Pro-hunt lobby group 'gains impetus'


A RECENTLY-FORMED pro-hunting campaign claims it is gathering momentum throughout the country and is “encouraged” by the support it has received from politicians “at national level”.

Rise! (Rural Ireland Says Enough!) is aiming to “mobilise public and political opinion in support of traditional field sports and rural pastimes”. It is backed by 16 organisations – ranging from the Hunting Association of Ireland to the Irish Hawking Club – representing some 300,000 people.

The campaign is a response to what it regards as “imminent threats” to rural sports from proposed animal welfare legislation which was included in the renewed programme for government at the insistence of the Green Party. Activists say they are especially concerned by plans to ban stag-hunting and the inclusion of hunt kennels in new legislation on dog breeding. The dog-breeding legislation is being discussed in the Senate and the Bill to ban stag-hunting is expected to be published at Easter.

Liam Cahill, chief spokesman for Rise! is a former RTÉ journalist and former programme manager to David Andrews when he was minister for defence. He said the campaign, “funded by voluntary subscriptions”, was about people in rural Ireland saying enough.

It was time to draw a clear line, to resist these threats and to promote our traditional rural way of life, he said. He added that supporters of the campaign wish to conserve and develop a distinctive and traditional way of life and a form of recreation and sport that is enjoyed in rural Ireland by people from rural and urban backgrounds.

Last week, the lobby group which is headquartered in Ashbourne, Co Meath, distributed a “briefing pack” to more than 500 hunting, shooting and angling clubs in every county with advice on “how to approach individual TDs, Senators and county councillors to win their support for the campaign’s objectives”.

Mr Cahill welcomed as a very positive development Fine Gael’s intention to oppose the stag hunting legislation and, “if it is passed, to reverse it if they form the next government”.

He said Rise! had also received support from a number of Senators, including: Independents Shane Ross, Eoghan Harris and Joe O’Toole; and Fianna Fáil’s Ivor Callely, Jim Walsh and Mark Daly.

The campaign also believes there is much unease (and potential support) among Fianna Fáil backbench TDs some of whom have already called for a free vote on the stag-hunting Bill.

The campaign is gathering signatures for a petition opposing the proposed legislation which, Mr Cahill said, had already been signed by 13,000 people. And “they are coming in at the rate of a couple of hundred a day”, he added.

Rise! has attracted widespread support from the racing world. Other high-profile allies include Mick Bailey, the well-known developer, Fianna Fáil supporter and Master of Co Meath’s Ward Union Hunt (the State’s only licensed stag-hunting club) and Gavin Duffy, a panellist on RTÉ television’s Dragons’ Den.