake money available for the midlands race tracks, such as Kilbeggan, Roscommon, Bettystown and Laytown. They are failing at present to attract the superior type of chaser which we have. [1227] If the stakes were higher, the prize money could be increased, which would attract a better quality steeplechaser to those tracks. It would ensure greater financial support both in bookmaker bettings and in the takings from the totalisator board.

These are important facets that go to make up the racing industry. I would ask that every effort would be made to give greater support to those smaller race tracks which are playing such a role in the promotion of the racing industry. No words of mine could do justice to the efforts they have been making which I know of because of my own personal involvement in them. I know of the huge costs involved in keeping those racecourses alive. Every encouragement should be given to them. As I have already said, this is an important industry and one that should receive serious consideration because it is a wholly Irish-based industry.

Mr. Harte: Information on John Jack Harte  Zoom on John Jack Harte  The brevity of the contributions is a great pleasure, because it is a clear indication that the Bill is non-contentious. I hope the point I am concerned with will not bring in contention. The point I am concerned about is that all the parties to this industry have a control in the government of it—bloodstock breeders, people in racing, bookmakers and so on—but the punters who invested £19.8 million, apart from what was invested in bookmakers' shops and so on, have no say in the control of this industry to which they are contributing. The same can be said of the workers employed in the industry. While we are not on the topic of the democratisation of industry it might be a good point to start at. The workers in the industry, who are obviously very knowledgeable, or, alternatively, the punters, should be given some representation on the board. I feel they have a right as investors in the industry to have some control over it, but they are excluded from it. If it was a practical proposition for them to so act, they could, with their general knowledge, make a valuable contribution, particularly in regard to the quality of breeding and as to how the interests of the punters could be protected. I would hope consideration would be [1228] given on the basis of either worker involvement or involvement by the punter who is a partner and who is a very substantial contributor to the industry. They may be able to give some assistance to the board to be more effective, not by dominating or controlling it but applying their knowledge to the industry in order to give effect to some of the things that are being said.

For example, the people in the industry who have this social involvement with it may be in a position to help along the lines suggested by Senator Russell, putting suggestions and ideas forward that might improve the breeding and so on, which will be needed if the industry is to keep going. He mentioned the Irish jumping teams and so on. I do not back horses but I am very fond of the sport of show jumping. I watch racing on television. I am very fond of horses and of the benefits and joy they give to a lot of people.

Going back to the jumping teams of my early days, I recall that even though things were not good with a lot of families, it was a great source of pride to them to see the Irish teams being so successful. It was a great talking point even around the tenement areas of the city, and I am sure it was the same throughout the country. The workers on the functional side of the industry might be able to make this type of contribution, and the punters who are also investors have some rights. This is something that has been overlooked in the contributions so far, and I would like to have it considered.

The idea of the board putting on the 1 per cent levy is prudent, even though the scope is there to run it up to 10 per cent. After all, we are in a situation where there is a slow down of the cash flow. If they did not move slowly like that on a phasing-up basis possibly, they might discourage a lot of people. The 1 per cent is prudent and it meets the circumstances we are in.

Mr. Killilea: Information on Mark Killilea Jnr.  Zoom on Mark Killilea Jnr.  This Bill is basically welcome. It has reached this House through the interest of the Taoiseach in horses generally and in the horse business. Like every other Bill that was passed through Parliament I am sure there are mistakes in it, but by mistakes [1229] we will learn and in time we will diagnose what they are. I see the point that, when the matter of an industry which is not always in the forefront in places like this is brought to this House with the intention of improving the situation, it is a good sign.

I am neither a gambler nor a punter. I am probably what one would describe as a loser all the time. I go to races and enjoy them. I like horses. I am from Galway and it is a great horse county or it used to be a great horse county. The quality has dropped slightly.

First of all, I should like to deal with races as such. In my opinion, in racing today there are two types of owners. There is the big owner who pumps money into the industry to fulfil the ambition of winning either of the Derbys, the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe, the Gold Cup or the Grand National. Seldom or ever will we see such people having horses in places like Roscommon, Ballinrobe, Kilbeggan, Mallow, other than in the holiday season in Galway. Then there are the small owners who can afford to have one, two or three horses, perhaps at enormous expense these days, in training. It is estimated that it costs about £2,000 per annum to have a horse in training in these times. That is a lot of money and I would plead with the Taoiseach that the stake money for those smaller meetings should be increased. We are a gambling nation. We always have been. We always placed bets whether it be on a horse, on a football match or anything else. On account of the stake money being so small at these meetings, the gambler seems to be getting a bit ferocious. It is not easy anymore to see the honesty one would wish to see at those small meeting. I attribute that to the fact that the stake money in such places as I have mentioned is so small that it would not pay a good man to knock the best out of his horse at all times because he has to pay his training and other fees by having a gamble.

Gambling on horses, particularly by owners of smaller stables, is becoming more frequent. I know that the bookmakers of Ireland are not the worst people for complaining about being caught in a gamble. We have seen an episode recently where in England a [1230] gamble was brought off. The cry from the bookmakers across the water was agonising because these people are out on bail. The gamble originated from not having enough stake money in small races that occur monthly, and quite often the racing was not viable because men had to bring their horses out for £200 or £250 stake money.

The levies from the bookies to the Racing Board last year were almost £1 million. At the smaller courses where races are more frequent the stake money should be improved by at least 100 per cent. It would keep a bit more honesty in it for us all, those who win and those who lose. I think that is a very important aspect. Right through this Bill that tone is in the minds of all Senators when making their contributions to this Bill. The incentive is not there from the actual winnings and stakes. If the stakes are not good enough it may get too crooked to straighten at a later stage, so I hope the Taoiseach, through the Government, will ask the Racing Board to do something about this aspect.

As regards the breeding of racehorses from the smaller man's point of view, we have in numerous places in the west coast smaller type farmers who have one or two brood mares, and they are finding it almost impossible to pay the fees for stud purposes. Here again the National Stud could come to the assistance of those people and try and help them in some way. It is an added incentive for a man if he has reasonably good stock to breed that stock with even better stock. If he cannot pay the fees being asked these days and if he brings that breed to Ballsbridge or those places where they are sold, he may not be as lucky as some of the bigger breeders who get the big money— £50,000 is paid in certain instance for certain breeds—yet the breed of the small owner may turn out as well for three figures. We have seen them bought for two figures last year. Some fine horses and bloodstock were sold last year for £70, £80 and £90. An incentive should be given to the very small breeder to overcome this obstacle of paying abnormal prices for the better type of stallion. Through the offices of the National Stud this problem could [1231] be solved or alleviated. I would ask the Taoiseach to consider that point as well.

There is the problem of staffing the small stables. I am sure there is a lot of time being wasted in the industry where jockeys and stable lads did not get an opportunity. We have seen it happening quite often that a young fellow emigrated to England and got into a stud farm or training stable and had great success. We had an instance last year where he became national champion jockey. Such people cannot get a job in Ireland or secure a No. 1 position in a stable here because that stable is so full of quality that he cannot just jump the queue. If some incentive was given to help smaller men who were training horses to spread out this wealth of knowledge and ability it would be better for the industry itself. Co-operation would be the key here. Although they occasionally meet with success, it is a pity to see those young fellows having to emigrate to either England or America to try and better themselves because the particular stables they have trained in are so full of quality men that they cannot rise to the top in their profession.

I want to get to the part of the Bill that is of great interest to me, the Bord na gCapall section. This aspect is coming in for much comment, particularly in the west of Ireland. Last year, in particular, when Bord na gCapall ran sales at the Galway racecourse prior to the Ballinasloe fair—Ballinasloe fair is renowned all over the world for its quality horses—the people of Ballinasloe, the traders and farmers, were highly offended by this new move. It was not a great success but it was a bad year and possibly that was the reason. There is something at the back of all this that is even more serious. Stud farms or anyone in the west holding a stallion from Bord na gCapall or, as it was in older times, from the Department of Agriculture, feel of late that the quality stallion is not coming to Galway, Mayo and Clare. There is no doubt that Galway, Mayo and Clare have produced the finest horses in the world. That can be seen and proved year in and year out over the last 40 or 50 years and indeed prior to that.

There is a feeling these days that for some unknown reason the best stallions [1232] seem to be going to Cork and Waterford. I am not accusing anybody, but I am delivering what we classify as a rumour in Connacht. Men who have operated this aspect of the industry over the years and who are renowed for their quality horses seem to find it more difficult each year to get the horse they want. I am making that comment as an aside. It is not easy to make such a statement in this House; it is nothing more than what one can classify as a rumour.

If you take the top price paid at the Bord na gCapall sales in Galway last year and at the Ballinasloe fair last year, you will notice that the horses sold were both Cork horses. There was an instance outside of Ballinrobe where we had a quality horse. Misfortune came upon that horse and when the owner went to buy and make his arrangements with Bord na gCapall he just could not get the horse he wanted. Later when he asked, to his amazement he found that that horse had gone to Cork again. I would ask the Taoiseach, in the interest of areas where the best stock in breeding mares is so plentiful, to note this situation with a view to making reference to whoever is responsible for what we think might be a situation where fair play is not being given. I ask for special consideration on behalf of those people who have Irish mares of the finest quality and stud men who hold the finest of stallions to breed that stock in the interest of the industry in general. If there is any new trend against us, I hope the Taoiseach will in the interests of the industry in the west of Ireland, see to it that fair play is given.

I would also ask that the arrangements for the timing of the Bord na gCapall sales in Galway be looked at to ensure that the famous October horse sales in Ballinasloe are not disturbed in any way. It can be done by co-operation. There did not appear to be much co-operation the last time nor does there seem to be much co-operation for the next sale. Co-operation is the key in an area where the quality, for some unknown reason, seems to be dropping a little.

I would ask the Taoiseach to keep in mind the few points I have made and to [1233] ensure that for the sake of this industry so precious to many of us in the west, honesty and fair play would be applied, particularly to the breeders of the finest quality jumpers that this country has ever seen.

Business suspended at 12.35 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.

Mr. Killilea: Information on Mark Killilea Jnr.  Zoom on Mark Killilea Jnr.  I had practically finished my contribution, but during lunch I thought of a few more things I wanted to say. I was saying that we were not altogether satisfied with the distribution of stallions throughout Connacht. I would appreciate it if the Taoiseach would keep his eye on that situation so that we would get our fair share.

The Bill shows an interest in the horse breeding industry. It has not been very profitable for owners over the past two or three years. It was not a viable project for breeders in those years either. I do not know what can be done to instil more confidence in the market but something must be done. Bad policy on the part of the Government in regard to finances could possibly be the cause of this lack of enthusiasm.

I wish to quote from the statement of the Taoiseach in the Dáil on June 5th, column 1498 of the Official Report. He was talking about the amenities of racing. I pick out one point, which is Dublin-orientated, where he was speaking about the modern developments in television and I quote:

Here again the modern development of television can bring racing into anybody's home, almost certainly on Saturdays and occasionally during the week; also, people can switch from one track to another.

That does not apply where I live nor have we the privilege of switching in most parts of the country. It would be nice if we could. Probably RTE could do something about this and, as the national network, switch from one track to another. We have but one station and sometimes the reception from it is so poor it is very difficult to see the races at all. Interference from another station is the cause of our bad reception and in this connection, there is another Bill before the House——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on James CI Dooge  Zoom on James CI Dooge  The Chair would [1234] prefer the Senator to leave the matter with just a brief reference. He would be in danger of switching to another Bill if he carried on much longer.

Mr. Killilea: Information on Mark Killilea Jnr.  Zoom on Mark Killilea Jnr.  I brought it in as a brief reference. I wish to point out an anomaly in the Taoiseach's statement in case he was not aware of the situation. It is not often we have the Taoiseach in the House and I should like him to know of conditions existing where I live. It is an important part of the island, remote as it may seem, and to judge from the revision of the constituencies by the Minister for Local Government, Deputy Tully, it will be a very important part of the island.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on James CI Dooge  Zoom on James CI Dooge  The Senator has switched channels again. I should be glad if he would come back to the Racing Bill.

Mr. Killilea: Information on Mark Killilea Jnr.  Zoom on Mark Killilea Jnr.  There is only one other matter and that is the raising of the levy by 1 per cent or, indeed, to 10 per cent from 5 per cent, which is the desire of the Government. I do not totally disagree with the proposal provided the proceeds are ploughed back into stake money, since this is the vital part of this industry at the moment. It is safe to say that on a major race in, say, Roscommon or Ballinrobe, five years ago the stake money was almost equal to what it is today. How can an industry flourish and how can there be absolute honesty or integrity when that situation exists?

I appeal to the Taoiseach to use his position to ensure that the money which will flow into the coffers of the Minister for Finance will be ploughed back into this aspect of the industry. The figure of 1 per cent may seem insignificant, indeed at times 5 per cent may seem insignificant, but if this money is put back into the industry the levy will be acceptable to all. I should like an assurance from the Taoiseach that this is what will happen to it. It will lead to great improvement within the whole industry. If there is a surplus it could be given to the National Stud to ensure that the services of our national stallion herd would not be so expensive to the small breeder as it has been heretofore. If the Taoiseach could assure us on these points, the Bill would [1235] be acceptable to the vast majority of our people.

Miss Walsh: Information on Mary Walsh  Zoom on Mary Walsh  Unreservedly I welcome the Bill. Coming from a family who have been remotely connected with the horse breeding industry and with racing for many years, I welcome the opportunity to make my small contribution. I am proud to say that I come from a village in County Wicklow which boasted of having one of the largest horse fairs in Leinster, second only to Ballinasloe, in case Senator Killilea is interested. I could not allow this occasion to pass without making a few comments. Most of the previous speakers have covered the course, so to speak. Nevertheless, there are a few small points that have not been dwelt on.

From a cursory glance at the Taoiseach's introductory statement, I welcome the measure which in my opinion can be implemented with many beneficial effects for the Irish bloodstock industry. Not alone is this industry a lucrative business but it is one of our major assets in our balance of trade. The figures have been given in the Taoiseach's introductory statement and there is no point in my going back on it.

As is well known to everybody in Ireland and I think in most parts of the world, Irish bloodstock is renowned throughout the world where horse racing and the horse industry is held dear. I note that the bookmakers' association have extended a warm welcome to this Bill, expressed by Deputy Stephen Coughlan in the other House who, according to his own words, has been 40 years actively in the business. This augurs well for the future of that end of the business. They seem well satisfied with the Bill, and rightly so, because the horse racing industry was certainly in a state of decadence and needed much updating and nobody is aware of that more than the bookmakers.

Speaking of bookmakers reminds me of a story I once heard about two wags outside a betting shop. They were puffing their last fag when this chauffeur-driven limousine rolled up to the betting office door and this very elegant lady stepped out of it dripping [1236] with mink and diamonds and flashed past them into the betting office. She was the bookmaker's wife. One turned to the other and said: “Be God, Paddy, isn't she a credit to us.” I would not cry any crocodile tears for the welfare of the betting industry because like many others in the House we have had our ups and downs in that game, mostly downs, but it is nice to know that the bookmakers have extended a welcome.

I should like on this occasion to take the opportunity to congratulate the Minister for Defence, Deputy Donegan, on his handling to date of the Irish Army jumping team. Recently I read in a national newspaper the headline “Irish Jumping Team Horse Has to Be Sold”. My heart missed a beat and I thought: it is the end of the horse industry for Ireland if we have not an Irish Army jumping team. It was our main shop window in my estimation. But I went to the bother of meeting the Minister and asking him about it. I have a personal interest. I was promised by him to have the Army jumping team at the Wicklow County Show next August Monday. I am not making any commercials but——

Mr. Killilea: Information on Mark Killilea Jnr.  Zoom on Mark Killilea Jnr.  The Senator should not be using her influence like that.

Miss Walsh: Information on Mary Walsh  Zoom on Mary Walsh  It is not a matter of influence. It is a matter of priority. It is a county show.

Mr. Dolan: Information on Séamus Dolan  Zoom on Séamus Dolan  The Senator is on the right side of the House.

Miss Walsh: Information on Mary Walsh  Zoom on Mary Walsh  Though the Minister very graciously told me that it is only the culls, the deadwood horses, that in his estimation and in the estimation of the connoisseurs were no longer fitted to be associated with the Irish jumping team. I was very pleased to know that. I am sure that under his careful guidance the Irish Army jumping team's colours will fly victoriously over many arenas throughout the world as they did in the past.

It goes without saying that the soil of Ireland is peculiarly rich in lime and many parts of the country produce the best boned horses in the world. This is borne out by the fact that we have at the bloodstock sales in Ballsbridge, indeed any bloodstock sales throughout [1237] the country, international buyers from many parts of the world who are specialists in this field.

The decision to charge higher levies on course bets with bookmakers will enable the Racing Board to provide better facilities for the racing public and in my estimation, as a very infrequent racegoer, these facilities are long overdue. Other speakers have referred to the tote facilities, which are totally and completely inadequate. I very often have a flutter but if I do I rarely go to the totaliser system because of the fact that one would need a new pair of feet by the time one had collected one's 25p at the other side. We could have many more selling and payout officers and I would hope that as a result of the moneys being provided in the Bill better facilities generally, not alone from the totalisator's point of view, but seating accommodation and many other facilities that I will not bother going into will be improved and extended.

The amount of capital generated by the racing and bloodstock industry in Ireland is phenomenal and I should like to refer to the many spin-off industries, like tourism, catering, the bar industry and particularly the employment content that it generates. As far as Wicklow is concerned it certainly is a terrific boost to our tourist industry. It extends the tourist period right up to Christmas, starting with cub-hunting at the end of October. We have people from all parts of Europe and even from America coming to hunt with the Wicklow and other hounds. We even have a sister of the wife of Shah of Persia, Farah Diba, who hunts regularly down in Bel Air with the Wicklow Hounds——

Mr. Killilea: Information on Mark Killilea Jnr.  Zoom on Mark Killilea Jnr.  Tell Richie Ryan about it.

Miss Walsh: Information on Mary Walsh  Zoom on Mary Walsh  He knows about it and I do not think she will worry about Richie Ryan either. There is another point relating to employees in the racing industry. I would hope that we in Ireland will never see the day that I visualised on television last Sunday when the stable lads in Paris compared very favourably in their rioting tactics with Bloody Sunday in Derry. I would hope that everybody connected with the industry will be satisfied that they are [1238] getting a fair day's pay for a fair day's work and I sincerely wish that we will not have a recurrence of what has been happening internationally. I understand it occurred again at Ascot but I do not know what the outcome was.

There is another sector of this vast field which I should like to refer to and that is the work of Bord na gCapall in the training of farriers. The village smithy was endemic in Ireland particularly: it was part of the Irish national scene always. In every village in Ireland we had the village forge and, unfortunately, perhaps because of snobbery, this seems to have become extinct. I am very pleased to think that Bord na gCapall have now embarked on a training course for young farriers. Once more it is to get the status it deserves. It is a very highly specialised, technical, and a very necessary work if the horse industry is to continue in the country. The only thing I see wrong with it is that the Taoiseach should consider advising Bord na gCapall to introduce a scale of fees for farriers. Some of them work for buttons. Because there are so few of them in the country they are much in demand, and being of the older type Irish person they do not like to move with the times or they have not moved with the times and they have not increased their fees to the scale to which they are entitled. I would like to think that they, too, would be looked after under the terms of this Bill, whether it is by Bord na gCapall or whatever.

Horse fairs in Ireland have become almost extinct with the introduction of cattle marts followed by the introduction of horse marts. It is not my opinion but the considered opinion of many people in the horse trade both at the buying and selling ends, that horse marts never were and never will be a complete success because they eliminate the trial system for the horse: when the horse was yoked to the cart and he had his trial, if he stood up to it he was worthy of a fair price. Of course we are now dealing more with bloodstock and, perhaps, this nullifies the point I am making. Nevertheless, something could be done to re-introduce horse fairs, particularly the well-known ones, throughout Ireland. Some incentive or encouragement should be given to the [1239] open horse trading that went on because not alone was it an asset to the horse industry itself but it was an asset to the towns and villages concerned, to the business people—another spin-off from the horse industry.

Racing has often been described as the sport of kings. Golf is spoken of in somewhat similar terms. Yet we now have municipal golf courses and I do not think racing is any longer the sport of kings because in my county and in practically every county in Ireland they have packs of hounds and hunting clubs. There is a recent innovation in the last, say, ten or 15 years of the introduction of pony clubs. The children of today are the men of tomorrow and, so, the young riders of today in the pony clubs may become the ace jockeys of tomorrow and will, I hope, earn a niche in the sphere of international horse racing. For that reason I should like to see some form of incentive given to the pony clubs throughout the country.

I have spoken of the value of our horse industry generally as a tourist attraction and I forgot to mention not alone from a hunting point of view also pony trekking. Practically every grade A hotel throughout rural Ireland has hunting, fishing, shooting, golfing and now the added incentive of pony trekking which has become a very popular form of holiday sport.

I should like the Taoiseach in his reply to let me know if he agrees with me about the farriers, the horse fairs, the pony clubs and any other point which I have made that may not have been dealt with before. I welcome the Bill and I compliment the Taoiseach on having done such a wonderful job in introducing this Bill, not alone for the horse industry but for the whole country because, as I said, it is one of our greatest assets in correcting our balance of payments. It is worthy of a speedy passage through the House.

Mr. J. Fitzgerald: Information on John Jack Fitzgerald  Zoom on John Jack Fitzgerald  I also welcome the Bill. It is only fair that one should pay tribute to the Minister and the Government who passed a Racing Board and Racecourse Bill in 1945. Their foresight 30 years ago has been justified because of the establishment of the Racing Board which have done [1240] so much for racing and for horse breeding since they were established.

Mention has been made of the worldwide reputation of the Irish horse. We are inclined, I believe, to live on our reputation. Other countries have entered this field and, indeed, in many of those countries the foundation stock have been the Irish horse and mare that have been purchased in this country. We are now facing very tough competition from not alone the British, French, Italians and Americans but in recent years the Japanese, who have been big spenders in this field and have purchased quite a lot of the best stallions and mares that were available on the market.

We are all pleased to see that the Americans and the Japanese are aware of the talent and the ability of our Irish trainers. They send their two-year-olds here to be trained, and very successfully indeed. There are many examples of those trained in this country that have been winning high-class races—the Epsom Derby, the Prix de L'Arc and other big races like those. While we can be happy that it can be put down to being an Irish-trained success, the fact remains that these are successes for American and Japanese breeders, while the British can be very naïve and appear to get away with it: they buy up our yearlings and they race them and when they are successful they describe them as British bred horses. It can be very annoying. A few years ago I was in London on the day after the Laurel Park International which was one of the few occasions on which the British won that race. It was a Sunday morning and all the placards of the British newspapers read: “British Win Laurel Park International”. There was no mention of the fact that that British horse was foaled and bred in Ireland. It is very difficult to overcome that type of thing but we should be conscious of the fact that we have a great asset in our bloodstock. I am pleased to see that this Bill will go some way to ensuring that everything possible is done to keep up the high standards of our thoroughbred breeding.

Mention has been made of employment. On the racecourse there are the bookies, their clerks, their runners, [1241] stilesmen and so on. Again, we get back to our stud farms where there is a very high volume of employment. Thank God, that this is at least one area in which manual labour can always be maintained because you cannot break, train or get foals and yearlings ready in any other way except by the employment of humans. Conveyor belts or machinery cannot operate on a stud farm as far as the handling of horses is concerned.

Mention has also been made of the performances of our international teams in the shows around the world. Thirty or 40 years ago we were very proud of the performances of our Army jumping team. The names of men like Colonel Fred Aherne, Captain Harty, Colonel Corry and so on were household names not alone in this country but around the world. When I spoke about reputation, we appear to be living on the reputation that was built by those great horsemen. I have no doubt that we have men and women of the calibre of those people. It is sad to watch international show jumping competitions in any part of the world on television and to see the dismal performances, except on the odd occasion, of our horses. I deliberately use the word “horses” because it is not the fault of the riders.

I am not satisfied that Bord na gCapall are playing the part they might play in ensuring that our riders will have available to them horses that have potential but which are being sold and being ridden by men from Germany, Italy and from Britain, in competition with our riders at those international shows. The Taoiseach, in introducing this amending Bill stated that the State grant to Bord na gCapall for 1975 was £650,000. That is a considerable sum of money by any standards. I realise that it has to cover things other than the purchase of horses but it is mentioned here that the board promote sales of horses. That is all right but we should not allow our best horses to be sold.

Every Irish man and woman wants to see our riders on the best possible horses. We do not want to see them being ridden by foreign riders and bringing honour to other countries. Our riders should be given at least an equal chance of competing with them on the [1242] best possible Irish horses. I appeal to the Taoiseach to do something to ensure that Bord na gCapall, or some other organisation, will try to rectify that situation so that the high standards set by the Army jumping team in the early years can at least be re-established. If our riders are given the opportunity they, too, can bring the honour to this country that was brought by their predecessors.

Mr. Kilbride: Information on Thomas Kilbride  Zoom on Thomas Kilbride  I, too, welcome this Bill to improve bloodstock and horse breeding in this country. It is recognised that the association of the horse with sport is perhaps the only viable purpose for which horses are kept. I agree with the imposition of tax on betting at racecourses. An appropriate adjustment has to be made at this stage if we are to infuse into the horse breeding industry a sum in line with the value of money.

First of all, I should like to say that we have a reputation for producing the finest bloodstock in the world. Certain parts of the country are well known as areas where very high-class bloodstock has been produced. This Bill is not intended to deal with bloodstock alone. Certain aspects of it show the desire of the Government for the improvement of the breeding of half-bred and good-class hunter horses.

In that regard much can be done to encourage farmers to retain good-class brood mares, half-bred mares, that will produce the type of hunter desired by most people in the hunting field and in the bloodstock industry. In my part of the country I find we have had the attention of very prominent people who have been for years the owners of the most successful show jumpers and racehorses in the country. We have had people like Galway Greer and others procuring the very best hunters and jumpers in County Longford. I am glad to know that the Taoiseach was interested in some hunter animals there. On occasions he visited us, too. Of course, from the other side of the House we had some people—I do not know if they were unlucky horses for some of the ex-Ministers—buying excellent jumpers in Longford. It may not be known that the great horse, “Bendigo”, was bred by the Taylor family in Longford. It was the property of the [1243] owner of the Mick Taylor tobacco company. It was also the place where “Heartbreak Hill” was bred. These are horses that even today are regarded as outstanding performers. In regard to the sale of our horses the Government and the National Stud should take special care to ensure that into the areas that have a good reputation for producing a good type hunter and a good type of brood mare, where the RDS inspectors find a high standard of animal exhibited at shows, should be leased the sort of stallion, to which Senator Killilea referred, the sort of stallion that will improve that standard much further. That has not been the case in the past. Stallions were sent into areas that had not a great reputation for the production of high quality horses. I join in appealing to the Taoiseach to ensure that these areas will get appropriate recognition for the promotion of a better standard of hunter-class animals as a result of the placing of these special stallions.

I have to agree with Senator Fitzgerald's remarks. The sale of horses proven here at shows to foreign interests is something to be regretted. It is hardly fair that a country with such a reputation as ours should find ourselves in competition with ourselves. I agree we could not maintain all the animals we breed, but we sell the horses that have already made a name for themselves. We have done it very recently. We sell these horses abroad and they come back in competition with the horses left with the Army and the Irish jumping team. If we were able to retain them for even one or two years it would enhance our image in the world of bloodstock.

I regret that one of the finest sportsmen and horsemen in show jumping, Eddie Macken, had to leave Ireland. I feel he had to leave because we were not able to give him what our competitors in Germany are able to pay him. We should be able to bring someone from Germany, France or Britain here and, by having someone of Eddie's calibre, be able to turn the tables on those countries. We should try to retain people of his calibre.

I should like to see the Government [1244] and Bord na gCapall continue to exercise this strict code of discipline in relation to racing. It was not in as healthy a condition some time ago as it is now. The code of discipline is welcome and is something that the Government are to be commended on. The rules have to be very strict and it is very important that they be reviewed fairly regularly. As a result of that fair play will obtain. If fair play does not obtain it is a serious matter. I congratulate the Taoiseach on the Bill.

Mr. Kerrigan: Information on Patrick Kerrigan  Zoom on Patrick Kerrigan  I do not intend to delay the House very long with the few comments I have to make because most of the ground has been travelled and all the important points have been made. The Racing Board since their establishment have greatly helped racing in this country. This is a Bill to enable the board to invest more money, especially as far as the prize fund is concerned. This is an urgent matter because it is the only way to maintain a healthy industry and thus enable the terms and conditions of the work force to be improved. Some people—they are only a minority at the moment—have the idea that if we had only the totalisator and no bookmakers more money would be ploughed back into the industry. I do not think this is so, because the enticement to race meetings in some parts of rural Ireland is not alone the races themselves but the colourful atmosphere lent to them by bookmakers and so on. Racing in this country must be, if not the cheapest, very nearly the cheapest in Europe. The attitude of the bookmakers to this increased levy, which, incidentally will be paid by the punters, is to be commended, because they realise the need for more investment. I join with Senator Killilea in trying to ensure that it is the small owner down the country who gains most from this through prize money, who will then channel it back to those he has working for him.

One matter I should like to bring to the notice of the Racing Board is that more old age pensioners are going to the races than heretofore. I suggest to the board that, as they control one racecourse and have part ownership of another, they should have free admittance for old age pensioners at these courses. They should also make the [1245] same suggestion to the private racecourses. It is something for old age pensioners to do. It is extraordinary that they can afford to go racing but there is a large percentage of old age pensioners going racing. There is no need for me to dwell on the part that racing and breeding of racehorses plays on the economy. This is all covered in the Taoiseach's statement. I welcome the Bill and hope that more facilities are made available to the ordinary punter.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  In common with the other Senators who have spoken my attitude to this Bill is that no one objects to paying an increased levy when one is satisfied that that increase will be devoted towards the improvement of whatever sport or activity he or she follows. That is the reason why there has been general acceptance of this Bill. The general public, and those of us who represent them, appreciate that the money which is collected by way of levy is used to improve the racing scene. No one will object when the money is used for an improvement.

All of us recognise for some time that the stake money in Irish racing is far below what it should be. The recent commencement of an increase in the amount of stakes is a welcome sign and one that I hope will be continued as a result of the passing of this Bill. Listening to the various speakers talking about the facilities at the tracks around the country I could not help reflecting on the great contrast between one track and another. For instance, the excellent facilities that are available at Leopardstown as against the poorer facilities or absence of them in some of the more rural tracks. The Racing Board and those involved in the industry will have to have a hard look at the sort of facilities that are provided in courses and at the various uses that courses are put to. The average track stages three, six or eight meetings a year. For the vast bulk of the time the facilities are lying unused. To provide adequate facilities means providing bars, restaurants, public stands, car parks, and they then stand idle for the greater part of the year.

At Leopardstown there is a golfing school in the centre of the course and the catering facilities can be hired out [1246] to organisations or the general public for functions. It is a step in the right direction, just as the bringing in of a garden centre in the Phoenix Park is also a step along the right road. There will have to be a greater utilisation of public buildings and a greater amount of thinking put into the multi use of public buildings. In the same way racecourse executives should consider the diversification of usage of the race tracks around the country.

We hear about lack of sporting facilities and amenities in our towns and built-up areas. Very often the centre of racecourses, the area around which the track is built, is left lying idle or is let out on conacre and not really used to the fullest when you consider the type of spectator facilities that are provided beside it. Perhaps there is a case to be made for the racecourse executives and the Racing Board getting involved in the provision of a wide range of sporting facilities at race tracks so that they are not just tracks but sporting or leisure centres that can be used all year round by a much wider range of the general public and even by those who may not be directly interested in racing at all.

In that way, either revenue would be generated, which would help to pay for the type of facilities that are needed for racing, or, alternatively, the cost of providing the facilities would be borne and shared by a much wider group of people. It is something to which the Racing Board ought to devote an amount of attention. The ideas that they have sufficient capital allocation for improvements is good and one which we all welcome.

There are a number of tracks where the facilities leave an amount to be desired. We welcome the improvement in stakes that is taking place. The Racing Board will have to see to it that facilities are brought up to a high standard. It is fair to say that the general public are not prepared to go racing or to any other sport where there is not an adequate standard of comfort provided for them. Very often in the past a man might have gone racing on his own but increasingly so nowadays you find him bringing his wife and in cases where facilities are provided [1247] bringing his family also who can be left in the children's playground or a crèche. These are the things that will have to be provided to make racing attractive and economically viable.

Some of the courses that were closed down in the past or have a threat of closure hanging over them were courses that did not have those facilities or did not try to provide them. The go-ahead executives and those who try to attract crowds are usually successful in their efforts.

In common with other speakers, I should like to think that, while more money is going into the stakes end of the business, consideration would also be given to the situation of all the people working in the racing industry. It would be a lamentable state of affairs if we ended up with the sort of situation they have at Ascot this afternoon, where television was not allowed in to broadcast the racing because of the dispute which the stable lads have with the trainers and owners in Britain. I would like to think that there would be an enlightened attitude in this country and that any reasonable claim the lads have—their hours are certainly long and their rewards are far from generous—would be settled in a fair and equitable fashion rather than in the high-handed way that seems to have happened in England. That has brought about a lamentable state of affairs there.

I was glad to read of the educational facilities being provided on the Curragh for apprentice jockeys. It is important to see that young men who are interested in taking on this career receive some form of education. If they become successful jockeys, it is important that they have a fair standard of education. On the other hand if for one reason or another, they cannot continue in their career due to weight or height problems or not being good enough, it is important that they have a standard of education so that they will not be confined to the scrap heap of racing. This happened to unsuccessful jockeys in the past. This move is good and I hope it will be expanded.

As chairman of County Dublin Vocational Education Committee, I was interested to see advertised in our [1248] schools a training course for apprentice jockeys in the arts and skills of horsemanship. This is a worthwhile innovation and is to be welcomed and encouraged.

There has been a lot of talk about the fact that there are too many horses in training and the costs involved. From time to time we hear comments about the poor standards of the Irish racing industry. I was looking at the results from Ascot yesterday and I noticed that out of six races, there were two Irish winners. In another race, an Irish bred horse won and in another an Irish bred horse was second. There is not much wrong with an industry that can, out of a single day's racing at Ascot, have those results. By all accounts, if we are to believe the tipsters, there may be another three or four winners today for Ireland. There are 15 racehorses running today in the six races and more will race later in the week.

It is a healthy sign when the best of the Irish two- and three-year-olds can take away those prizes at Ascot at this time of the year. At the other end of the scale one can go to meetings and watch maiden three-year-olds or jumpers and then wonder if any horse could possibly win. The standard of some are very poor. There are extremes in the industry and it would be good if an attempt was made to improve the standard of horses being entered in races.

I do not believe that the standard of Irish horses in the racing industry has gone down. Perhaps, what happened with the breeding side of the industry in the last couple of years was because of the recession on a worldwide basis. There was not as ready an overseas market for Irish three-year-olds, in England especially, as there had been in previous years. For that reason, they were kept back here and we had an additional number of horses in training here. There was talk of a recession. It was not a recession in our industry; it was a recession abroad. The export market was not there for them. I do not think it brought down the standard of breeding or of Irish racing; if anything, it improved the standard of Irish racing.

The additional 1 per cent impost [1249] would be acceptable to the punters as long as they realised—and I think they do, judging by any comments I have read about it, with the exception of one—that that money is being used for the improvement of the racing industry. The gentleman who took advertising space in the public press to criticise the impost is not short of a shilling and he will not have to pay the additional 1 per cent. In fairness, his political views are well known and they would not be in agreement with the Taoiseach who is introducing the Bill. Perhaps, that may have motivated him to advertise the fact that he, as a bookmaker, was not in agreement with the increase being proposed. The punter, generally, will accept the increase, will be happy to pay it, and continue to pay it to the bookmakers.

Senator Russell made the point that there was twice as much taken by tax from the bookmakers as there was from the tote. That is true but £896,000 was taken from the bookmakers on a turnover of £18.4 million as against £420,000 taken from the tote on a turnover of £1.4 million. If one looks at it that way, the person who backs on the tote is paying a great deal extra by way of tax over and above the person who places a bet with the bookmakers. I believe he will continue to place the bet with the bookmakers and the extra 1 per cent will not make any difference to the industry in that way.

A number of references have been made to the horse industry generally and I could not help thinking when I heard all the aspects of horses and ponies mentioned, that if a 6 per cent tax was put on all the things talked about a wider range of activity would be brought into the financial net than was envisaged. All we are talking about is increasing the betting levy. For that reason, I tried to confine myself to the racing aspect of the industry.

It is fair to mention that the recent increase in off-course levy to 20 per cent, has made it unattractive for the average punter. I know, as the Taoiseach said, that different Ministers for Finance cast about to find different ways of raising revenue. I would not be surprised if the 20 per cent will have taken that method of raising revenue beyond the point of [1250] diminishing returns. I would never have set the world on fire by the amount of bets I place off the course because my main interest is in watching the horses even if my one is last. I had an occasional bet off the course but I am not inclined to do that now. At 20 per cent I find it is prohibitive, especially for anyone who is interested in backing favourites or any kind of short priced horse. It is not an attractive proposition.

I suggest to the Taoiseach that the figure of 20 per cent be reviewed to make it more attractive for the punter. Some punters are not punting off the course; some of the bigger ones, if they are backing ante-post, are sending their money abroad because the tax rates are more attractive. A case should be made to revise that at the next opportunity or, alternatively, to see that some of the money brought in in that way is ploughed back into the racing industry. If it was felt it was going into the sport those engaging in it might not feel so painful when asked to pay the tax. There are some people who are physically or financially unable to attend race meetings. To ask them to pay 20 per cent as opposed to someone who is at the course enjoying watching the horses run and being asked to pay 6 per cent is a little unfair, especially when that tax is not going back into the industry.

I welcome this Bill. I thought I detected a note of apprehension in the voices of many who spoke but there is not much point in any of us talking about the industry when the Taoiseach obviously knows more about it. He has been in it all his life and his father before him. Despite the time we spent talking I doubt if the Taoiseach has learned much about the racing industry today. If some of those on the other side who expressed an ignorance of the racing scene have learned a little about the feelings of punters and those who are interested in and love horses it was a useful debate. Rarely are we given an opportunity to speak about this important Irish industry. When the occasion arises we all ought to take the opportunity of speaking on it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  I should like to thank the Seanad for a very interesting and wide-ranging debate. Many viewpoints [1251] were expressed and all of them indicated support for the economic importance of racing and the bloodstock industry generally. Indeed, the one common attribute which characterised all the Senators who spoke was the fact that they welcomed the Bill because they recognised it was necessary to put more money into racing, and generally, to make the industry as a whole more economic. While a number of Senators —and Members of the Dáil—had reservations about the effect of an increase in the levy, the fact was that from all sides there were suggestions that the amount of money available for stakes was below that necessary to attract and maintain racing, bloodstock breeding and the whole industry in an economic state.

The main purpose of the Bill is to increase the levy. The terms of that section enables the Racing Board, should they consider it desirable, to increase the levy to a maximum not exceeding 10 per cent. But in each case the sanction of the Minister for Finance must be obtained. This procedure was laid down in the parent Act when the maximum levy was 5 per cent. The levy has remained fairly constant at 5 per cent since the establishment of the Racing Board. It is important to recall however, that, having originally been fixed at 5 per cent, it was subsequently reduced by the Racing Board, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, to 2½ per cent. It was only when it became obvious that revenue was inadequate to maintain the stakes at the level required and to provide the other amenities and facilities necessary that a decision was taken to increase it again. Again, the consent of the Minister for Finance had to be obtained.

Now, with the passage of time, and the increasing demand for higher stakes in racing, and demands from patrons for better amenities and facilities, it is obvious that the time has come to amend the Act. The suggested amendment is that a 10 per cent ceiling be applied. As I mentioned, the Racing Board intend when the Bill is law, and subject to the consent of the Minister for Finance, to increase it by only 1 per cent.

[1252] The dilemma has been obvious here. Most Senators who spoke suggested more money for racing but many had reservations about increasing the levy beyond 1 per cent of what it is at present, in other words, beyond 6 per cent. However, there is a safeguard here which was not in the 1945 Act, that is, any orders made by the Racing Board, to which the Minister's consent naturally had to be given, must now be laid before both Houses. In either House a motion can be put down within 21 days, if a Deputy or a Senator considers it necessary.

One of the questions which arises when legislation such as this is being considered—the last speaker, Senator Boland, adverted to it—is that this is a vast industry. As Senators rightly said, it provides employment throughout the country, it is not confined to any county or any part of a county. Of course, some counties are predominantly more suited soilwise, from the point of view of size of farms, the traditions in the area and a whole variety of other factors. It is correct to say that, by and large, the whole country, in one way or another, is interested in horse breeding —if not necessarily in racehorses, in horse breeding, generally—but some areas have peculiar attributes that make them especially suitable for breeding good-class horses.

Despite massive investment in the industry, despite the fact that there is available in it employment—in the main, male employment—that is dispersed throughout the country, it is remarkable how little discussion takes place on it. In my experience, except on a few occasions perhaps on the Estimates for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and one or two isolated instances like that, there have been only two pieces of legislation, other than dealing directly with horses, which have been before both Houses and have been the subject of debate. The total expenditure I mentioned covers the Racing Board, with which we are mainly concerned here—I mentioned the amount for the National Stud—and Bord na gCapall. The industry provides immense employment and, in addition, it has considerable external investment. I listened, with considerable care, to what [1253] Senator Quinlan said but the facts refute the criticism he made.

Racing is now an international business or industry, more so than ever before. There is ease of travel, ease of movement of horses. In the past the animals had to go by boat and train to attend major meetings. Now they can be moved rapidly within a country by motorised transport and from country to country by air with extraordinary rapidity. That has made for a new situation. In the 1920s and 1930s—then the war intervened—there were very few foreign owners here but there was one remarkable owner who made a massive investment, the late Aga Khan. He achieved remarkable success but he put a great deal of money into it and had a number of stud farms here. When war broke out he had standing here and in Britain a number of Derby winners, but at one stroke he decided to sell three or four of them to the United States. This caused a great deal of comment. The best blood lines were being exported and the loss was serious for Irish and English breeders.

However, racing improved after the war years and he bred a number of other good horses and subsequently sold one of them to the late Mr. Joseph McGrath who afterwards resold him to the United States. The descendants of these horses have crossed and recrossed the Atlantic with benefit. I agree with Senators who said that very often in the British Press, when successes are achieved by Irish horses, adequate attention is not paid to that success. Often in the British Press, France or the United States are given credit for breeding the successful horses, but if we have a success, occasionally, if it is possible to camouflage it, they seem to forget to mention that Irish horses are involved. There are notable occasions when the facts cannot be obscured. At this year's Cheltenham races many of the winners were bred here and it was impossible to obscure the fact that they were bred here, trained here and ridden by Irish jockeys.

The point I was making is that it is to the benefit of the industry to have this movement of horses from country to country because it avoids inbreeding and enables them to get the advantage [1254] of different blood lines. Last year when in Paris for an EEC meeting I went to Longchamp where the French St. Leger was on. It was won by an American-owned horse that was trained in France but the sire stood in Ireland. Of course, everyone who read of the success immediately had their attention directed to the fact that the sire of this winner was standing here. He was an American-bred horse but he happened to be here. That is good publicity for Irish breeding and Irish bloodstock.

It is impossible nowadays to specifically isolate one country or another, but undoubtedly, the most successful racing industry in Europe at the moment is in France. That brings me to a point raised by Senators, that it should be possible to channel some of the money from the SP betting or, otherwise, into racing. There is a big difference between the system operated in France and that operating here and in Britain. In France the betting is solely on the totalisator. That means no bookmakers and it means that all the money goes into one pool and is then distributed. Last year about £84 million was available as a result of the totalisator and, naturally, the stakes were bigger and the breeders' incentives greater.

This, however, would raise a big question here but I do not think we should be averse at some time to considering it. It would certainly mean a complete change with the system that operates here which includes bookmakers. Most people who go racing, and those who have spoken in the Seanad or in the Dáil, recognise that bookmakers are part of the racing scene and, indeed, part of the attraction. In the past a lot of bookmakers were colourful characters. There may be fewer colourful characters nowadays but they are part of the scene and there is an atmosphere about bookmakers and about betting with the books. As Senator Russell remarked, people like to see the bookmaker. When they bet through the tote it is an artificial business. One is more at home talking to a bookmaker, even if one cannot get better odds from him. At least one can have a friendly word with him.

On the other hand, in this country and in Britain a good deal of the money [1255] that might otherwise be channelled back into racing undoubtedly goes in SP bets. Indeed none of that, except to the extent of the State grant, goes back into racing. In addition a certain amount of betting is undoubtedly on football pools in Britain. In France, as I understand it, they have no football pools and, consequently, all the money wagered goes through one channel, is controlled in one way and used to the undoubted benefit of French racing.

One of the factors involved in the present unfortunate situation in Britain in the dispute between the racehorse trainers and the stable lads is the fact that racing there is no longer economic. There have been many comments by those involved in it, trainers, owners and commentators who follow racing closely in the Press, on radio and television, that the stakes available are inadequate to attract and maintain racing at the standard it should be.

It is precisely because of the situation that has developed there and the anxiety of the Racing Board, the Government and those who are informed on the situation, that this Bill is being introduced to increase the amount of money going into racing. While everybody speaks in favour of providing additional money the question is how to raise it. Some people suggest that it could be got from diverting some of the SP resources into racing. This is like any other tax. No matter what tax is raised, the practice and the recognised procedure here is that taxes go into the Central Exchequer. They are then distributed in whatever way the Government or the Minister responsible decides.

To depart from that would mean that taxes would be earmarked for a particular purpose and raised for that. While it is always attractive to propose it, it is not so easy to work it. If it applies in one case why would it not apply in another? Obviously, there must be limitations on it. If there is to be a change here we will have to consider the question of a system somewhat similar to the French system and I doubt if there would be public support for it.

There have been remarkable changes so far as the amenities are concerned.

[1256] When transport was difficult some years ago, when the expenses involved were less, people were satisfied with less. A great case has been made over the years for the smaller tracks and the Racing Board are giving this lengthy and careful consideration. Some years ago the board had decided on a grading system but as a result of an increase in the number of runners, the operation of that proposed system has been abandoned. The problem remains that it is almost impossible where there are underutilised racecourses to provide the same facilities as people expect. In addition to providing the facilities, if there are only two or three days' racing in a year, it is necessary to maintain and keep the track in proper order. Senator Keegan spoke about the problems of his local meeting which originally was confined to one day a year but has now three days. There was a good meeting there recently but Senator Keegan will recall that some years ago there was at least one tragic accident on the course. Naturally, an accident can happen on any course but if the track is not properly maintained, if the necessary capital work, reseeding and resurfacing, are not undertaken the risks are greater.

Many Senators mentioned that some provincial tracks had closed. In fact, since the war very few tracks closed. There is the case, which Senator Killilea is aware of, of Tuam but the day Tuam lost has been given to Galway. The closure there was not due solely to the exigencies of the racing scene but to other factors. Mullingar has closed and, indeed, one metropolitan track, Baldoyle, also closed. Most of the tracks that succeeded in surviving the war have continued in existence and, in a number of cases, some that closed when racing was regionalised during the shortage of petrol have reopened and have done rather well.

On the other hand it is obvious that with a certain amount of money available for racing, with a certain amount available from the tote levy and the levy on bookmakers, the resources should be used to the best advantage. The best advantage means putting it in the tracks that give the greatest return. Strangely enough, as I mentioned in the Dáil, one of the anomalies [1257] of this situation is that in Kerry where there are three very successful tracks it is possible that not one racehorse is trained in the county. On the other hand some counties that breed, train and produce a lot of horses have very few tracks. In the case of Cork there is only one track but we cannot suddenly change the face of the map and decide that radical changes should be made. The facts are that some of the festival or holiday meetings produce the greatest revenue and attract the greatest crowds. As far as the Racing Board are concerned, they contribute a great deal of the revenue available for development and progress.

A number of Senators referred to the incentives for breeders. Again, unfortunately, the incentives here are nothing like as good as they are in France. The bigger races here have certain prizes for breeders—the Sweeps Derby, the Guiness Oaks, the 3,000 Guineas, the St. Leger and the 1,000 Guineas. In addition the stallion incentive scheme is a relatively new scheme and one that is providing some encouragement. Certain breeders' prizes are paid to breeders of all Irish winners and winners of selected British races if the sire of the winner is registered with the stallion incentive scheme which was organised by the Bloodstock Breeders' Association and guaranteed by the Racing Board. The amount paid to breeders by this stallion incentive scheme in 1974 was £76,000.

A number of Senators raised questions about Bord na gCapall, their breeding policy, and the Army jumping team. Let me first deal with the points raised by Senator Killilea. I shall certainly arrange to have discussed with Bord na gCapall the difficulty of getting suitable stallions in the counties he mentioned, Galway, Mayo and Clare. The arrangements now in respect of these schemes, which formerly were undertaken by the Department of Agriculture, have been transferred to Bord na gCapall. I had not heard any complaints about shortage of stallions in these areas and, certainly, I shall ensure that the matter is taken up with the board.

In so far as the question of the [1258] Ballinasloe fair is concerned, here again is a matter that Bord na gCapall should discuss with local interests. I certainly agree that there have been in the past a number of important fairs. Senator Mary Walsh referred to Tinahely and many other Senators, including Senator Killilea, to the Ballinasloe fair. Even still there are some substantial fairs for the sale of young horses, potential hunters and show jumpers, and even trained hunters and show jumpers. Ballinasloe, I suppose, is the biggest one there was; there is also Tinahely, Tallow in Waterford and Cahermee in Cork and there are others, like Kilrush and Spancel Hill. Nowadays, there are some successful Bord na gCapall sales and, indeed, some sales conducted by marts. In the Blessington mart there have been quite successful sales of horses, hunters and show jumpers. In the main, it is a new development and, obviously, it is one that should be introduced with some caution, with some regard to the traditional practices of the areas mentioned.

I should like to deal with the point mentioned by Senator Harte. It is very hard to get a representative of the punters. I suppose every one who goes racing in some way or other, if he bets, is a punter. But there is no way of getting an authorised representative certainly for such a vast and heterogeneous body. It is a matter to which the Racing Board must give some consideration. Some of the members appointed to the board, are regarded as representing the punter in the sense that they are racegoers, and part of the function of the board is to provide improved amenities and facilities such as catering facilities, stand accommodation and so on. There is the other question of giving consideration to the interests of those employed in the industry. It is vital that those involved in racing should take into account the problems involved, the long hours and the fact, as a Senator said, that like dairying it is a seven days a week job. Arrangements, I know, in most cases exist for time off in lieu of the extra days, so that those who are involved in it get reasonable free time and reasonable rest periods.

In regard to the Army jumping team, considerably increased money was made [1259] available for the purchase of horses, and many horses were purchased by the equitation school last year, in fact, during the Horse of the Year Show and, indeed, in at least one case a horse was purchased at one of the Bord na gCapall sales. In addition, some horses were leased from Bord na gCapall to the Army equitation team. So far as the past glories of the team are concerned, which brought tremendous prestige to the country and to which many look back with such happy recollections, the modern international jumping scene is very different to what it was in the 1920s or 1930s. At that time almost all European countries had army teams. Nowadays, no single country has an army team. In fact, probably in only one or two cases do army members compete on the teams. The Italians still have one or two people on their team. There are occasionally one or two elsewhere, but apart from these exceptional cases, most teams are nowadays, civilian teams.

Therefore, in making comparisons with the success of the army teams in the past, we are not quite comparing like with like. That does not mean to say that one would not like to do extremely well. It is fair to say that allowing for the changed circumstances they have done extremely well. We have some top-class riders. The difficulty, of course, is to get the rider and the horses and to have both at the same time. With reference to what Senator Russell said, they are buying both trained and unbroken horses. In the past, the practice was to buy entirely unbroken horses. In recent times they varied it in order to try to ensure that they would have available some horses for competition at the moment and some coming along in the course of training.

Senator Kilbride raised the question of making racing more attractive so that some successful Irish jockeys and riders would not have to go abroad. Here again, it is the economics of the situation. There is no system that I know of that can provide sufficient attraction to retain riders here if they want to go abroad. Undoubtedly, many of the successful jockeys who leave this country and go, mainly to Britain, do so because the opportunities are more [1260] numerous and the prospects are greater. It is not that nobody will accept them here, but obviously they can get more rides elsewhere.

We must look at the changed circumstances. Except for the Irish Derby or one or two of the classics, 40 or 50 years ago foreign jockeys never came to this country to ride unless they were permanently based here. Nowadays some of the leading jockeys, certainly one of them, can race in Ireland on a Saturday, in France on a Sunday and the rest of the week in Britain. That is a new situation. They can fly from one place to another. At the same time, it is important that we should make it as attractive as possible and here the question not only of sponsorship of racing but also sponsorship of show jumping is involved. There has been a big increase in that in the post-war years but, again, it is a question of finance and some of the firms that invested a good deal in this have, in recent times, because of demands elsewhere, not extended their sponsorship and, in some cases, probably reduced it.

The National Stud, as Senators are aware, has had very considerable success. The stud, after it was taken over from the British in the early forties, was set up under statue and quite a few of the sires that were purchased by the stud did extraordinarily well. The first lot of sires, horses like “Royal Charger” and “Preciptu” achieved international fame and one of them which was eventually sold to an American did extraordinarily well in America. Some of his progeny came back again to Europe and there has been an intermingling of blood lines ever since. In recent years a very considerable capital expansion programme has gone on at the stud. They have some expensive sires but they also have a number that are available at low fees. This is important because the stud is designed to facilitate the smaller breeders. The only way in which they can be made available is to ballot for nominations. It is not possible to meet all the applicants who wish to avail of the services. The procedure in the National Stud has been that mare owners who wish to avail of the services put their names in and they are balloted [1261] on. That applies whether the fee is the higher or lower one. The fact is that quite a number stallions are available at relatively low fees.

A number of Senators, including Senator Walsh, referred to the need to facilitate apprentices, particularly farrier apprentices, and also apprentice jockeys. Bord na gCapall have a farrier apprentice scheme. In the last few years there is a jockey apprentice scheme based on the Curragh which is run by those involved in racing. There are facilities at the National Stud and lectures are given and facilities provided by the Kildare Vocational Education Committee. In this case also the scheme is working well. Only time will tell whether it will produce jockeys, but, as Senator Boland remarked, it is important that, if for a variety of reasons, either weight or unsuitablility, these people eventually fail to reach the standard required, for riding as jockeys they would have a basic education that would enable them to apply themselves in other areas.

I think I have covered most of the points that were made. If I have overlooked any of them I will endeavour to get replies to any queries that individual Senators may have raised. Again, I would like to thank the Seanad for their generous welcome to the Bill and to express the hope that, as a result of increasing the levy and providing more finance for racing, the industry will continue to prosper and expand.

Question put and agreed to.

Agreed to take remaining Stages today.


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