I propose to take Questions Nos. 566 and 567 together.
I made the decision last month to suspend the licences in question.
Based on what we have been able to establish over the last 7 weeks, RHD2 appears to be widespread in Ireland. The virus is known to be highly contagious and easily spread and environmental contamination presents significant difficulties in terms of any biosecurity responses.
Netting and collecting hares for coursing meetings has been identified as a significant risk factor in spreading the disease.
The disease was first reported in Ireland from domestic rabbits in 2018 and was first reported in the wild in early August this year. The virus has now been confirmed in Counties Clare, Cork, Leitrim, Offaly, Wicklow and Wexford with some other animals still awaiting testing. My Department's officials will continue to work closely with colleagues in the regional laboratories and virology unit of Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine to gain a fuller understanding of the extent and impact of the disease in Ireland. All post-mortems and RHD2 testing to date has been done in DAFM’s labs and I would like to acknowledge their ongoing support and cooperation in our efforts to date.
While most of the confirmed reports to date have been in rabbits, the disease has also been recorded to date in two Irish hares. The National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department continue to monitor the situation.
The cooperation of farming groups, hunters, the coursing clubs and other rural land-users will be essential to ensure that a full picture of the disease’s extent and spread are achieved.
The decision to suspend the licences in question will be kept under ongoing review.