I propose to take Questions Nos. 532, 534 and 535 together.
I made the decision in August to suspend the licences issued to the Irish Coursing Club (ICC) on behalf of its affiliated clubs to capture and tag hares for the 2019/20 hare coursing season until a clearer understanding of the extent, spread and implications of the RHD2 virus emerges. Based on what we have been able to establish over the past several 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. Accordingly, I have decided to maintain the suspension of the licences issued to the Irish Coursing Club to capture and tag hares for the 2019/20 hare coursing season. This decision will be reviewed on an ongoing basis.
The Open Seasons Order allows for the shooting of hares, coursing of hares at regulated coursing matches and hunting of hares with packs of beagles and harriers between 26 September and 28 February of the following year. While the ICC netting and tagging licences were suspended following the detection of RHD2, Open Coursing and hunting of hares with beagles and harriers is still permissible during the open season. There is no provision for the hunting of hares with other breeds of dog.
I am keeping the matter of the Open Seasons Order under review in the context of the RHD2 virus.