Parliamentary Questions and Answers
Question 37 - Answered on 13 July 2016
Mick Wallace, TD (Wexford, Independent) To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to outline the recent discussions he has had with Bord na gCon regarding the publication of the Morris report into greyhound racing; if the report has been finalised yet; if the report will be published in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Mick Wallace I wrote to the Minister recently asking why the Morris report has not been published. Clearly, those in Bord na gCon are failing the greyhound industry with their incompetence. They seem to have no regard for the integrity of the sport. The Government seems to support them no matter what and no matter how incompetent they are. I presume the Government will support them 100% until it chooses to support them 0%. It is rather frightening that irrespective of how bad and incompetent they are, the Government seems to stand by them.
Andrew Doyle (Wicklow, Fine Gael) I am not going to respond to those comments. They are not part of the question. It ill-befits the Deputy to make comments like that unless he has proof.
Mick Wallace That is true.
Andrew Doyle Maybe Deputy Wallace will come up with the proof.
The Morris report was carried out at the request of Bord na gCon by Professor Tim Morris, the independent scientific adviser to the Greyhound Board of Great Britain on anti-doping and medication control. The purpose of the report was to examine the use of doping and medication in the greyhound sector in Ireland. It will enable Bord na gCon to develop further its policy and regulation.
The Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 and the Bord na gCon welfare code of practice provide a strong framework for regulation and enforcement. Bord na gCon has made progress in tightening up on regulation in recent times.
While publication of the report is a matter for Bord na gCon, it is my understanding that the board expects to publish the report within the coming weeks. Once the Morris report is published I will examine its recommendations to determine whether any further measures are required.
Mick Wallace The Minister of State thinks it is okay for Bord na gCon to have a report for 12 months and not publish it. I find that really interesting. That is an interesting position for the Minister of State to take. Numerous people who own and train greyhounds in Ireland have contacted me in respect of drugs and greyhounds.
They are disheartened that no proper procedure is in place. I cannot understand why the Government does not want the thing to be done right. Why is it acceptable to have a report for 12 months and not publish it?
Andrew Doyle The report was not ready 12 months ago; it was commissioned 12 months ago.
I was Chairman of the committee in the last Dáil that sought to have the new greyhound legislation brought before the committee for pre-legislative scrutiny. In the time since I became Minister of State about eight weeks ago, I have asked the officials who drafted the heads of that Bill to send it to the agriculture committee. I mentioned it before the Deputy came into the Chamber. I have had plenty of contact with all parties, including several that claim to represent the industry. I am trying to meet everybody who represents the industry.
This group is not cohesive, as a collective, and work needs to be done. I am prepared to help make that happen. I am interested to ensure that the sector continues. The Morris report will be published and its findings will be acted upon. Some procedures are in place and there will be more. However, until the sector is given some shape, it is doing itself no favours.
Mick Wallace I hope the Minister of State has a good attitude to it and he does actually-----
Andrew Doyle The Deputy either believes me or he does not.
Mick Wallace I will give him the benefit of the doubt; he has only just arrived on the scene. I have not shot him yet.
Andrew Doyle He will not be; he need not worry.
Mick Wallace I am taken aback that the Government has for a long time been so tolerant of an incompetent Bord na gCon. When someone presented the greyhound, Loughlea Pretty, for a sales trial at Thurles greyhound stadium on 23 June 2015 with the prohibited substance flunixin, the only outcome was that the nature of the substance, flunixin, was noted and a minimum fine of €100 was applied. It is completely nonsensical. The testing cost more than the fine. The disciplinary committee of the Greyhound Board of Great Britain fined an Irish sales agent £2,000 in November 2015 and banned him for three months for the presence of the same prohibited substance. It is little wonder the British are recommending to their owners and trainers not to buy Irish dogs because they are drugged to the ears. That is what they have said.
The trainer, Graham Holland, appeared before the Bord na gCon control committee meeting in May owing to the presence of the prohibited substance in four of his dogs. He was represented by a legal team and he got off scot free because he had a fucking legal presence. Another guy appeared before the committee over one dog. He did not have legal representation and was fined €100. What can be garnered from that is those with a legal presence will get away with anything, but without it they might pay a little fine.
Andrew Doyle The Deputy could repeat that analogy in many ways.
The steps Bord na gCon has already taken are out-of-competition testing at kennels; publication of laboratory results where there is an adverse analytical finding; prohibition of a greyhound from racing where an adverse analytical finding has been made until a further test for prohibited substance has been carried out and the result is proved to be negative; establishment of a list of laboratories approved for the testing of B samples in place of the public analysis; and publication of control committee decisions along with the reasons for them.