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Labour Party to support amended puppy farm bill

Discussion in 'Pet News' started by testmg80, Jul 5, 2010.

  1. testmg80

    testmg80 PetForums VIP

    Jul 29, 2008
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    04 July 2010 By Niamh Connolly, Political Correspondent

    The Labour Party is to vote for the government’s bill to regulate puppy farming this Thursday on the basis of the amendments announced by Green Party leader John Gormley last Friday.

    Labour spokesman Ciaran Lynch told this newspaper that Gormley’s amendments represented a ‘‘significant shift in direction’’, and the party’s fundamental position was that the regulation of puppy farms was long overdue.

    ‘‘If the minister can bring forward details of those amendments on the basis of his speech last Friday, I believe the bill will proceed successfully through the House," said Lynch.

    ‘‘Labour will vote for the bill provided the minister can follow through on those changes that we’ve been calling for since it was first introduced," according to the Labour TD for Cork South Central.

    Gormley’s amendments are likely to diffuse government tensions over the bill after the instability of last week’s vote to ban stag hunting. Despite the changes, backbench rebels Mattie McGrath and Christy O’Sullivan are threatening to vote against the puppy farm bill this week.

    Gormley’s amendment means the welfare regulations of the dog breeding bill will be introduced through an amendment to the Greyhound Industry Act 1958.

    It means greyhound breeders will be governed by one set of regulations under Agriculture, instead of a second set of regulations under the aegis of Gormley’s Department of Environment.

    A commencement order of January 1, 2011 has been established for the dog breeding bill, giving six months for the Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith to introduce the changes to the 1958 act.

    Voluntary codes governing the greyhound industry are to be put on a statutory footing and local authority inspections of kennels would be done collaboratively with the Irish Greyhounds Board and the Irish coursing clubs.

    The hunt clubs have called for a full exemption. However, Lynch said the Labour Party had never insisted on a full exemption for hunts clubs, but ‘‘for recognition that they are not commercial breeding establishments’’.

    Gormley is not exempting hunt clubs from the bill, though he has waived their registration fees. The bill will recognise communal sleeping habits of hunt dogs and suspend plans for micro-chipping for one year with a review.

    Crucially, the inspection regime has been amended.

    While dog wardens can carry out the initial inspection regime of a premises when the dog is registered, only veterinary officers can issue an improvement order.

    ‘‘The inspections are not mandatory, but after initial registration, are likely to arise in response to specific welfare issues," Gormley told the Dáil last week.

    Inspection of establishments will take place ‘‘where necessary’’.

    But government hopes of an emerging cross-party consensus ahead of Thursday’s contentious vote were scuppered by Fine Gael spokesman Phil Hogan, who said his party wanted a full exemption for hunt clubs, and he believed the greyhound industry was being ‘‘sold a pup’’.

    ‘‘It is totally unsatisfactory from my point of view.

    This is a sleight of hand by Gormley and it’s waving a big stick over Brendan Smith’s head - they’re being sold a pup.

    ‘‘Gormley has still the power to disagree at cabinet and implement his own regime on January 1, 2011’’ said Hogan.

    Puppy power and stag parties

    If name recognition alone wins Dáil seats, then Mattie McGrath will be one of the few Fianna Fáil TDs to romp home at the next general election.

    The Tipperary South TD, dubbed ‘Maverick Mattie’ by some in Fianna Fáil, has become a household name since being elected to Dáil Eireann three years ago. He had fought a tough battle with Fianna Fáil headquarters to get onto the party ticket.

    Since then, McGrath has been considered a constant mutineer inside the ranks and after voting against the government’s ban on stag hunting last week, he has cleared the way for more backbench revolts.

    McGrath performed a hat-trick of ‘Níl’ votes on the Green Party’s bills, all linked to rural Ireland, and will oppose the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill this week.

    The government will need to seal a compromise deal with Fianna Fáil backbenchers and independent deputies ahead of Thursday’s vote on the dog breeding legislation, aimed at ending cruelty in ‘puppy farms’.

    It scraped through the stag hunting vote last week only with the support of two independents, Finian McGrath and Maureen O’Sullivan, and thanks to the absence of Labour Party TD Tommy Broughan and Sinn Féin’s Arthur Morgan.

    Doing deals

    Negotiations are continuing this weekend after Green Party minister John Gormley announced significant changes to the dog breeding bill to accommodate the greyhound industry and hunt clubs.

    However, Gormley has insisted that hunt clubs and greyhound breeders would not be exempt from his new regulations, contrary to the impression given by some backbenchers.

    Instead, the welfare and inspection provisions of the Dog Breeding Bill would apply to the greyhound industry through a separate amendment to the Greyhound Industry Act 1958.

    Hunt clubs are not exempt from the new bill’s welfare regulations - though they will be excluded from registration and licence fees - and this is already proving a major bone of contention.

    The concession to amend the Greyhound Industry Act 1958 is significant for the greyhound sector which has consistently argued that it should not be governed by two separate bills with inspections from two different departments.

    The sector also remains under the Department of Agriculture for the purposes of animal welfare inspections and not Gormley’s Department of the Environment.

    Concessions to the greyhound industry remove a huge obstacle to the passage of the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill, but government TDs will still have to deal with the hunt clubs’ contention that they should be exempt from the welfare legislation.

    The basis of this argument is that they are not commercial businesses.

    Voting dilemmas

    The key question now for the Fianna Fáil waverers is whether the hunt clubs’ contention that they should not be subject to the same welfare inspections that applies to all dog breeders with more than five breeding bitches, merits voting against the bill.

    The Labour Party is preparing to vote for the puppy farm bill, provided Gormley follows through fully on his announced changes.

    Broughan, Labour’s transport spokesman, lost the party whip last week for not voting against the stag hunting bill. Broughan last week said he would vote against his party again, if necessary, to support the puppy farm bill.

    Senator Ivana Bacik also abstained on the Greens’ stag hunting bill when the vote was taken in the Seanad. Bacik was sent a strongly worded letter by chief whip Emmet Stag warning of the ‘‘absolute requirement’’ for her to follow the party whip.

    The defection of a fifth TD to the independent benches and the two independents, Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae, is seen as a dress rehearsal for further backbench revolts.

    As cabinet ministers and Fianna Fáil backbenchers huddled around McGrath ahead of last Tuesday’s vote to ban the Ward Union Stag Hunt in Meath, all the signals were that the Dáil had entered far more volatile times.

    Only two months ago, McGrath told this newspaper that he was not particularly exercised about the Ward Union Hunt, though he insisted that the dog breeding legislation ‘‘needs to be amended or there will be trouble’’.

    This weekend, he said that the equine industry and hunt clubs had told him that the two issues - stag hunting and dog breeding - ‘‘were intertwined’’ and that he ‘‘wanted to lay down a strong marker for the dog breeding bill’’.

    McGrath told this newspaper that during a meeting with Gormley shortly before last week’s vote, he offered to vote with the government, provided the stag hunt was allowed to proceed this autumn, but the Green Party leader turned this down. Another TD, Cork South West’s Christy O’Sullivan, was pressed at the eleventh hour not to vote against the government.

    McGrath said he believed O’Sullivan would almost certainly vote against the dog breeding bill. O’Sullivan did not respond to calls this weekend.

    Rising up

    McGrath’s new found status as an independent Fianna Fáil deputy allows him the freedom to criticise Cowen’s leadership and to publicly support the aims of pressure group Rural Ireland Says Enough! (Rise!) which is actively targeting the Greens’ legislation.

    Rise! has been promoting the Green Party as the enemy of all country pursuits although the postmortem that followed last week’s ban on stag hunting heard prominent Fianna Fáil TDs express annoyance with the tone and style of its campaign.

    Headed by Liam Cahill, a former political advisor to Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party, the group was accused of having run a campaign based on a fundamental untruth: that the stag hunting bill was the ‘thin end of the wedge’ that would lead to the banning of all country pursuits, such as coursing, fox hunting, shooting and fishing.

    Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins believed that Rise! was not a mass movement of rural interests but a ‘‘professional lobby group’’ led by influential people who were involved in politics or are politically engaged.

    ‘‘Rise! has succeeded in confusing the nation and causing upset and anxiety across all its rural pressure groups about the ban on stag hunting, even though it is clear from the Programme for Government that fox hunting, hare coursing, angling, shooting and all outdoor pursuits are all safe," said Collins.

    ‘‘All this nonsense about the ‘thin end of the wedge’ - if this organisation has surplus cash to be putting out a campaign like this, why are they worried about a small registration fee in the dog breeding bill?"

    Shane Cassells, a Fianna Fáil councillor in Meath, also believes that Rise! is not a grassroots campaign representing the average rural voter. It had put forward ‘‘a very narrow definition of what rural Ireland is’’, he said.

    Cassells said the lives of his own family in north Meath and those of most rural dwellers were not dictated by the pursuit of stag hunting.

    ‘‘When Rise! realised its group was not attracting broad support, they brought into their grouping people from the shooting clubs, fishing clubs and said: ‘You’re next.’

    This whipped up fear and anxiety," said Cassells. ‘‘They didn’t want to debate stag hunting based purely on its own merits, because they knew the majority of people felt it was not fitting in a modern age."

    A poll by the Meath Post in 2007 found two thirds of those polled wanted the practice outlawed. The Fianna Fáil councillor took some of his own party’s deputies to task over last week’s debate.

    ‘‘We’re only being deceitful to our own constituents if we end up peddling the tripe that Rise! is putting forward, which is based on a flawed argument about rural Ireland," Cassells said.

    But there are many others who believe that Rise! has tapped into a growing mood of irritation with the Green Party’s ‘rambles’ in rural Ireland, as Fianna Fáil TD Mary O’Rourke described it last week.

    The Rise! campaign is of enormous political benefit to Fine Gael, which has promised to overturn the ban on stag hunting if the party gets into government.

    Shane McEntee, the Fine Gael TD for Meath East, escorted groups of Rise! campaigners into the Dáil public gallery for the debate and vote last Tuesday.

    Businessman and TV personality Gavin Duffy, a member of the Louth Hunt who supports Rise!, was also invited to the public gallery and was seen later in the Dáil bar commiserating with fellow hunt supporters.

    In a high octane speech, Labour’s Willie Penrose accused the Greens’ of trying ‘‘to do away’’ with rural Ireland altogether - a sentiment that touched a nerve with Rise! supporters who gave the LongfordWestmeath TD a standing ovation.

    But some of the stances of Dáil deputies have been inconsistent, at best.

    Ahead of the stag hunting bill, Jackie Healy-Rae told The Sunday Business Post that ‘‘letting a pack of dogs loose after a deer and scaring it half to death isn’t something I agree with’’.

    Healy-Rae said he would seek assurances that hare coursing would not be affected by the law, as this was a concern to constituents.

    He also believes that the bill to change drink drive limits was damaging to rural Ireland, but he had no opportunity to vote on it as it was passed by cross-party consensus. Bizarrely, the Kerry South TD told RTE’s Sean O’Rourke last Tuesday that he had not spoken to The Sunday Business Post at all.

    Amid all the debate over legislation affecting rural Ireland, the Green Party may find it difficult to emerge unscathed from the charge that they are obsessed with securing their ‘pet’ bills to satisfy animal rights supporters rather than more crucial economic issues.

    But a Green Party spokesman rejected the claim: ‘‘We have a list of 12 issues we are working on at the moment - animal welfare comes in at number nine and ahead of this is fixing the banks, water infrastructure investment, job creation, broadband, renewable energy and the Planning Bill."

    Another key piece of Green legislation, the Civil Partnership Bill, passed all stages of the Dáil last week with cross-party consensus.

    However, the Greens’ growing tally of bills is precisely the source of some of the conflict inside the coalition.

    Amid all the recriminations is the strong suspicion that the Greens are front-loading a raft of bills for this Dáil session so they can go into an election with a range of ‘legacy’ policies if the government falls apart.

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