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FOI reports show Minister let hare coursing clubs off the hook despite clear evidence of license violations
Thursday April 30, 2015 18:57 by Animal Protection Ireland
Another blow to battered "credibility" of Ireland's shamed hare coursing fraternity...
Irish animal protection groups are shocked to learn from FOI reports that the National Parks & Wildlife Service, following "discussions" with Arts & Heritage Minister Heather Humphreys, decided not to sanction two coursing clubs for clear breaches of license conditions that supposedly apply to the holding of all coursing events, and that she gave them the green light to continue coursing hares during the 2014/15 season, despite what the NPWS officials referred to as the “seriousness of the incidents at these meetings”.
The controversial letter sent by Mallow Coursing Club to the NPWS
According to an internal NPWS memo, obtained by the Irish Council Against Blood Sports (ICABS) under FOI; "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..."
Another NPWS memo stated: “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”.
The same internal NPWS memo refers to Mallow Coursing Club, stating that 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 releases when in fact this was not the case.
Another FOI document reveals that an official of Mallow Coursing Club sent a somewhat arrogant and less than apologetic letter to the National Parks & Wildlife 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 coursing club officials who failed to turn up at the appointed time, refusing to give their contact phone numbers to the ranger, claiming they didn’t have mobile phones.
The letter (see scanned copy with this article) said: “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”.
This letter can be offered as yet further evidence of the deference shown by politicians to hare coursing clubs, even when the clubs breach their own woefully inadequate “rules” and the equally pathetic NPWS license conditions that are supposed to afford the hares some measure of protection when they are used for animal baiting purposes in coursing.
The NPWS had also recommended that Liscannor coursing club would have one third of the usual number of hare courses reduced but, again after "discussions with the Minister", no sanction was applied to Liscannor Coursing Club. The Minister instead accepted assurances from Mallow and Liscannor coursing clubs that they would not re-offend in future coursing seasons.
Her handling of the issue (license breaches by coursing clubs) is extremely disappointing given her insistence in response to Dail questions that breaches of the hare coursing license conditions would not be tolerated.
For animal protection and conservation groups, it confirms that the conditions attached to the hare coursing license are practically worthless and that is the coursing clubs that hold sway over the Minister and other politicians. We hope that our politicians will eventually break free from the vice-like grip in which the coursing clubs appear to hold them. The letter from Jackie Murphy is a reminder of why this blood sport continues to be legal in Ireland despite all the evidence of cruelty and violations of the Wildlife Act.
Here, again, is video footage showing what coursing clubs and some lynchpins of the political establishment consider “sport”: