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Taoiseach tells Dáil he goes to the dogs every Christmas, and plans to go to Shelbourne Park again this year

Rural TDs have criticised the suspension of promoting the sport in tourism marketing campaigns.

Image: Richard Sellers via PA Images

A NUMBER OF rural TDs have criticised the suspension of promoting the sport in tourism marketing campaigns after concerns were raised by Minister for Sport Shane Ross. 

Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland told the IGB last Thursday that they would not be featuring greyhound racing in any tourism marketing campaigns in Ireland or abroad. 

The decision was reached after concerns were raised by Minister for Sport Shane Ross following the RTÉ Investigates programme into the sport which was broadcast in June.

“Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland jointly met with representatives from Bord na gCon [Irish Greyhound Board] late last week to convey to them that the promotion of greyhound racing will not feature in tourism marketing campaigns domestically and overseas,” a spokesperson for Fáilte Ireland told TheJournal.ie. 

A spokesperson for Tourism Ireland also confirmed that it “will not promote greyhound racing in its marketing activity”.

In a statement today, Independent TD Mattie McGrath called on Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland to immediate reverse its decision regarding suspension of greyhound racing promotion. 

“This is a ludicrous decision,” McGrath said. 

“We know from the IGB that over half a million people visited greyhound stadia across the country last year, with approximately 30,000 of these coming from oversea and that the industry has a nationwide economic impact of €300 million with over 12,000 people deriving economic benefit from the Irish greyhound industry,” he said. 

Is all of the generational work that led to the building up the industry going to be dismissed because a need for reform was identified in some areas? 

McGrath also raised the issue in the Dáil today.

“This is blackguarding rural Ireland again. It is a Dublin-centric Cabinet that just says to hell with rural Ireland – to hell or to Connacht and leave everything. This is madness,” he said. 

“I call on the Taoiseach to reverse this decision and insist that Fáilte Ireland advertises the full range of sporting events we have and not victimise a particular sector.”

Also speaking in the Dáil today, Michael Healy-Rae TD said that “there is nothing wrong” with greyhounding as a sport. 

“It is a proud tradition,” Healy-Rae said. 

“Like with everything, there was an exposure recently of practices that were not right, but nobody condones those. No member of this House would condone any type of cruelty or the like under any circumstances,” he said.

Varadkar’s stance

When asked about the situation in the Dáil, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he does not think that anyone in the House would condone cruelty to animals.

He said it is his understanding that Minister Shane Ross asked Fáilte Ireland to consider this matter.

“They made the decision for themselves,” he said.

“I go to Shelbourne Park every Christmas,” said the Taoiseach, who added that anyone who wishes to form an opinion of the matter should go along to their local meeting and make a decision for themselves.

He said he plans to go to Shelbourne Park again this year.

Fianna Fáil TD John Brassil also addressed the Dáil on the matter.

“Is it appropriate for a Minister to interfere with the advertising campaigns of the tourism promotion agencies in this country?” he questioned. 

“I believe it is not,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Irish Greyhound Board yesterday said it is shocked and disappointed by the suspension. 

The IGB has argued that greyhound racing is a “national sport” and an industry in which people are entitled to participate and enjoy. 

“The tourism market is an important demographic for the industry and supports both direct and indirect employment within and outside of the greyhound community,” said the IGB in a statement. 

The organisation said it is making a submission on the activities of the board in the area of care and welfare of greyhounds. 

The matter has been taken up with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, according to the IGB. 

The RTÉ Investigates programme reported that the Irish greyhound industry was killing 6,000 dogs a year due to a large excess in breeding. 

With reporting by Orla Dwyer and Christina Finn

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