The legislative base for both parkland and open hare coursing is the Wildlife (Wild Mammals) (Open Seasons) Order 2005 which allows the hunting of hares, including coursing with dogs for “coursing at regulated coursing matches”. The Wildlife Acts defines a regulated coursing match as "regulated coursing match means a coursing match held in accordance with the rules for such matches which are for the time being both published and approved by the Irish Coursing Club pursuant to the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958.”
The rules of the club referred to by the Deputy state that coursing clubs can only hold meetings on dates allocated by the club.
The majority of coursing meetings organised by the club relate to regular park coursing where hares are captured under licence by my Department and are kept in a hare park, are released to course over a designated track and then re-released back into the wild. It is my understanding that in open coursing hares are not captured but are already present in the countryside. Clearly, a licence to capture hares is not required from my Department for Open coursing events where hares are not captured and as such there is no requirement for all such events to be listed on the schedule to the licences issued to the club in question.
In its opening statement delivered to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine on 9 July 2019, the club to which the Deputy refers made a distinction between Affiliated Clubs and Associated Clubs. My Department was not aware of the distinction. It is a matter for the club in question to clarify the legal status of such Associated Clubs and my Department is continuing to pursue this matter with the club.
As you know, I suspended the licences issued to the club in question on 9 August this year to capture and tag hares for the 2019/20 hare coursing- until a clearer understanding of the extent, spread and implications of the RHD2 virus emerges.
I issued revised licences in mid October to allow the netting and tagging of hares but there are specific restrictions and conditions explicitly attached to the issue of those licences. The capturing of hares and coursing activity is prohibited in areas within a 25-kilometre radius of where wild rabbits or hares have tested positive for the virus.