Ban on stag hunting must be quashed, urges FG Minister


THE CONTROVERSIAL ban on stag hunting “must be revisited” during the lifetime of the Government, according to a Fine Gael junior minister.

Shane McEntee, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, has warned that the issue “won’t go away” until Fine Gael and Labour revisit the ban, introduced by the last government at the behest of the Greens last year.

The stance taken by Mr McEntee, an avowed supporter of stag hunting, risks inflaming tensions between the Coalition partners. Fine Gael promised in its manifesto to reverse the ban, but this commitment was dropped from the programme for government because of opposition from Labour.

Last October, Mr McEntee claimed in the Seanad the ban would be reversed shortly. He was publicly rebuffed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who confirmed the Government had no intention of revisiting the legislation.

Since then, Labour’s most outspoken critic of stag hunting, backbencher Tommy Broughan, has lost the party whip after voting against the Government on economic measures. This has aroused hopes among game sports enthusiasts that its supporters in Fine Gael can persuade Labour to soften its position on the issue.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr McEntee said he would like to think “the right thing” would be done “at some stage” by permitting the Ward Union in his native Co Meath to hunt stags again.

He said the regulations put in place by former Labour minister Michael D Higgins in 1996 should never have been changed, as they operated very well in practice. “It was a stupid change and it brought down the [Fianna Fáil/Green] government. I will not give up my fight to have it reversed.” He said he respected the programme for government but claimed an “undertaking” had been given by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan to revoke the existing legislation. Mr Hogan made the promise before the election in a letter to hunting groups.

Mr McEntee acknowledged his earlier comments in the Seanad had been made at an inappropriate time given the proximity of the budget, and accepted Mr Kenny had “enough on his plate” for now.