"Less and less people are going to the dogs": Politicians discuss Ireland's dying greyhound industry
08 December 2016
"Less and less people are going to the dogs", "a lot of tracks are falling into disrepair", the turnover of bookies has dropped "very, very significantly", "in another couple of years, there will be no greyhound industry". Some of the comments made at this week's meeting of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine at which Agriculture Minister Michael Creed defended the government's granting of 80 million euro of taxpayers' money to the horse and greyhound industries.
The Minister, who has been involved in greyhound racing (co-owning a greyhound with other Fine Gael TDs) declared that the funding provided to the greyhound sector "helps sustain a long standing tradition as the industry is part of the social fabric of our country".
Refusing to acknowledge that it's a dying industry with a 50 per cent fall in track attendance and a 58 per cent drop in sponsorship, Minister Creed and the government continues to plough scarce public funds into greyhound racing, including €16 million in Budget 2017 (bringing the total handed over in the past 15 years to over €220 million).
A claim by Minister Creed that the greyhound industry "employs over 10,300 people" was ridiculed by one politician present. Labour Party's Willie Penrose (a pro-bloodsports TD from Westmeath) said: "Some people tell me that the estimate that there are 10,000 people employed in the industry is such a gross over-estimate that it's almost laughable."
"You talk to people in the greyhound industry and they tell you 'in another couple of years, there will be no greyhound industry'," he stated. "The owners are disappearing and everything else. There are huge questions in terms of the integrity of the industry. That's a huge issue. You can beat around bushes all you like and dive for cover but that's the big issue. That comes glaring out of the [Morris] report, doesn't it. That has to be tackled...The governance area has to be tightened up. Governance is important because you're giving huge lumps of state money that is extremely scarce. We still can't get a lot of resources that are required in other areas that have huge human costs and impact."
Charlie McConalogue TD (Fianna Fail, Donegal) agreed that "80 million is obviously a significant amount of funds to allocate on an annual basis" but was keen to "acknowledge the role the horse racing industry and greyhound industry play in rural Ireland and the important role that state funding has played in relation to that."
"I think it's important we do work to protect that and see both sectors develop and be enhanced as well," he said.
Also speaking at Tuesday's meeting in Leinster House were pro-coursing Sinn Fein TDs, Martin Kenny and Martin Ferris.
Martin Kenny challenged the level of funding being granted, saying "€80 million is an awful lot of money to be putting into organisations like this."
Focusing on horse racing, which received €64 million in Budget 2017, the Sligo Leitrim TD condemned as "simply unacceptable" and "wrong" the "amount of public money that's going in to pay for the prize money at the big races".
"In regard to Bord na gCon and the whole integrity of that industry, that is something that really needs to be looked at," he continued. "Everywhere I go, when I talk to people, they throw their eyes up to heaven. We have the recent case of the abducted dog. That all leads to this notion of the shenanigans that's going on...I know people who are engaged in the industry (from the point of view of looking after the dog tracks) and they're telling me that a lot of the dog tracks are bit by bit falling into disrepair because less and less people are going to the dogs and the main reason for that is this impression that is out there and I have to say, it's not without foundation."
Although praising greyhound breeders and their "value" to rural communities, Martin Ferris admitted that "in no way am I satisfied with the integrity of some of what's going on in relation to that industry...I think there's an awful lot of cleaning up [to be done] and the integrity has to be restored."
He went on to criticise the horse racing industry, saying "there are many people that would be listening to contributions here that have a very, very poor view of sections within the horse racing sector...you have some major trainers and horse owners who pay no tax in the country."
Despite having "serious reservations", however, he pledged his continued support - "I have always voted for it in the interest of what I call the common good in order to protect the small person trying to keep a little industry going in rural Ireland."
Jackie Cahill TD (Fianna Fail, Tipperary), a coursing supporter and owner of racing greyhounds, urged those present at the meeting to "make some recognition of track bookmakers and the difficulty they are facing." On-course turnover for bookies has "dropped very, very significantly", he revealed.
Watch the TDs speaking at the meeting
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed
Jackie Cahill TD
Martin Kenny TD
Thomas Pringle TD
Michael Creed TD
Willie Penrose TD
Martin Ferris TD
Charlie McConalogue TD
Michael Creed TD
Martin Kenny TD
Michael Creed TD
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Irish Government: Stop Giving Millions of Euro to Cruel Greyhound Industry
Don't attend greyhound races or community fund-raisers held at greyhound tracks (these are a significant source of funding for the cruel greyhound industry).
Greyhound racing should not be funded by the people of Ireland, the majority of whom have no interest in it and are rightly opposed to an industry in which dogs are injured, dumped and killed. Please join us in urging the government to stop wasting precious funds on this dying industry.
Minister for Finance
(Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, Minister of State Andrew Doyle)
Telephone: +353 (0)1-6764735
An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny
Department of the Taoiseach,
Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2
Telephone: +353 (0)1-6194020
Tweet to @EndaKennyTD
Michael Creed TD
Minister for Agriculture
Department of Agriculture
Kildare Street, Dublin 2.
Tel: +353 (0)1-607 2000 or LoCall 1890-200510.
Fax: +353 (0)1-661 1013.
Leave a comment on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/michaelcreedtd
Tweet to @creedcnw
Andrew Doyle TD
Minister of State, Dept of Agriculture
Tweet to @ADoyleTD
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