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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 4 Jul 2012

Vol. 216 No. 8

Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2012: Second Stage

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I am pleased to bring the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2012 before the House. The Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2010 includes provisions allowing all holders of valid firearm certificates issued for shotguns between 1 August 2009 and 31 July 2012 to be deemed to be the holders of a hunting licence under the Wildlife Acts for the purposes of hunting game bird and hare species. This provision was introduced at the time to address an issue which arose following the introduction of a new computerised firearm licensing system by An Garda Síochána.

Prior to the enactment of the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2010, the Wildlife Acts required a hunter to have a licence to hunt certain game birds, such as pheasant and partridge, and hares. The Acts provide that this would be obtained as an endorsement on the hunter's firearm certificate. The hunting licence and firearm certificate were issued by An Garda Síochána in the form of a shotgun licence with the appropriate endorsement for hunting. However, new Garda Síochána computerised procedures introduced in 2009 for issuing three-year firearm certificates omitted the facility to issue the endorsement as a wildlife hunting licence. At the time, it was not practicable to recall the new firearm certificates issued or to change the licensing process that was in train. Accordingly, provisions were included in the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2010 to allow a hunter in possession of a firearm certificate to shoot game birds and hare species during the open seasons. These provisions will lapse on 31 July 31 2012.

Since the enactment of these provisions, discussions have taken place between the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the Department of Justice and Equality and An Garda Síochána. These discussions have considered the question of amending the firearm certificate application form, and the certificate itself, to accommodate the hunting endorsement. The outcome of these discussions has been that a suitable technical solution is not possible, at reasonable cost, in the short term. Accordingly, I consider the most viable option is to extend the existing arrangements pending a more thorough review of the Wildlife Acts.

I should explain to the House there is a commitment in the national biodiversity plan for 2011 to 2016 to publish new consolidated wildlife legislation in 2014. I consider that such consolidated legislation is necessary given that the primary wildlife legislation is now almost 40 years old. I am of the view that the most appropriate context for the consideration of all issues surrounding wildlife, including hunting and hunting licences, is as part of this overall review. Accordingly, I consider that, in the interim, the current arrangements should be continued and that persons with a valid firearm certificate should be deemed to have a hunting licence under the Wildlife Acts beyond 31 July 2012. This requires a short technical amendment to the Wildlife Acts which is set out in section 1 of the Bill. Otherwise, if this is not done, hunters would be hunting unlawfully after 31 July 2012.

I should point out the Bill does not give hunters unrestricted permission to hunt protected birds and hares on a year round basis. The hunting season for game birds under the open season is restricted for most wildfowl to a period from 1 September to the end of January. In the case of popular game birds, such as pheasant and partridge, the open season is shorter, from 1 November to the end of January. The open season for hares is from the end of September to the end of February.

There are gun clubs in almost every rural parish throughout the country. Many Members of the House are aware of the popularity of game shooting during the winter months. For many people the start of the pheasant season is traditionally seen as the start of winter. The Bill will allow hunters to continue their sporting activity in a legal manner without interruption during the open seasons Therefore, I commend the Bill to the House.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire. Any legislation or debate on wildlife in the House is to be welcomed. It exercises the minds of people from time to time and stag hunting was one such issue. We have heard it in relation to coursing as well. That underlines the interest in and concern for wildlife, which is not confined to people living in rural Ireland. It applies to anyone who is concerned with quality of life. Wildlife provides an element of one's quality of life. In our younger days in school, the schoolmaster would ensure we went out to embrace nature. Details of birds' nests, etc., were explained to us. At a very young age, I read a story in one of our school textbooks that talked about hares as if they were human. It talked about a hare going to school with a bag over its shoulder. When I was out with my father not long after, I insisted that I saw the hare with the schoolbag running across the field. That was how wildlife affected our imaginations. It was part of our lives.

I must admit I had a ferret at home when I was young. I used to go out hunting for rabbits with the ferret and with a net. If I caught a rabbit, I sold it or else we had it at home. Perhaps I saw that as part of survival. We have to consider the need for balance. That balance has been reached, to some extent. I accept that the primary wildlife legislation is almost 40 years old, as the Minister has pointed out. That is a long period of time, especially in light of the way things have changed. Certain species are in danger of becoming extinct. We all regret that we do not hear the sound of the corncrake as we used to in days gone by. It was much more than a sound — it was part of our emotional make-up. We get excited when we hear the cuckoo. The older people alert the younger people to the presence of the cuckoo.

When all of that is considered as part of the debate, we realise that we are not talking about something that is removed from us. We are talking about something that is a central part of our make-up, even if no legislation or protective measures were introduced. My experience of the people living in rural Ireland is that they are the custodians of our wildlife. There have been times when they had to face certain challenges, particularly where vermin were concerned and when it was found that badgers were spreading TB to cattle. They were real issues. At no time did the people of rural Ireland want to wipe out all wildlife. They did not decide to kill every pheasant in order to sell it. There are echoes of that approach in the fishing industry as well. No one wants to wipe out all stocks.

I have always found that the national debates on most of these issues were not needed in rural Ireland. However, we have heard horror stories about shooting parties coming in from England, where other restrictions exist. The activity in which they were engaged is a blood sport in the real sense of being a blood sport. There was absolutely no question of it being done for any sensible reason. It was absolute carnage. The local people who were the custodians of our wildlife were shocked to think that could happen. The same thing applies to coursing. It would be very difficult for us to argue against coursing in rural Ireland. On the other hand, certain measures have been taken to ensure the cruelty is removed from the sport. Again, it is a matter of balance.

The question of whether one should have a hunting endorsement on one's gun licence is part of what we are discussing today. We need to reflect on whether "open season" should be open in the fullest sense. If there is a danger that we are about to backtrack to some extent by taking a lighter approach, I suggest it would have an adverse effect on the debate that is taking place and would be contrary to what people actually want in this regard. I am aware of the technical glitches that occurred in 2009 and 2010. I accept that technical issues need to be dealt with in the short term. I presume this approach will not extend beyond the short term.

I am glad the Minister mentioned that the primary legislation is more than 40 years old. I do not know if the Minister and the officials in his Department have yet had a chance to think about further legislation. Perhaps today's debate will be a lever in that regard and we will be given an indication that such legislation will be introduced. As we discuss this technical legislation — I accept that is what it is — we need to consider whether it might do something that it was not intended to do by adding to the decimation of part of our wildlife. If that is the case, we will have to revisit the primary legislation as quickly as we can.

There is always an educational aspect where wildlife is concerned. I have heard that the nature visits we went on when we were young, which I mentioned earlier, do not exist in our schools anymore. I might be totally wrong in this regard. I would like to think I am wrong. Children in our schools travel to other countries with school groups or come to Dublin on school tours. I suggest that the greatest areas of exploration and discovery they might avail of are on their own doorsteps. I recall that when I was in secondary school, as a townie I had an absolute and sheer envy of the knowledge the country boys had about habitats and the seasons, etc. Regardless of the pressure on our schools, that has to continue as part of the education system. I exhort our schools to reconsider as far as possible the educational value of these matters for our young people. Not only would such an approach give children a rounded education, but it would also add to their knowledge of who they are as a people — their background and traditions, etc. All of that is bound up with this issue.

The question of protection is another important issue in this context. If a young person is introduced to nature in a nice way, he or she will appreciate, for instance, that one should not put one's hands on the eggs in a nest because the bird will become aware of it and subsequently desert the nest. We heard all of that when we were young. I understand that this legislation is technical. I accept the point the Minister has made about the antiquity of the primary legislation in this area. When we are discussing these matters, we should ensure education is part of the debate. If we do that, I do not think there will be any dangers in the future. The Irish people will always be protective of wildlife. For tourism reasons, we should not undermine or decimate what is important to us as a people. I thank the Minister for bringing this legislation to the House and giving us an opportunity to speak broadly about this country's wildlife.

I welcome the Minister to the House. My colleague, Senator Noone, who is my party's spokesperson in this area, has asked me to apologise for her absence and to express her full support for this Bill. The Minister has given a full explanation of the reason this technical legislation is before the House. He has assured us that more substantial primary legislation will be introduced within a few years. Many items can be considered and put on the agenda between now and then. It might be helpful if the Minister were to return to this House at some stage in the next 12 months not to debate a particular Bill but to engage in a broader debate on wildlife. That might be useful for the Minister and for the Members of this House. Some of those issues, including those raised by the previous speaker, could be ventilated before that legislation is published.

The Minister has pointed out that the Bill before the House today is necessary to allow people to continue their lawful hunting activities. Something in the Irish tradition or the Irish mindset puts the ability to hunt, shoot and fish at the core of our being, particularly from a rural perspective. We have to ensure that tradition is maintained and developed in a balanced, fair and reasonable fashion. We are not taking any major steps today other than what is necessary to ensure things are done in a legal fashion. The Minister's Department deals with heritage and the Gaeltacht but there was once a Department for forestry and wildlife. I recall a story told by some of my more mature colleagues. In the mid-1970s there was the unfortunate experience with the late President, Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, who resigned from office. There was a Cabinet reshuffle. At the core of the unfortunate debate at the time was the late Deputy and Minister, Paddy Donegan. The then Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, came into the Dáil to announce his new Cabinet line-up, going through finance, social welfare, health, etc. The last man on the list was Deputy Patrick Donegan. The Taoiseach announced he was appointing the Deputy as Minister for forestry and "wild life", stressing the latter part of the portfolio. This Minister is now the successor in that regard, in charge of wildlife, and I am sure he will act in a very balanced fashion.

The previous speaker expanded on some very interesting areas, particularly from the point of view of young children from both town and country, and the balance between the two. Country children present a very different view of the natural world from that expressed by their town friends. We must ensure that continues. This is a very small step. The Minister's important task will be his legislation of 2014. Before he introduces that legislation, perhaps he might have a more general debate with us on issues that might concern people in certain regards and on which we would have ideas and suggestions that might be helpful.

I support the Bill and wish it a speedy passage through the House. What the Minister is doing today is necessary and will ensure that the law will be maintained, that people can go about their country sport pursuits in a legal fashion and that these traditions which have existed in this country not just for generations, but for centuries, can continue.

The Minister is very welcome and so is this Bill. It is a technical Bill that he has explained very well. I was delighted to hear him state his intention to publish a new wildlife Bill in 2014, under the national 2011-2016 biodiversity plan.

It was also a delight to listen to Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú talking about the past and the quality of life, although the quality of life of the poor bird that is going to be shot does not sound so good. There is little doubt that for those of us who are or have been city dwellers the benefit we get from country life and its diversity is just wonderful. I live in north county Dublin, in Fingal. It is very interesting to see the quantity of wildlife that exists on the Hill of Howth. On one occasion I met two Frenchmen at the airport who were coming here to shoot woodcock in County Clare. I took them home for lunch. They could not get over the number of birds around and asked why nobody was shooting them. This was in Baldoyle and areas around Portmarnock, as we came from the airport. I was reminded of being in southern Italy on one occasion when there seemed to be non-stop shooting. I am told Malta is even worse, that there is non-stop shooting of everything that moves in the sky. We do not have that in Ireland. As Senator Ó Murchú noted, we have a tradition of respecting and valuing wildlife.

In the part of the world where I live I am amazed at the number of wild pheasants and am particularly interested to see the Brent geese when they arrive every year. On one occasion in the Seanad, on 23 October, during a discussion on wildlife, I referred to the fact that this date was the date on which, each year, the Brent geese arrived, having come all the way from Canada. They certainly land in my part of the world on 23 October. I observed also that they leave on 23 April every year. Some years later I had a telephone call from RTE which was doing a wildlife programme on birds in north county Dublin, including the Brent geese. The programme makers had googled the name of anybody who was an expert, had discovered I had spoken on the matter in the Seanad and had assumed I was an expert. When I told a friend I was going to do an interview on Bull Island about Brent geese he asked me what I knew about them. I said I knew they come on 23 October and leave on 23 April and he replied that it would be the shortest interview RTE ever did about wildlife and Brent geese.

We have a great wealth of diversity here and have so much from which to benefit. Anything we can do to maintain this needs constant attention and the Bill is a reminder of the Minister's commitment to this end. The legislation passed in recent years concerning licensing and licences needs to be amended and it is good to see it amended on that basis. Let us ensure we allocate time and attention to the wildlife Bill when it is introduced in two years' time, so that we can protect the environment in the future. Where I live in Howth I am lucky there are quite a number of red squirrels around, in several families. We have them in our garden and around the area. It is an area that has been protected from the invasion of the grey squirrels which tend to take over from the red squirrels. We have so much quality of life from which to benefit. Let us ensure we take whatever steps we need to in order to continue to protect this area so that we and the next generation can get all the benefit of this wildlife in years to come.

I support the Bill, as I believe all of us do. We see no problem in having it passed in this House.

It is good to have the Minister back in the House. I am not sure I can extend my creativity, as other Senators have, to include William Butler Yeats, yet again. I do not believe beehives qualify under the Wildlife Act.

Like others, I welcome this Bill. I am not somebody who shoots, I am not a member of a gun club and I have never engaged in that activity, but I understand its importance in our traditions. Like Senator Ó Murchú, in particular, I look forward to when we can engage with new legislation in the wildlife area. It is particularly important, as Senator Quinn also stated, that we talk about it being sustainable. It is not simply about going out and hunting but about understanding our relationship with the countryside and the environment. The fact is we have lost some of our species but have done well in retaining many. Senator Ó Murchú mentioned the corncrake and the cuckoo. Where I live in the countryside we often hear the cuckoo and I note I always stop to ask the children if they can hear the cuckoo. It is part of the tradition we were handed down in that when we were children our parents would ask us if we had heard the corncrake or the cuckoo. It is a rather nice thing to do but of course it is more than that — it signifies the health of the countryside. The Minister, with this part of his ministerial hat on, knows this is something we must value and treasure even more into the future for our countryside not merely from a tourism or a visitor's point of view, but from our own point of view. If we encourage and support hunting we must do it in an appropriate way. Like others, I would welcome the opportunity to have a debate in this House, perhaps prior to that legislation being introduced. In that way, we might have researched properly and have thought about the items that should be part of that legislation in 2014.

Senator Ó Murchú spoke about the way children are today in schools. I was at the Leader partnership awards in Sligo last week and was very taken by a young man who has set up a small business called From the Farmyard to the Schoolyard. He is concentrating on farm animals, obviously, but it is a lovely simple idea. He did it in chalk on a blackboard and straightaway one was taken to the heart of what he is trying to do, to bring the countryside to the schoolyard. It has become increasingly hard for children to get out into the countryside and go on trips, to understand our countryside and wildlife. Those children, who the Senator described as "townies", sometimes do not get this opportunity, with health and safety regulations, insurance and all the factors that have made this activity more difficult. I was especially taken by the young man and wish him well with his business. He is right to try to connect those points. Children who understand and appreciate the countryside can uphold the hunting laws in an appropriate way, as Senator Quinn noted, unlike other European countries where literally everything that moves is shot at. That is not the case in Ireland. If we are to have our hunting tradition, I hope and support that we would do it in an sustainable and appropriate manner. I welcome this amending legislation to ensure that those hunters who take part in hunting do so in a legal fashion. I look forward to a future debate which I am sure the Minister will be only too happy to facilitate.

Céad fáilte roimh an Aire. Is breá an rud é a fheiceáil sa Teach arís. Tá Sinn Féin ag tacú leis an mBille mar is Bille gearr teicniúil é, ach tá roinnt pointí gur mhaith linn a dhéanamh air.

The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2010 in order that holders of shotgun licences can continue to use their firearms during the open season. This is a practical, sensible step that maintains the current process of applying for a licence to hold a firearm and continues that process into the future. According to the 2011 Act, the window for applications which took place after 2009 would come to a close at the beginning of August 2012. This legislation removes that window and now those in possession of firearms will simply comply with the general obligations which already existed upon firearms owners in terms of renewing licences, etc. This allows hunters to continue hunting during the open season without having to renew their licences during that period. It is to be noted that proper controls and legislation for firearms are necessary. There are some 233,120 registered firearms in Ireland and this is no small amount. Gun registration is rightly stringent in this State and we support that this continues to be the case.

The difficulties which can be caused by excessive ease of access to firearms are clear from other jurisdictions and can obviously impact upon the incidence of gun crime. We need to be vigilant on this issue and to ensure our gun control legislation remains satisfactorily stringent. However, we believe this legislation is a practical and reasonable step to ensure that those in possession of firearms are not required to renew their licences during the course of the open season and, administratively and practically, we recognise that this is sensible.

The debate has opened up a number of issues and I concur with much of what has been said. I would raise a point that has not been mentioned. This is seen as an administrative solution, an Irish solution to an Irish problem. It raises the question as to why it was not possible for the computerised system in the Department of Justice and Equality to take on board what seems to be a very simple change. That raises another question, which is not directly related to the Minister's brief, namely, the lack of computerisation in our Garda stations. If we cannot introduce a small change to provide for the ticking of a box in a form filing exercise in our Garda stations, and we have not been able to address it since 2009 with the amount of money that went through the system, it raises the questions as to the state the computerisation system in the Department of Justice and Equality. This should have been a relatively minor change that could have been introduced. I appreciate that the Minister is bringing in a solution which is practical and simple but it raises that issue. The Minister, if the information is available to him, might give us the background as to why we cannot make such simple changes, as we are aware of the problems in this area.

My colleague, Senator Reilly, alluded to a scenario this morning where gardaí being called out to an incident had to be collected by the person who made the telephone call about the incident because there was no Garda patrol car available to them. We know there are issues concerning resources in An Garda Síochána. When we are living in a computerised age and need to automate our system, it should have been possible to bring in this change.

I welcome the fact that the wildlife Bill proper is to be introduced in 2014. To pre-empt any potential referendum the Taoiseach might indicate should be held, the Minister might introduce that Bill in the Seanad beforehand because a number of Members elected to this House have an expertise in this area. The Seanad would be a good forum to debate this type of a Bill because the debate on it could be broad-ranging. The Minister might be able to outline the consultation process planned in the run up to the devising of the Bill. There are a huge number of issues relating to wildlife and environmental issues. There are very polarised opinions on areas designated as special areas of conservation, SACs, natural heritage areas, NHA, coursing and wildlife issues. It would be useful to have a broad consultation process on the development of the new wildlife Bill and we would welcome that. As part of that process I hope that will have a debate on SACs, NHAs, and special protections areas, SPAs. That debate was brought to the fore in Connemara during this week because of a planning application for a new road from Galway to Rossaveal. The locals in the area had asked that this road be kept as far away from the settlements as possible in order that there would be as little disruption to people living in the area. The advisers have said that they cannot do that because of the designations of SACs, NHAs and SPAs. I appreciate that is covered by an environmental directive from Europe but people who have researched the issue locally have questioned the way some of that designation was done at the beginning of the 2000s in that some of the visits by Department officials were scant. They did not go into great detail and a good deal of desk research was done. It comes back to the issue of who knows the area better.

The Donegal Islands Fishermen's Group made a presentation to a joint committee yesterday and a representative of also mentioned this point and that is not to in any way disparage civil servants and the work they do in their Departments. That representative raised the question of whether the locals who live, fish, hunt or farm in an area know what is best for an area as well as the officials who base their findings on desk research. That type of debate would be welcomed on the wildlife Bill.

I note that members of the Minister's party in Galway recently called for the abolition of the NPWS. I am not sure what the Minister's view is on that on foot of what has happened recently in regard to turf cutting. Members of his party have said that the NPWS should be abolished. I am sure there would be a healthy, robust and entertaining debate in the Seanad on all these issues if we were to debate that Bill. I contend the Seanad might be the best Chamber to introduce such an important Bill.

We support the technical amendment to the legislation but we question why it was not possible to make a minor amendment to a computerisation system in a simple and practical fashion and why that has not happened since 2009.

I welcome the Minister. This is an interesting Bill and it has become more interesting as the debate has continued. I was interested to hear what Senators Ó Murchú and Quinn said. It reminded me of when I did contract work in north Leitrim in the 1970s and I was mowing a field for an old farmer when we came upon a nest of corncrakes. The farmer took off his cap, gathered up all the corncrakes and set them down in the hedge in order that they would be safe. It is a pity a little more of that was not done and we might have preserved the corncrake but, unfortunately, when machines moved forward many of the wild birds were lost.

I am due to visit an area in north Leitrim on Friday morning where a wild grouse project is being promoted, and I know that the Minister has a particular interest in this issue. We are being joined by Teagasc which is preparing a report on it. I look forward to the wild grouse being re-introduced and there are 35 grouse breeding on that particular commonage. That is very good. In my previous role in the IFA, I worked on commonages and many of them were over-grazed. When that happened the birds and habitats were not allowed to develop.

I have strayed a little from the Bill. It is a technical one and it makes only one change to wildlife legislation. It amends section 29 of the Act, as amended by section 4 of the 2010 Act, by removing the end date, 1 August 2012. This ensures that firearms certificates issued for shotguns after 1 August 2009 will now be valid to be used by hunters to hunt wild deer and birds in the appropriate hunting season. It is extremely important that there are not hunted out of season.

I thank the Minister for bringing this Bill before the House. It provides certainty for those firearms certificates owners and owners of shotguns issued after 2009. It is an important amendment, as we heard, as we head into a number of hunting seasons, including those for the hunting of the hare, the duck, the pheasant and the grouse. In excess of 220,000 three-year firearms certificates have been issued since the introduction of the updated firearms legislation in 2009 so it will affect quite a number of people. This amendment will ensure that those licences will now remain valid for the duration of three years. My colleague, Senator Susan O'Keeffe, mentioned W. B. Yeats. I remind her that the Brent geese come to Lissadell from Greenland every winter and they are a protected species. I thank the Minister for his attendance and I look forward to a further debate on wildlife.

The Wildlife (Amendment) Bill amends the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2010, the famous Act that banned stag hunting. I am shocked that I do not see any evidence of the Government's promise made by Deputy Shane McEntee and Deputy Phil Hogan to repeal the ban on stag hunting. Will an amendment be tabled on Committee Stage? Fine Gael rose up the people in the RISE organisation by giving specific promises and a specific commitment that stag hunting in County Meath would be reinstated. We find now that this was just what I must say were barefaced lies told to the people by Fine Gael.

Senator Byrne, please do not use the word, "lies".

Mistruths, false promises, something wrong was said. There are many ways of saying it but I am saying the truth. The people were misled. I expected to see a provision for the reinstatement of stag hunting but there is nothing in the Bill to do with stag hunting. Those promises are just thrown on the bonfire of power. The Ministers, Deputies Hogan and McEntee conveniently and completely discarded the promises they had made to the people. I was at a meeting in Trim attended by 3,000 people. I note some of the various associations involved in this issue are still annoyed at the reneging on promises. This Bill gives an opportunity to vent those concerns and to remind people of those false promises or whatever one wants to call them made by Fine Gael before the election. They certainly cost my party, probably rightly, a lot of votes because we were the ones who banned stag hunting and I stood by the Government decision of the time. However, this deep disappointment will not be forgotten in County Meath, in particular in the parishes of Ardcath and Clonalvy and Curraha and the areas where this hunt is supported. They relied on promises made by Fine Gael and these have now been thrown by the wayside. Shame on the Government and shame on the Ministers for not implementing the promises they made.

As there are no other speakers offering, I call on the Minister.

I thank the various Senators for their generally very positive contributions and for the support for this very simple amending legislation which will ensure that people may continue to shoot in a legal fashion. No other element is included in the Bill.

I would be happy to attend the House at any future opportunity to discuss the topic of nature. We need to be aware of the importance of biodiversity in this country. At times it has been compromised in various ways. Biodiversity provides services such as water, fresh air, pollination. It would be very helpful to have a discussion in this House. My engagement with this House in discussions on the arts and on the national cultural institutions, has been very positive. I salute the extensive expertise in this House which can inform any Minister if he or she were prepared to listen and I am prepared to listen.

A number of Senators mentioned education. I agree with Senator Ó Murchú and other speakers that nature education should be part of the school curriculum. The country has six national parks but not everyone has easy access to them. The National Parks and Wildlife Service is making extensive use of the national parks for educational purposes. I suggest the schools could use this resource. The farming community are the custodians of our environment. I have always recognised the positive contribution made by the Irish Farmers Association, the ICMSA and other organisations to preserving and caring for the countryside. Farmers have preserved our treasured landscape which visitors wish to see. Without people living in that landscape we would not have that attraction. It is important to have a positive engagement with rural dwellers.

The principal legislation is in preparation and I will be delighted to return to the Seanad to discuss it. In reply to the question on computerisation, this is one of the reasons for this Bill. Apart from technical constraints there are also financial considerations. This Bill was deemed to be the most practical solution since the country is so constrained financially. Otherwise, as I said in my Second Stage contribution, before the enactment of the Bill, a number of cases were taken in 2009 against the National Parks and Wildlife Service. This amending Bill is a technical provision to allow for shooting licences and to provide legitimate cover for those who wish to shoot in these closed seasons. The conditions have not changed as regards open seasons and shooting conditions.

I thank Senators for their contributions.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?