Parliamentary Questions and Answers
Questions Nos. 284, 286, 287, 288 and 289
To the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government:
To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in regard to hare coursing, he will follow the example of Northern Ireland and immediately withdraw the licence from hare coursers to net timid and defenceless hares from the wild for cruel activities. (Ciarán Cuffe)
To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to end the practise whereby hares are netted here for coursing events in Northern Ireland (as the license to net hares from the wild issued by the Department of the Environment and Local Government does not cover coursing clubs in Northern Ireland). (Joe Higgins)
To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to seek the return here for release of hares netted here and currently held in a compound in Northern Ireland by the Dungannon Coursing Club. (Joe Higgins)
To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the statement issued by the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland, expressing concerns that the Irish hare is in danger; and the plans his Department has to give greater protection to the Irish hare. (Joe Higgins)
To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will withdraw the license from hare coursers to net hares from the wild for coursing. (Joe Higgins)
For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 5th November, 2003. Ref No: 25982/03, 25663/03, 25664/03, 25665/03 and 25666/03
(Given the statement by Angela Smith MP, Parliamentary under-secretary of State, Northern Ireland, that both parts of the island share a responsibility for doing what they can to help the Irish hare population to recover following her refusal to issue a permit to a coursing club in Northern Ireland to net hares)
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. Cullen):
I propose to take Questions Nos. 284, 286, 287, 288 and 289 together.
Under Section 34 of the Wildlife Act 1976 my Department is responsible for the issue of an annual licence to the Irish Coursing Club (ICC) and its affiliated clubs to capture live hares. Only clubs which are named by the ICC in their licence application request are permitted lawfully to catch hares. No clubs in Northern Ireland are included in the current licence.
Any person catching hares other than in accordance with a licence is open to prosecution under Section 23 of the Act. I can confirm that such prosecutions are currently taking place but it would not be appropriate for me to comment further while the cases are before the courts.
The regulation of live hare coursing, including conditions governing the use of hares for that activity, is carried out under the Greyhound Industry Acts, which are the responsibility of the Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism. The controls exercisable by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government under the Wildlife Acts 1976 and 2000 relate more generally to the protection and conservation of wildlife species, including hares, and licences embody conditions designed to support these objectives.
A steering group comprising members of staff from my Department and from the Environment and Heritage Service of the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland has been set up to draft an All Ireland Species Action Plan for the Irish Hare. Work on drafting the Species Action Plan commenced in June 2003.
The Species Action Plan is expected to be finalised by March 2004.
A survey to estimate hare numbers in Ireland is expected to be one of the strategies proposed in the action plan. Once the action plan has been finalised implementation of identified strategies will commence.