Wednesday 18 September 2019

WATCH: Drag queen jumps in River Liffey in greyhound racing welfare protest

Niamh Lynch

Drag queens and Eurovision star, Linda Martin were among hundreds of people who took to the streets of Dublin to protest against alleged cruelty in the greyhound racing industry.

Demonstrators marched from Dublin's O’Connell Street to Leinster House n Saturday, where leashes and collars were tied to the gates of the building.

The protest follows other demonstrations outside of Shelbourne Park and Limerick Greyhound Stadium after an 'RTÉ Investigates’ programme which aired last month raised concerns around animal welfare issues in the greyhound racing industry.

Following the programme, several high-profile companies withdrew their sponsorship of the greyhound races in Cork, including Barry's Tea and FBD Insurance.

Saturday's protest stalled momentarily on O’Connell Bridge where Belfast drag queen Delishus O’Tool jumped in the Liffey.

Speaking to Independent.ie, Ms O’Tool said: “Anyone that’s sponsoring that industry needs to take a look at who they really are, and say to themselves, do we really want to be tied up with something like that or do we also voice our opinion to make a change.

“I have a dog myself and I couldn’t imagine my dog going through that. My dog Rufus is like my little brother and I really would not like to see any more of this to keep continuing. I want to see a stop.

“Hopefully this has done something today in making people wake up and say no more to this brutality, no more to this cruelty. I’m out of words, I feel so emotional. When I woke up this morning I had a bit of a cry thinking about what those greyhounds,” said Ms O’Tool.

“Every day, these animals think that their owners love them and then they end up going to this executioner.”

And even with the recent warm weather, Ms O’Tool said the Liffey was “freezing - it felt like the Arctic”.

Dressed in a sparkling blue full length gown, the drag queen said: “that was hard, swimming across with that frock. It was so heavy

“I can’t actually swim, which is why I needed the float.”

Meanwhile, 1992 Eurovision winner Linda Martin also attended the protest, telling Independent.ie: “it’s people power”.

“We want the government to realise that people power says ban the greyhound racing. Take away that €16 million grant that’s given to the IGB (Irish Greyhound Board) board every year and give it to more worthy causes.”

Ms Martin continued: “I would like the IGB to resign in its entirety immediately because they’re less than useless now to be absolutely honest with you. Today was just another example of what the ordinary person feels about this horrific greyhound racing business.”

Maria Murphy, from Sutton in Dublin, attended the march with her pet lurcher, who she adopted from the industry.

“It was absolutely terrified when I took it in so we’re picking up the strays all the time. And the greyhound is the most gentle of animals - I love them. They’re absolutely gorgeous animals.

“I didn’t watch it [the RTÉ documentary] for the simple reason - I know the horrors that go on,” said Ms Murphy.

But Ms Murphy feels like the reaction to the documentary is insufficient: “They’re talking about regulating it but the Irish Greyhound Board knows it’s going on for years - it’s nothing new to them. They didn’t do anything about it.

“There’s so much money being handed out by the government - taxpayers’ money - to the Irish Greyhound Board.”

In response, the Irish Greyhound Board promised to deliver reforms in the racing industry, which receives over €16 million per year from the State.

Independent.ie has contacted the Irish Greyhound Board for comment.

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