Sunday, February 28, 2010

 

The Coursing of Gormley in the Seanad

The Dog Breeding Establishments Bill continues to work its way through the Seanad. It’s now at committee stage and on Wednesday we held the second committee stage session. The Minister representing the government on Session One was Minister Finneran. This time we had his boss, Minister Gormley in the house.

In principle, we are in favour of the legislation, in that it regulates the operation of Puppy Farms – Ireland is seen as the puppy farm of Europe. But it appears that Minister Gormley is using the opportunity of the new legislation to include regulation of hunting dogs and greyhounds within the remit of the act. This has made the legislation contentious, with organisations such as RISE, the Greyhound Board, the Dog Breeders Association and others contacting politicians to discuss the issue.

A number of amendments have been tabled to try and improve the legislation. One of them would give breeding establishments 12 months to register, as opposed to the 3 months specified in the Bill. We all think that 3 months is too short, in that establishments may have to seek planning permission for improvements, or might have to get finance from the banks to upgrade their premises. In the current climate this takes time. However, the Minister seems unlikely to accept the amendment. The most he would do is agree to go away and think about it again, and tell us what he intends to do at the next (Report) stage of the Bill.

His main point in response was that the legislation has been in gestation for the last 5 years, so establishments have had lots of time to get their houses in order.

Later on we had a discussion about greyhounds, and whether this new bill would supersede previous legislation (the 1958 Bill) or would the new legislation be in addition to the regulations already in existence. Greyhound owners already are subject to inspections on their properties – would this new legislation mean additional inspections? I put that to Gormley and for some reason he refused to give a straight answer. On the one hand he tells us that owners had 5 years to prepare for the legislation and on the other he can’t answer a simple question about whether the number of inspections is going to be doubled!

The Minister was like a chased hare at a coursing event. He was getting attacked and questioned from all sides on this. This session of committee stage had to finish by 1:30pm and I reckon it couldn’t come soon enough for the Minister. He was taken away by his minders and we all went back to our kennels. He returns to the house next Wednesday for the third session and I’m hoping that he will have had time to gather his thoughts in the meantime.

That evening I attended the re-opening of the Conradh na Gaeilge premises on Wednesday evening at Harcourt Street. I got a tour of the building and got to meet many of the staff. They seem all geared up to Irish fortnight, which starts next week.

It was a good opportunity to practice my Irish. Also, as it turns out there will be an attempt in the next few weeks to set up an Irish circle in Leinster House. I’m intending to join it and will attend as often as possible.

On Friday morning myself, Joanna Tuffy and Bronwen Maher hosted an event on Sustainable Planning in The Mansion House. We invited Non-Government Organisations from the Environmental sector to come along and discuss issues in relation to sustainable planning. I spoke about the issues facing development in the commuter belt, along the way describing the lack of school places, the lack of playgrounds, Garda stations. I also suggested some changes that could help to improve the live of people in the commuter belt.

We sat through presentations from organisations like FEASTA, Just Forests, An Taisce and others, all talking about key issues in relation to their organisations. I think it was a worthwhile event and in my view we should continue with events such as these to deepen our mutual understanding of how best to move ahead on these issues.

I had some good news during the week, in that my blog has been nominated for an award at the forthcoming Irish Blogs Awards. I had a nomination a few years back but didn't win then. That was when the field of blogging politicians was quite small. There are a lot more on the nominations list now, some of them big hitters, so I don't fancy my chances. However, it's really nice to get considered :)

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