Minister asked why no sanctions for coursers who breached licence conditions
27 May 2015
|Ruth Coppinger TD|
Ruth Coppinger TD has challenged Minister Heather Humphreys on why she failed to sanction two coursing clubs which breached their licence conditions. In a Dail Question on 15th May, the Dublin West Socialist Party TD asked Humphreys "the reason she intervened in the case of two hare coursing clubs and did not apply any sanctions, following alleged breaches of conditions of their licences."
The breaches, involving lack of cooperation with monitoring wildlife rangers and verbal abuse, are described by the Minister as being "very serious" but, regardless, she opted to give a warning to the clubs in question instead of removing them from the licence or, at the very least, curtailing their meetings.
"Following engagement with the clubs in question and the Irish Coursing Club, the body that oversees individual coursing clubs, written assurances were provided to my Department that both clubs would fully co-operate with officials of the Department at all times and that they would adhere to all licence conditions," Minister Humphreys stated in response to Ruth Coppinger's question. "On the basis of these assurances, I decided not to impose sanctions against the clubs on this occasion."
According to an internal National Parks and Wildlife Service memo, obtained by ICABS under Freedom of Informaiton: "It was decided, given the seriousness of the incidents at these meetings, to impose sanctions on both clubs (Mallow and Liscannor) by way of a reduction in the number of competitive courses allowed by each club at their forthcoming meetings. However, following discussions with the Minister, it was decided that before the imposition of these sanctions, both clubs should be given the opportunity to provide assurances relating to future co-operation with Department officials..."
According to another NPWS memo, “The main issues of concern reported by the Conservation Ranger at the Liscannor meeting on 28 and 29 September 2013 was the refusal of club officials to allow access to the paddock area (where hares are kept) and subsequent intimidation and verbal abuse of the conservation ranger”. And in Mallow, according to the same internal NPWS memo, there was lack of cooperation with the conservation ranger and discrepancies relating to the release of hares, plus a claim by the club that the conservation ranger was present at hare releases when in fact this was not the case.
In other documents seen by ICABS, the Mallow coursing club penned an arrogant and totally unapologetic letter to the National Parks Assistant Principal, challenging the conservation ranger’s report, i.e. claiming that she did not turn up to oversee the release of the hares, while in fact it was the coursers who did not turn up at the appointed time, refusing to give their contact phone numbers to the ranger, stating they didn’t have mobile phones. The letter then went on to say: “As regards the threatened sanctions, our two local TDs Sean Sherlock and Tom Barry have been made aware of the situation.” They further stated that the two TDs were “well aware that the Mallow club at all times abide by the rules”.
The response of the National Parks’ licensing section to this arrogance from Mallow coursing club was to propose a mere slap on the wrist in the form of curtailment of a number of hare courses, which would result in their meeting being reduced by half the number of courses. It was also proposed by the NPWS that Liscannor coursing club would have one third of the usual number of hare courses reduced. However, in a total climb down, after "discussions with the Minister", it was decided not to implement any sanction whatsoever on Liscannor and Mallow, the Minister and NPWS accepting their assurances that they would behave themselves in the future.
This climb down by the Minister, who has previously insisted that breaches of the licence conditions by hare coursers will not be tolerated, sends a clear signal to the coursers that they can do as they please, as sanctions are seldom meted out for bad behaviour. It is outrageous that the Liscannor coursers were allowed to hold a meeting after intimidating and verbally abusing a ranger, while Mallow refused to cooperate with the ranger, and then in a letter to the National Parks, were totally unapologetic, again contradicting the ranger's true account of events and criticising her.
It is clear now that the flimsy licence conditions attached to the hare coursing licence is not worth the paper it is written on, and the coursers are clearly in the driving seat, with less and less hare coursing meetings being monitored by the National Parks, due to lack of manpower. In any event, no amount of monitoring and supervision is going to alleviate the terror and stress inflicted on vulnerable hares used as live bait before greyhounds in coursing, and the only solution is a total ban on this barbaric, outdated activity.
ICABS is continuing to push for a total ban on hare coursing and full protection for the Irish Hare.
DAIL QUESTION AND ANSWER
Ruth Coppinger (Dublin West, Socialist Party): To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the reason she intervened in the case of two hare coursing clubs (details supplied), and did not apply any sanctions, following alleged breaches of conditions of their licences. [19344/15]
Heather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael): Licences were issued by my Department in August 2014, under the Wildlife Acts, to the Irish Coursing Club on behalf of their affiliated clubs to facilitate the tagging and capturing of hares for the purpose of hare coursing for the 2014/15 coursing season.
Where resources allow, officials of my Department attend coursing meetings, on a spot-check basis, to monitor compliance with conditions on the licences granted by my Department. Veterinary officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine also attend some meetings on an annual basis.
The reports of officials from my Department who attended the two coursing meetings in question in September and October 2013 indicated that there was a lack of co-operation with them in the course of their duties, an issue which I take very seriously.
Following engagement with the clubs in question and the Irish Coursing Club, the body that oversees individual coursing clubs, written assurances were provided to my Department that both clubs would fully co-operate with officials of the Department at all times and that they would adhere to all licence conditions. On the basis of these assurances, I decided not to impose sanctions against the clubs on this occasion. At the same time, both clubs were issued with written warnings that any further transgressions, especially relating to lack of co-operation with officials of my Department, would result in my Department imposing future sanctions against the clubs.
Officials from my Department monitored the meetings of both clubs during the 2014/15 coursing season. The Conservation Rangers who attended the meetings reported that there was full co-operation forthcoming.
Get in touch with all your local TDs now and urge them to back a ban on hare coursing.
Visit the Oireachtas website for names of TDs and their email addresses http://www.oireachtas.ie/members%2Dhist/default.asp?housetype=0&HouseNum=31&disp=const
Email TDs online at Contact.ie - http://www.contact.ie/contact-national-politicians
Write to your TDs at: Dail Eireann, Leinster House, Kildare Street, Dublin 2. Tel: 01-618 3000 or 1890 337 889.
Express your support for a ban on coursing. Sign and share petitions
Urge Minister Heather Humphreys to show compassion for the persecuted Irish Hare and stop licensing cruel hare coursing.
Email "Stop licensing cruel hare coursing" to Heather.Humphreys@oireachtas.ie
Tel: (01) 631 3802 or (01) 631 3800
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Tweet to Heather Humphreys: @HHumphreysFG
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(If you have time, please compose your own personal letter. Otherwise, feel free to send the short sample letter below. Be assertive, but polite, in all correspondence. Thank you.)
I am one of the majority who want hare coursing outlawed. I am writing to urge you to stop licensing this cruel bloodsport
In coursing, hares suffer at all stages - during the capture, during the time they are kept in captivity and during the coursing meetings where they run for their lives in front of greyhounds. Among the injuries recorded are broken legs, damaged toes and dislocated hips. Every season, hare injuries and deaths are documented.
I ask you to please act on the wishes of the majority, show compassion and stop licensing coursing.
Appeal to the Minister for Agriculture
Please appeal to the Minister for Agriculture to remove an exemption for hare coursing from the Animal Health and Welfare Act.
Simon Coveney, TD
Minister for Agriculture
Kildare Street, Dublin 2.
Tel: 01-607 2884 or LoCall 1890-200510.
Fax: 01-661 1013.
Urgently contact An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and ask him to back a ban on hare coursing.
An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny
Department of the Taoiseach,
Upper Merrion Street,
Videos: Ireland's hare coursing cruelty
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