High Court challenge brought over ban on hunting four migratory duck breeds

Shooting of hunting of scaup, pochard, goldeneye and pintail ducks was outlawed from September 1st

A body representing thousands of shooting enthusiasts has brought a High Court challenge against a ban on hunting four migratory duck breeds due to their declining numbers.

The challenge centres around a decision made last August by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage that bans the hunting of scaup, pochard, goldeneye and pintail ducks.

The ban came into effect last September 1st, having been introduced via a statutory instrument in an “open seasons order” under the 1976 Wildlife Act.

In a press release, the Government said the ban was due to a significant decline in the population of the birds.


The four species of duck migrate to Ireland in winter due to the moderate climate, but do not breed here, the court heard.

The challenge is brought by the National Association of Regional Game Councils (NARGC), which has 26,000 members in more than 1,000 clubs, and its chairman John Butler. The association says its members have been instrumental in conserving wild bird species in Ireland.

The NARGC and Mr Butler claim the Minister’s decision to remove the four duck species from a list of birds that can be hunted is flawed, irrational and disproportionate. It should be set aside on grounds including that it was made without any adequate evidence, they say.

The evidence on issues such as the bird population levels, trends, and whether hunting was affecting its conservation status was incomplete and unreliable, they claim.

It is claimed the decision fails to take account of any economic or recreational requirements and of any adequate conservation efforts related to the relevant species.

The decision was also based on an incorrect interpretation of data relating to the four species, where irrelevant considerations were taken into account by the Minister, they allege.

The ban is in breach of their legitimate expectation, they claim.

Represented by Neil Steen SC, Mr Butler and the NARGC have brought judicial review proceedings against the Minister, Ireland and the Attorney General.

They seek an order quashing the Minister’s decision to impose the ban and various declarations, including that the State has failed to set up a reliable system for collecting and analysing bird populations in the State.

They also want the court to declare that the State has failed to take the requisite measures to maintain the population of the various birds, including the four duck breeds, at levels that correspond to ecological, scientific and cultural requirements of the Wildlife Act or EU directive on birds.

The matter came before Ms Justice Niamh Hyland on Monday, who on an ex parte basis (only one side was represented) granted the applicants permission to bring their action.

She adjourned the case to February.

  • Sign up for push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone
  • Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date
  • Our In The News podcast is now published daily - Find the latest episode here