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Tuesday 23 May 2017

Gormley appeases TDs over dog-breeding bill

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

ENVIRONMENT Minister John Gormley last night agreed major concessions to his contentious dog-breeding bill in order to quell a threatened revolt by coalition TDs.

But he warned that the embattled coalition would have to push through another batch of animal-welfare laws in the autumn.

After his stag-hunting ban barely scraped across the line on Tuesday, the Green Party leader will exclude greyhounds from his controversial dog-breeding regulations to avoid the new law causing any further consternation in Fianna Fail.

The protection of greyhounds from abuse will be monitored by the Irish Greyhound Board, by amending legislation in this area that dates back to 1958.

The fees being charged under the new regulations in the Dog Breeding Bill will also be reduced. Independent TDs Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae last night said they would vote for the legislation, following the deal struck yesterday. Dissident Fianna Fail backbenchers will also vote for the legislation to avoid a repeat of this week's revolt. Mr Gormley's spokesman said all sides were now happy with the resolution. "It takes us where we want to go by a different route. We believe this is a practical workable solution, achieving the same result by a different means," he said.

Mr Gormley said he does not think any lasting damage has been done to the Government by the row. The faultlines in the increasingly shaky coalition were exposed yesterday as Green TDs and Fianna Fail backbenchers clashed bitterly after the vote on stag hunting.

Rogue

As the Government assessed the fallout from the narrow vote, rogue TD Matt McGrath -- who lost the party whip for voting against the legislation -- attacked Taoiseach Brian Cowen for his lack of leadership and claimed the Greens were bullying Fianna Fail.

But Green TD Paul Gogarty hit back, claiming that his party was being expected to bend over for Fianna Fail and that it was the smaller party that was being bullied.

Mr Gormley dismissed claims the Greens were bullying Fianna Fail into passing rushed legislation. He said the animal-welfare laws were the result of negotiation. "There is no question of bullying at all. This is about working together on an agreed agenda," he said.

Mr Gormley said the economy was the focus of the Government and the ban on stag hunting was a small piece of legislation.

"I don't believe we should be debating fairly minor pieces of legislation at length. We should be using our Dail time much more constructively to debate the issues which affect people -- namely job creation and getting this country up and running again." The Green leader also intensified his attacks on the Labour Party for its opposition to the stag-hunting ban, despite the party's long track record against blood sports.

On the forthcoming dog-breeding legislation, Mr Gormley said he was willing to sit down and talk to people.

"There will be no damage done to any industry in this country. That is very important.

"But it's also important that animal welfare legislation doesn't exclude particular categories or particular breeds of dog.

"So we have to do it in a way which ensures that welfare concerns are the priority still," he said.

Irish Independent

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