Dan Boyle: Gone To The Dogs


From top: Greyhound racing; Dan Boyle

Dogs have loomed large over Green Party participation in government. In 2009/10, unexpected controversy was created with the passage of the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill. This bill wasn’t even a Green Party commitment. It had been introduced in the previous Dáil by then FIanna Fáil Minister Dick Roche.

A fault line was created between dogs and greyhounds, seen by many in Fianna Fáil as being a breed apart. Because of this it became necessary to introduce separate legislation to regulate the breeding of greyhounds.

This fault line also provided cover for some in Fianna Fáil to jump ship. This was the issue on which Mattie McGrath chose to stress his independence.

Animal rights and welfare have always been a priority for the Green Party. To the extent that other political parties have criticised The Greens claiming the party prioritised such issues over socially more important issues, such as the need to change our two tier health service, or the need to address access to housing for so many of our citizens.

Of course this isn’t, nor has it ever been true. Exaggeration and marginalisation are common tools of those in politics who seek to avoid change.

The other fallacious argument that has been used is that any attempt to regulate this sport/industry is a bourgeois attack on rural Ireland. Again not true.

Diminishing attendances at racing meets, along with a growing public distaste for the sport, shows that a majority also exists in rural areas opposed to this ‘sport’.

Traditional political parties in this country, Sinn Féin and Labour as much Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, see in those who support greyhound related ‘sports’ an important cohort of their voters, hence the reluctance to challenge or seek to change the many unacceptable practices that are found in the industry.

In June 2019 the RTÉ Prime Time Investigates programme produced a stinging exposé of the greyhound industry. From training methods to the export of discarded dogs, the industry was shown to be an ethical mess.

This is a ‘sport’ that has evolved from the other non sport of coursing. The Irish Coursing Club continues to be an important part of how greyhound racing is administered. This of itself should be reason enough to remove funding.

Outside of the political reluctance to change, there now also exists an additional legislative barrier. Under legislation funding for greyhound racing is now linked to that of horse racing. An increase for one means a pro rata increase for the other. This puts both beyond the remit of normal budgetary processes.

The need to change this legislation was not agreed in the most recent programme for government. Given the positions of Sinn Féin and Labour I think it would be unlikely that a PfG of any alternative government would either.

What we can do and should do is better define government policy on all sport. State support should be based on direct participation, especially of young people, in a sport.

The use of animals in a competitive activity shouldn’t be characterised as a sport. It may have a cultural element but they lack of any of the cultural depth of music, theatre, literature or visual arts.

These are activities that exist purely for commercial gain. Without a State subsidy greyhound racing, in particular, would not survive.

There is not a political will yet to remove this subsidy. Within the next few years I believe there will be. Even the dogs on the street know that.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Pic: Betfair

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10 thoughts on “Dan Boyle: Gone To The Dogs

  1. Charger Salmons

    Dan – you’ll be delighted to know that post-Brexit Blighty is planning a ban on the export of live animals which it was unable to do previously because of free trade rules.
    It will bring an end to the often inhumane practice of sending animals on very long journeys, often as far as North Africa, where they then faced slaughter in less than satisfactory conditions.


      1. Papi

        Keeps all the gammon in one place too.
        Look at charger trying to comment like a real human being, it’s so cute how he thinks no one will notice.

  2. Harry

    Dan the GP is in government and you know that the GP’s being lying hypocrites already voted to increase funding for the greyhound non industry.

    The GP’s promise a lot in opposition and then do the opposite in government. They are a disgrace!

    1. Daisy Chainsaw

      The government gave the greyhound “industry” a bigger increase in funding than they did to mental health services.

  3. v AKA Frilly Keane

    Mattie and the eFFers fell out over the Stag Hunting
    He was put out of the PP the very same night of the vote
    Cowen wasn’t having a bit of it

    the Dog Breeding bill was after that

    You might remember what he said about ye
    paraphrasing Ye’ll be stopping the cat going after the mouse next

    But he was right – at the time Dan
    All those animal welfare bills ye pushed through were Gormley’s own agenda
    They were never in the Programme for Government put to the party, and the Dáil, that got voted signed and sealed
    And put you into the Cabinet

    Mattie, like him or not
    Sticks to his words
    One of the most effective Independent Politicians in the Dail
    No favours will buy him off

    Think about that Dan
    another 12 greens all in last night in the Dáil

    The Compost Party by 2025
    Unless ye win the Áras ( ̄﹃ ̄)

    As an aside – the rumour at the time was these Animal Welfare bills and the constant reshuffling was why Mary Wallace left politics
    Now there was a ‘wan who would have been well able for the Kenny years

    1. Charger Salmons

      You’ve obviously never been to Aintree for the Grand National or sat in a bookies chewing a small blue pen for inspiration …

  4. Gringo

    All fine and dandy getting rid of doggie racing, but what will you do with the mountain of coke? Not to mention the truckloads of uppers and downers, rabbits, cats, bullets and other assorted essentials necessary for the go faster pooch.

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