Coalition wins all divisions in stag Bill vote


THE GOVERNMENT won all divisions in the Dáil last night on the controversial legislation to ban stag hunting.

Meath East TDs Mary Wallace and Thomas Byrne, Meath West TD Johnny Brady, Dublin North TD Michael Kennedy, Máire Hoctor of Tipperary North and Seán Power from Kildare South all voted in favour of the legislation, despite speaking against it last week.

Christy O’Sullivan (Cork South West) had not spoken during the debate but both he and Mr McGrath were absent from the chamber when the second stage was voted on earlier. The Government won that vote by 73 to 69.

Mr McGrath and Mr O’Sullivan were surrounded by party colleagues before the final vote was taken on the controversial Wildlife (Amendment) Bill, attempting to persuade them to vote with the Government.

Mr O’Sullivan backed the Government but Mr McGrath voted against in the electronic vote, losing the party whip and membership of the parliamentary party. Tipperary North Independent Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae of Kerry South, who normally support the Government, had previously indicated their opposition and voted against the legislation. The Government won by 75 to 72.

Members of Rise! (Rural Ireland Says Enough!) packed the gallery for the debate and watched as Fine Gael chief whip Paul Kehoe called for a walk-through vote, whereby TDs have to pass through the “Tá” and “Níl” lobbies, after the electronic vote. Mr McGrath abstained rather than walk through with the Opposition and the result was 75 votes to 71.

Minister for the Environment John Gormley again criticised what he referred to as a U-turn by the Labour Party and pointed to the absence for the votes, of Dublin North East Labour TD Tommy Broughan, who opposes bloodsports. Mr Gormley said it was a misrepresentation of the legislation to claim it was the “thin edge of the wedge”. He rejected the “idea that somehow this legislation is going to lead to some sort of erosion of rural pursuits in areas such as angling, shooting and fishing”. There were people in his own party involved in shooting and fishing.

Earlier, Fianna Fáil backbencher Mary O’Rourke (Longford-Westmeath) said she came from a part of Ireland involved in fishing, hunting and shooting. Ms O’Rourke said people wished her to say that “they will not entertain, nor will I, nor will Fianna Fáil, any further inroads into rural pursuits”.

There was giving and taking in a coalition government. “There is no point in saying otherwise,” she said. But she challenged the Minister to give a guarantee on the floor of the House that the Bill and the Dog Breeding Bill, which she knew he had inherited from Fianna Fáil Minister Dick Roche, would end his “ramblings in rural Ireland”.

Green Party TD Paul Gogarty (Dublin Mid-West) said the legislation was “so narrow we shouldn’t be spending more than two or three hours on it but instead this is the highlight of this Oireachtas’s year”, when there were much bigger issues to deal with.

He said the Ward Union hunt would continue. “They will either release the deer earlier and bring it back into captivity without being stressed out by a pack of hounds, and then have the scent . . . or else they’ll learn how to drag hunt. I would bet money on it,” he said.