FF TDs call for free vote on proposed stag-hunting ban


TWO PROMINENT Fianna Fáil backbench TDs have called for a free vote in the Dáil on the proposed ban on stag-hunting.

John McGuinness (Carlow-Kilkenny) and Mattie McGrath (Tipperary South) said TDs should be allowed to vote without the imposition of the party whip when the matter comes before the Oireachtas in the spring. The ban was included in the renewed programme for government at the express wish of the Green Party.

The Republic’s only authorised stag hunt takes place in Co Meath but Mr McGrath said a ban would affect the national equine industry and was part of a wider range of rural pursuits which the Green Party had targeted. He said Fianna Fáil would “have to tread carefully” but acknowledged it was “unlikely” the party leadership would agree to a free vote.

He described hunting as “part of our heritage – a good, healthy pastime”. He asked “why should we get rid of it to satisfy the Greens”, who had “devastated rural Ireland” by withdrawing Rural Empowerment Protection Scheme (Reps) funding to farmers.

Referring to the Green Party members, Mr McGrath said “these lads are too politically correct and need to be roughed up a bit”. He said he didn’t mean roughing up “in the physical sense”.

Although stag-hunting was “not an issue” in Tipperary, and some hunt participants were “toffee-nosed types”, he feared a ban would have an impact on the horse industry and lead to job losses.

He also said that wild deer were doing “awful damage” to the countryside in his constituency.

He was “especially surprised” that the ban was supported by the Green Party’s rural representatives, Mary White, a TD for Carlow-Kilkenny, and Senator Dan Boyle of Cork.

Mr McGuinness said that “it’s okay for the Greens to have their point of view” but there “should be an open debate and a free vote” on the issue. He also believed it was important to listen to the views of “people in the countryside who are involved in rural pursuits” such as hunting, shooting and fishing.

Ms White said “the ban on stag hunting is going to happen”.

She claimed the legislation would be “vital in modernising the animal welfare protections in this country” and would halt “some cruel practices against animals”.

She said the Greens had also secured Fianna Fáil agreement for “an end to fur farming within three years” and “the use of a vaccine instead of culling badgers to prevent the spread of TB” in cattle.

She said these commitments “are very important to the Green Party in Government in its commitment to animal welfare, and we will make sure they are implemented” .

She also said it was Green Party policy to outlaw fox-hunting but believed this was unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future.

She said there would be “no change regarding shooting and fishing