ENVIRONMENT Minister John Gormley has made peace with Fianna Fáil backbenchers through a complicated legislative juggling act with his new law to ban puppy farms.
He negotiated with Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith that the same welfare rules that will soon apply to puppy farms will also cover owners of greyhounds with six or more bitches.
Crucially for the rural lobby, the greyhounds’ welfare will be governed under an amendment to a piece of 62-year-old legislation rather than the new bill.
This quelled a fortnight-long rebellion which had caused a rural-urban schism within Fianna Fáil.
In his speech introducing the changes Mr Gormley said the 1958 act will be changed by Mr Smith before his dog breeding bill comes into effect.
“I must stress that before these provisions can be introduced, I as Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, and Minister Smith as Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food must be satisfied that the animal welfare standards in the amended 1958 act are of the same high standard as those in the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill 2009,” he said. Mr Smith said there was already a comprehensive welfare regime for greyhounds and the proposed changes would give these legal effect.
The Labour Party’s Ciarán Lynch said the concessions made by Mr Gormley amounted to a U-turn on his initial policy. However, Mr Gormley said he had always been willing to work with the various interest groups and the use of the 1958 Greyhound Industry Act was the “same objective by different means”.
Fine Gael’s Joe Carey, who races greyhounds – and who found out his bitch was pregnant yesterday – said he welcomed the decision to relax the bill.
However, he said he and other greyhound enthusiasts would reserve judgment on the revised approach until the text of the amendments to the 1958 act were published. His party colleague, Environment spokesman Phil Hogan, said the minister was intent on forcing through all measures by the beginning of next year and this was unacceptable.
However, his appeal to Fianna Fáil backbenchers not to “kowtow” to Mr Gormley’s agenda fell on deaf ears.
Last week chairman of the Oireachtas Agricultural committee Johnny Brady said if Mr Gormley made any further impositions on rural Ireland he would vote against the Government.
But yesterday he said the bill was satisfactory. Similarly Máire Hoctor, who led the backbench rebellion, said with the new amendments the revised bill was manageable. It will be voted on next Thursday.
During yesterday’s Dáil debate the anger among Fianna Fáil backbenchers at the threat issued by Bord na gCon chief executive Adrian Neilan was also aired.
Deputy Ned O’Keeffe said he felt the attempt by Mr Neilan to dictate Government policy was “well over the line”.
“In the days of Charlie Haughey, Jack Lynch and Liam Cosgrave there would have been a new board for their [Bord na gCon’s] behaviour.
“When people come in to tell me what to do... I take a very, very serious view of that,” he said. Mr Neilan withdrew his appeal to Fianna Fáil backbenchers later in the week, however, the TDs remained unhappy with his intervention.
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