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 Plans to Ban Stag Hunting in Ireland

23rd Deember 2009 

Ward Union Hunt

Almost two thousand members and supporters of the Ward Union Hunt held a “monster rally” last week in opposition to plans to ban stag hunting.

The Ward Union Hunt, which operates in Co Meath and north Co Dublin, is furious at the ban proposed by Minister for the Environment John Gormley.

The Ward Union Hunt, established in 1854, has be accused by Mr. Gormley of vindictively singling out the Ward Union Hunt as they are the only licensed stag hunt in Ireland.

National Hunt jockey Paul Carberry, who is a Ward Union member, wrote an open letter to Taoiseach Brian Cowen last week warning him that Fianna Fail TDs would pay the price at the next election if the ban was implemented.

Chairman for the night was incoming Ward Union chairman, Christy Reynolds introduced the various speakers.  Keynote speakers were:  Francis Lally a dairy farmer from Kilmessan and a keen Ward follower; Matt Dempsey Managing Editor of the Irish Farmers Journal. Matt spoke of the damage being done to rural Ireland, and farming in particular by well meaning but poorly judged measures imposed as part of Green policy.  For instance: the practice of winter ploughing which was always looked on as essential for spring cereal production has now been banned;  and, slurry spreading restricted to certain calendar dates regardless of ground conditions;
Gavin Duffy of “Dragons Den” was next. Gavin, who is one of the founders of HAI and pro hunting strategist, is a well know businessman and star of “Dragons’ Den.”

Gavin who gave one of his usual rousing speeches accused Mr. Gormley of “having a death wish” towards the hunt. “For people who live in rural Ireland . . . we cannot understand how the one hunt that does not kill it's quarry – the purpose of the stag hunt is not to kill the stag – is being targeted in this way.”  He went on to accuse Fianna Fail to have surrendered to Green pressure in order to cling to power.

A commitment to ban stag hunting was included in the revised programme for Government agreed between the Green Party and Fianna Fail earlier this year.  A spokesman for Mr. Gormley said yesterday that heads of the Bill were already agreed by Government and detailed legislation was being prepared. This bill could be before the Dail as early as mid January.
Gavin continued by saying that the Ward Union had support from across the hunting community and the proposed ban was causing alarm among those involved in wider country pursuits such as “hunting, shooting and fishing.” 

Gavin finalised by calling on a mass rally early in the new year with a march on Leinster House
Both Meath FG TD’s were present, Shane McEntee and Damien English, who promised unqualified support for Ward Union and hunting in general from any in-coming government led by Fine Gael. Invited but missing on the night was local TD and minister, Noel Dempsey.

FF was represented by no less than three TD’s and one councilor (Nick Kileen) who was representing Mary Wallace TD. FF TD’s Ml Kennedy, Darragh O’Brien and Thomas Byrne assured the meeting of their personal support but would not be drawn on whether they would oppose the motion in the Dail,

The Wards had brought hounds to the gates of Leinster House, the Custom House,(see photo) the headquarters for the Department of the Environment, and to Navan Racecourse to publicize the meeting.

Ward Union secretary Ronan Griffin said its members were “not going to stand for” stag hunting being banned.
He accused the minister of singling out the hunt after losing a High Court action which placed onerous restrictions on it, including one that the hunt could pursue the scent of the stag and not the stag itself, a move which was described as playing “football without a football.”

“Anybody who is involved with animals need to be very aware of the extreme animal rights agenda that the Green Party is trying to bring into this country,” he said.
Among the many speakers from the floor were DJ Histon CEO of the Irish Coursing Club Jim Murphy of the Foot Harriers Association, Donal Boyle of The Master of Harriers Association, David Lalor of the Master of Foxhounds Association all of whom offered unqualified support for the campaign to save the Ward Union Hunt.

As the meeting was about to conclude a message was sent from the Chairman Meath IFA (who was unavoidably away on IFA business) equally offering full support to the Ward Union.

The rally was featured on the main evening news bulletin on RTE with follow up interviews on Tuesday on all the national stations, Pat Kenny (RTE) ,Matt Cooper (Today FM )and George Hook , (NewsTalk).

All in all a most successful night.

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