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Minister shoots down proposal to open nature reserves to hunters
23rd February 2005

The Irish Council Against Blood Sports again heaves a sigh of relief that new attempts by the National Association of Regional Game Councils (NARGC / gun clubs) to gain access to national parks and state reserves have been shot down by the Minister for the Environment. ICABS has today received confirmation from Minister Dick Roche's office as follows:

"The Minister has asked me to assure you that he has no plans to change the current policy of not allowing hunting on the properties managed by the National Parks & Wildlife Service of his Department."

In 1999, the gun clubs requested the then Minister, Sile De Valera, to reconsider this longstanding policy and she initiated a review by the Heritage Council. Following consultations with various stakeholders, the Heritage Council's advice was that the state lands should be kept hunter-free. One senior official in the National Parks & Wildlife Service said that "hunting with guns is not the way to go in areas of refuge for wildlife where people go to be close to nature."

However, the gun clubs continued to press for access to the national parks and this time last year, they failed in their bid to persuade the then Minister, Martin Cullen, who thankfully rejected their call. Outlining the reasons for the decision to NARGC's Des Crofton, the then minister's private secretary stated: "The National Parks & Wildlife Service sites were acquired, using public funds, for the purpose of nature conservation and they should serve as refuges and breeding places for species of wildlife...the general public understands that the role of NPWS is to protect wildlife and would view hunting on NPWS property as inconsistent with that role."

ICABS welcomes Minister Dick Roche's decision to stand firm against the gun clubs and keep our national parks hunter-free. We are much relieved that these sanctuaries for wildlife, of which there are precious few in this country, are kept off limits to hunters in the interests of wildlife and the public at large.

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