Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2010: Second Stage

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I am pleased to introduce the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2010 and I look forward to an informed debate during its passage through the House. As the House is aware, the renewed programme for Government includes a commitment to introduce legislation to prohibit the practice of deer hunting with a pack of dogs. This short Bill provides for the banning of this particular hunting practice. In addition, I have taken the opportunity to increase the maximum fines for wildlife related offences, which were last increased in 2000.

I would like to put on the record of the House the fact that the decision to prohibit the hunting of deer with a pack of hounds was not taken lightly. Section 26(1) of the 1976 Act provides that I, as Minister, may grant to the master or other person in charge of a pack of stag hounds a licence authorising the hunting of deer by that pack during such period or periods as is or are specified in the licence. However, the Act does not provide criteria for awarding or refusing a licence.

As Deputies are aware, there is only one stag hound pack in the State, which operates in County Meath. When I became Minister in June 2007, I had concerns from an animal welfare and a public safety point of view relating to the operation of the hunt meetings operated by the hunt club in question. These concerns were shared by some of my predecessors.

The hunt club in question maintains a herd of domesticated red deer in purpose-built deer parks that adjoin its hunt kennels. Its hunting season normally runs from mid-October to the end of March. Approximately 50 meetings are held during this period. It is not acceptable to allow a hunt with hounds and horses of what is essentially a farm animal. We do not consider it acceptable to set dogs in pursuit of any other farmed animal. Furthermore, there are public safety issues, as it is simply not possible for the hunt to prevent deer in flight from leaping through hedges onto public roads. I recall an incident last December during one of their hunt meetings when a deer had to be put down after it had leapt onto a road and collided with a car. I find this incident totally unacceptable even though I understand that fortunately on that occasion there were no injuries to the occupants of the car. Many Deputies are aware of a previous serious incident when a deer being chased by the hounds leaped into a school yard just as the school day was finishing. At the time there was a great deal of disquiet about this type of hunting. I have been told about other incidents anecdotally, but from reliable sources, that suggest these are not isolated incidents.

The Government, therefore, decided the animal welfare and public safety concerns relating to stag hunting could only be addressed by banning this hunting practice. The Bill itself is short and simple. Section 2 provides for the deletion of the section in the 1976 Wildlife Act that allows me as Minister to grant a licence for the hunting of deer with pack of hounds.

Section 3 seeks to achieve a number of objectives. First, it redefines deer for the purposes of the legislation so that the term includes any deer that is not a wild animal. This expanded definition of "deer" has been incorporated into the Bill to ensure there is no argument that the hunting of captive deer might not require a licence under the Wildlife Acts.

Second, it makes it an offence to hunt deer with two or more dogs but it provides for a situation where it may be necessary to pursue deer with two or more dogs, if a person has received permission under section 42 of the Wildlife Acts. Section 42 offers a facility, outside the open season, whereby a person can obtain permission, on a case by case basis, to take action against a protected species, including deer, which can include the scaring, capturing or killing of the said species in a situation where serious damage is being caused to agricultural corps, forestry plantations, other fauna, etc. There may be occasions when it is necessary or useful to bring dogs to assist in moving deer from areas where they are causing serious damage, for example, in young forestry plantations. It is good practice to use dogs to assist in the recovery of fallen deer.

Since the Bill was published some groups representing deer stalkers have raised an issue with officials of my Department relating to section 3, which might inadvertently affect their legitimate hunting practices. It is not unusual for a deer stalker to bring a dog hunting deer. This is especially true in woodlands, where a dog can be used to retrieve fallen game that sometimes can be concealed in undergrowth. In cases where several hunters are stalking deer on a property and each had a dog, or if they were bringing two dogs for training purposes, it could be construed that they were breaking the law based on section 3. It was never my intention that the Bill should place any restriction on lawful deer stalking. Accordingly, in order to allay these fears, I will table an amendment on Committee Stage, such that it is not an offence for people stalking deer and with a deer licence to have more than two dogs.

I will table a further amendment to the Bill on Committee Stage to address a problem which has recently arisen in regard to licences to shoot game during the open seasons. The Wildlife Act requires a hunter to have a licence to hunt certain birds, such as wildfowl, and hares, and made provision that this would be obtained as an endorsement on the hunter's firearm certificate. Both the hunting licence and the firearm certificate were issued by An Garda Síochána in the form of a shotgun licence with the appropriate endorsement for hunting.

However, when new, computerised procedures were introduced in 2009 for issuing three-year firearms certificates, the facility for issuing the endorsement as a wildlife hunting licence was omitted. As a result, new firearms certificates do not provide for a hunting licence attachment and therefore do not meet the legal requirements of the existing Wildlife Acts. Consequently, hunters issued with new firearms certificates were not be able to hunt legally. I understand that by the time the oversight was identified, it was not practicable to recall the certificates issued nor to change the licensing process in train.

In order to address this problem, I will table an amendment on Committee Stage to amend the Wildlife Acts so that a firearms certificates issued for a shotgun, between 1 August 2009 and 1 August 2012, will be deemed to be a hunting licence for game species such as wildfowl and hares. In the interim, arrangements will be made between my Department and the Department of Justice and Law Reform to revert to a situation where the hunting licence is endorsed on the firearms certificate. This does not affect the current system of issuing licences for shooting deer.

I refer to the other part of the Bill relating to the increase in penalties for wildlife related crime. Section 4 of the Bill provides for increased penalties for offences under the Wildlife Acts. I have decided to increase these penalties, as they have not been increased since 2000. I am increasing maximum fines such that on summary conviction the maximum fine is increased to €1,000 from £500 for a first offence, to €2,000 from £1,000 for a second offence and to €5,000 from £1,500 for a third or subsequent offence. In addition, the maximum fine for conviction on indictment is increased to €100,000 from £50,000. There are no changes in maximum times of imprisonment terms.

I consider it vitally important that the State uses every means at its disposal to ensure our natural heritage is protected. This includes our wildlife and habitats. In this international year of biodiversity, we must continue to maintain and enhance our wildlife under the obligations of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. The new penalties proposed in the Bill are proportionate. I am sure the House will support the increased fines.

Turning to general reaction to the proposed legislation, I reject the notion that this Bill is an attack on country pursuits.

It is an attack on people in County Meath.

The Bill will deal with——

The Minister should mind his own business and look after the incinerator. Someone must tell him the truth.

The Bill will deal with three issues only — prohibiting deer hunting with packs of dogs, increasing the various penalties for wildlife related offences, and addressing the problem which has arisen with licences for hunting wild game. No other amendments to the Wildlife Acts are proposed in the Bill. I have stated on a number of occasions that the passage of this legislation will not have an impact on other country practices such as fox-hunting, hare-hunting, hare coursing and deer stalking.

That is not what Green Party members are saying.

Please Deputy McEntee, you will have your opportunity to contribute later.

Anyone reading this short Bill will clearly see that it does not have an impact on other country pursuits.

The Minister should tell the truth.

Deputy McEntee is all right.

There have been misleading and exaggerated media reports over the past few months from various hunting organisations that this Bill is evidence of an all-out attack on the hunting fraternity. Let us have some facts and figures to dispel this notion. In 2007, my first year in office as Minister, there were over 4,500 various licences issued by my Department under the Wildlife Acts. The corresponding figure for 2009 was over 6,200 licences. Approximately 70% of these licences are issued to deer stalkers who, needless to say, will not be affected by this legislation.

It cost €400,000 when it was done incorrectly.

I hardly think this constitutes an attack on traditional field sports and rural pastimes, as one of the recently formed organisations claimed. The vast majority of people involved in legal hunting in this country will have nothing to fear from the enactment of this Bill. My Department will still be issuing licences for deer hunting. Fox hunting is not affected by this Bill.

While I appreciate the hunt has been in operation for over 150 years, the banning of stag hunting with hounds does not necessarily mean the members of the hunt must give up hunting activities altogether. The hunt has the option of continuing their local hunting, perhaps as a drag hunt which would still allow them to use hounds.

The Minister will ban that too when he gets his way.

It has been said that this Bill, along with the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill, is evidence of an attack on rural Ireland. I am aware that some Deputies have concerns with regard to certain aspects of the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill and I have given assurances that I will table amendments to this Bill during its passage through this House to address these concerns. Any suggestion that the Dog Breeding Establishment Bill is an attack on rural Ireland and its pursuits is scaremongering of the worst order.

The Minister should tell that to the people in County Meath.

Deputy McEntee will have an opportunity to speak later.

I will take the opportunity.

I am not surprised by the Fine Gael attitude——

I am glad the Minister is not surprised.

——but I am disappointed at the cynical decision by the Labour Party to abandon its opposition to blood sports.

It is on the record. In the past——

The past is Fianna Fáil politics.

Deputy McEntee, you can speak for yourself.

——senior members of the party, including its current leader, Deputy Eamon Gilmore, and the former leaders, Deputy Pat Rabbitte and Deputy Ruarí Quinn, publicly stated their opposition to blood sports, including stag hunting. It is all on the record. Now, in a complete U-turn, the party is to vote in favour of blood sports when the wildlife Bill to ban stag hunting comes before the Houses of the Oireachtas. It is a sad day for politics in Ireland when the Labour Party decides to vote in support of the continuation of a blood sport. It appears that for the Labour Party Members, no principle is too cherished to be abandoned if they believe there are votes in it for them.

What about incineration?

Three years ago, Deputy Eamon Gilmore was urging an end to stag hunting as he considered the stag to be a domesticated animal and now his party has deemed itself satisfied that this practice should be allowed to continue. For the Labour Party, the vote on stag hunting is about more than animal welfare. It is a test of the party's convictions and principles. It is a test of whether the Labour Party's politicians' words or promises on animal welfare or any other issue mean anything in 2010.

I say to the Deputy opposite that what we are talking about is a domesticated animal. I want people outside this House to imagine that if——

What about the 30,000 deer killed illegally?

I am sure the Deputy opposite has a domesticated pet.

Deputy McEntee, allow the Minister to continue.

I will allow him to continue but he has done nothing about that.

I want to explain the seriousness of this issue to the Deputy. It is very easy to understand.

Deputy McEntee should try listening.

I will not listen to the Deputy. Half the country is not listening to him.

If the Deputy has a domesticated animal at home and if a number of people came to him and said they wanted to hunt that animal down with hounds and people on horseback, I believe he would be rightly outraged, even if they said they would give the animal back to him in one piece. That animal would be running for its life, and the deer in Meath is running for its life. That is unacceptable and uncivilised.

I reiterate that the Bill as published has two main purposes: to ban the practice of hunting deer with a pack of hounds and to increase the various fines for wildlife related offences. As I have outlined, I will bring forward an amendment on Committee Stage to resolve the issues of licences to shoot wild game.

(Interruptions).

The vast majority of people engaged in hunting activities will continue to enjoy their pastimes following the enactment of this legislation. I look forward to engaging in constructive debate on this legislation, and I commend the Bill to the House.

Fine Gael will be opposing this legislation. I know that does not cause the Minister any surprise, no more than it causes any surprise that he would bring forward narrow legislation at a time of serious economic and social problems in the country, but the zealousness with which he spoke and the commitment he has given towards this agenda surprises most people in the House.

We all have known for a long time that the Minister has a solid commitment towards the removal of animal field sports throughout the country. He and his party are on record calling for the banning of live cattle exports, and he has been photographed on a number of occasions on protest marches in regard to those issues. It is not credible for the Minister to suggest this is not the thin end of the wedge in terms of many other field sports. His actions in the past confirm that he will not fool anybody when he states that this is not the thin end of the wedge and that he has another agenda that will continue into the future as long as he is Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

It is interesting that at the end of a very busy Dáil session, where €22 billion have been effectively thrown down the Suwannee by the Government in respect of bailing out Anglo Irish Bank, we are discussing the priorities of the Green Party, which are the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill and the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill, and a directly elected mayor of Dublin, which the Minister promised for the end of the year but which we now know, although the Minister has yet to admit it, will not happen this year, despite him seeking to give the perception that it will happen.

The commitment to ban stag hunting in the revised programme for Government was not part of the original programme for Government in 2007. The Fianna Fáil Party, which was the major partner in Government, did not get a mandate from the people of this country to introduce this legislation. Six Members out of a total of 166 have decided that 154 years of countryside tradition in terms of the Ward Union Hunt should be put aside.

The worthless document that was a classic example of shameless spin to get over certain problems in the economy produced in the revised programme for Government in 2009 is now seen for what it is, namely, that the majority of the membership of the Green Party at those conferences were more interested in animal welfare issues being included in the revised programme for Government such as dog breeding and the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill, than they were in the serious issues of the National Asset Management Agency, the banking crisis and the fiscal and budgetary parameters for 2010. In a cynical manoeuvre the Minister got his party members on side for the purpose of other serious issues because he was able to get some commitments from Fianna Fáil in writing about matters relating to animal welfare. The soothing noises of the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, at the time, one of the key Fianna Fáil negotiators, that all would be fine on the day and that this will not happen in a hurry — he even suggested to some backbenchers that it might not happen at all — have been proven to be nought because of the Minister's zealousness and eagerness to ensure he and his members were able to get this legislation before the House today. The soothing noises of the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, to the Fianna Fáil backbenchers is now seen for what it is — it is not worth the paper on which it was written.

The commitment to ban stag hunting should be viewed in that light. It is an ideological political commitment that is important to a very small group of people but not important to the overall population because they are concerned with issues relating to the banking inquiry and the bankers' report. The are interested in issues relating to jobs and public expenditure matters for 2011. They are interested in the cover-up and the investigations in the Dublin Docklands Development Authority. They are interested in slashing allowances for the blind, people with disabilities and children. They are interested in the removal of medical cards from the elderly. They are interested in the Green Party voting in the Dáil to support the then Minister for Defence, Deputy Willie O'Dea, Deputy Bertie Ahern and the Minister, Deputy Mary Harney, when we know their hearts were not in it, to ensure their continued survival. They are interested in voting down all attempts for democratic consideration of three constituency by-elections, and they are overseeing a system of local government which is being strangled on a daily basis by the Minister in meeting the requirements and the remit in terms of various issues such as wasterwater and matters relating to waste.

Ultimately, the response of this country will be the taxpayer picking up the tab to meet European Union fines. Those are the issues that are of interest to the people, not interesting discussions of an ideological and zealous nature concerning the Ward Union Hunt. That is the record of the Green Party, and the people are beginning to see through that now.

My good friend, Deputy Sargent, and I had a little chat about this matter on national radio this morning and he introduced a new dimension, which is that it is a road safety issue.

That is not new.

A deer crossing the road with a few dogs after it would be a huge issue in terms of safety but he could not give any examples of cases where there had been fatalities or injuries. The fear factor introduced by Deputy Sargent in this matter is interesting.

The Deputy knows well. What about 2009?

Deputy Sargent, allow Deputy Hogan to continue.

It was a scare tactic. In a liberal society people who get into a car take a risk. The Deputy is saying that for some reason people who hunt animals for commercial purposes across roadways are taking their lives in their hands and that people coming around the bend on the road will run into those animals. He failed to tell the people that this activity is happening under strict licensing conditions and monitoring, and that the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government are supervising it on behalf of the State to make sure it is appropriate. They cannot do that when cows are crossing the road.

We see that all the tenuous arguments trotted out to sustain an ideological argument are nothing more than ideology. It has nothing to do with the practical implementation of these matters but more to do with the zealousness by which the Minister wants to pursue a narrow political and ideological agenda.

The Ward Union stag hunt is the only licensed one in the Republic of Ireland. Hunting deer has a long history dating from the 19th century. The hunting area comprises north County Dublin together with south and east Meath. Hunting takes place infrequently two days a week during the season from November to March each year. The Ward Union Hunt maintains its own herd of 150 Irish red deer. If the legislation is approved, what does the Minister intend to do with this herd?

The union hunt stags are not generally killed but are recaptured and returned to the herd. The Ward Union Hunt has been required to apply for a licence annually since 1977 from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Each stag in the herd is hunted once a year and is supervised by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government wildlife officers and veterinarians. The health of the stag is checked before and after the hunt and stress levels are recorded.

This is a system that takes account of animal welfare in a serious way and with which no one has had a problem until the Minister decided to think otherwise. The Ward Union Hunt has 200 members and contributes €1.4 million annually to the economy. Research carried out by NUI Galway indicates the enormous contribution made by field sports and rural pursuits to the economy.

There is an anti-rural bias to the Minister's agenda. He has displayed this at protest marches over the years and there are plenty of photographs to show it.

Are there really? The Opposition is like the Stasi.

Allow Deputy Hogan to continue without interruption.

The Minister likes to get publicity and is interested in getting his name and photograph in the newspapers. There is plenty of evidence to show his narrow political pursuit on these matters.

Fine Gael believes the hunt plays an important cultural and economic role in rural Ireland, something I would not expect the Green Party to appreciate or understand. With the Green Party in Government there is no guarantee that this ban does not represent the thin edge of the wedge with more country pursuits to be banned in the following months and years. In Opposition and as part of its election manifesto in the last general election, the Green Party was committed to stopping live animal exports, a matter with which Deputy Sargent would be very familiar.

That was not our policy.

Fine Gael will stand up for our country as well as our urban heritage, the rural economy and rural life. The Minister must remember that one size does not fit all. The Minister is not always right and his "I-know-best" attitude will not always work everywhere. If he wants to pursue a narrow political agenda with the acquiescence of his Government partners it is his business. He should not, however denigrate anyone else on this or the other side of the House who has a different view to him.

We will not be lectured to by a Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government who has no understanding of the pressures and traditions of those living in rural Ireland. They are sick and tired of being targeted by this Green Minister who turns his nose up at their way of life at every opportunity.

I am surprised Fianna Fáil Members have agreed to this legislation. Not one Member of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party spoke out against the approval of the revised programme for Government which included a commitment to ban stag hunting and the Ward Union Hunt. Why should any Fianna Fáil Member be surprised this Bill is debated here this evening when they could have opposed it as far back as November 2009?

We will see evidence of the representations those individual Deputies received and the commitments they have given when it comes to voting on this legislation. There is no point in having soothing noises afterwards. This is the opportunity for Members to tell the Minister enough is enough, that we do not want this legislation that will ban a countryside tradition and organisation that has been in place since 1824 and has been monitored and licensed by this State to ensure it carries out its responsibilities. I hope the narrow ideological agenda this legislation is pursuing will be seen for what it is and the House will reject this Bill on Second Stage.

I wish to share time with Deputy Stagg.

The Labour Party opposes this legislation because it is the wrong approach to maximising the protection of wildlife. It does nothing to protect wildlife but has a much more cynical motivation. It is an all-out unilateral ban on the Ward Union Hunt and will have much further consequences for deer-stalking, for example, which the Minister alluded to in his speech.

The Minister's all-or-nothing approach to this legislation has divided communities. The Minister has done what no one else has managed by creating a divide between rural and urban communities. People in rural communities feel under threat from this legislation and are concerned it is the thin end of the wedge.

Will the Deputy clarify that?

The divide has occurred because of the Minister's actions. If he had taken a different approach, there may have been different consequences.

This is dreadful stuff.

This legislation is about the Green Party's own political survival. It is a last-ditch attempt to achieve something in a Government in which the Greens have achieved little. To achieve this trophy prize, the Minister will divide communities and his proposals will have an effect on areas he will claim was never his intention. People will lose their livelihoods because of this legislation. The Minister took no account of this possibility when drafting the legislation.

This Bill has nothing to do with the Green Party's principles because it was never in the original programme for Government. It was only when a gun was effectively put to Fianna Fáil's head was that this legislation was included in the revised programme for Government. It is simply an attempt to save a Green Party seat or two at the next election.

The Minister consulted none of the stakeholders when drawing up the legislation. It has economic consequences for communities and has done nothing to bring them on board.

Is Deputy Tuffy opposed to bloodsports? Could the Deputy please just be straight in giving her answer?

Is shooting a bloodsport?

Will the Minister please allow the Deputy to continue without interruption?

This legislation does nothing to stop the killing of animals. The Minister is happy to allow other animals to be killed in other ways. This is just trophy legislation.

Hunting is about pitting animal against animal.

The Minister not only does not consult people about legislation, he then refuses to listen to the debate about it in the Chamber. That is not the way to go about legislating on a matter as divisive and controversial as this. The Minister is doing this at a time when we need rural and urban communities to work together to bring the economy back on track.

At a meeting with senior departmental officials and Wild Deer Ireland, a commitment was given that a consultation process would begin to address the concerns over the impact of the legislation on legitimate deer-hunters and deer-stalkers. To date, no consultation has taken place.

Wild Deer Ireland raised this issue at the recent meeting of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. It also mentioned that Coillte was very concerned about the legislation. I refer to the record of that meeting. Speaking for the group, Mr. Hannigan stated that it was fair to say Coillte has expressed deep concern about the implications of creating this new offence and it would write to the Minister, Deputy Gormley, to express its concern. Mr. Hannigan went on to state that his organisation met senior officials from the National Parks and Wildlife Service. It is a fair representation of that meeting to suggest it is also concerned about the implications.

It is the view of the National Parks and Wildlife Service that section 3(2) should be referred to the Minister, the Attorney General and the Parliamentary Counsel. These groups have sought consultation with the Minister to ensure the legislation is thought through and such that the protection of wildlife is maximised. The Minister has decided not to do this. He simply seeks a unilateral ban to get his trophy legislation through before the summer. That appears more important than anything else. It is more important to him than animal welfare.

This is animal welfare legislation.

A different approach could be taken to the protection of wildlife and the Labour Party has a very strong record in this regard. When Deputies Michael D. Higgins and Brian O'Shea were Ministers or Ministers of State in the last Government involving the Labour Party, they made progress in respect of the Ward Union Hunt and other matters related to animal welfare. For example, Deputy Brian O'Shea was the Minster of State who introduced the muzzling of greyhounds during coursing. Progress was achieved but not in the divisive way the Minister is making progress now.

When the issue was raised in the Dáil by Deputy Sargent in 1997, the then Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Michael D. Higgins, referred to the Ward Union Hunt in reply to questions put. He provided an update about how he had issued a licence which was limited to the following March. The licence was subject to the condition that he could appoint persons to undertake monitoring of the Ward Union Hunt club. An official from the NPWS monitored the hunt on 15 January of that year and had arranged for an official from the Department for Agriculture, Food and Forestry to undertake ongoing monitoring of the hunt until the ending of the licence. Factual reports on the hunt were to be provided, dealing with the health and condition of the animal before and after the hunt, the treatment of the animal during the hunt, the conduct of the hunt and the impact of the hunt on the lands over which it passed. Such monitoring led to considerable improvements which the current Minister has used when issuing licences for the hunt.

When the Minister issued the most recent licence for the hunt, with 28 conditions, he was building on the work done by Deputy Michael D. Higgins. When Deputy Higgins discussed the matter in the House he indicated his wish to ensure the process of review put in place for the licensing of stag hunting would take into account all issues and viewpoints, including those adverted to by Deputies. He listened to all sides of the House and talked to all shades of opinion on the issue in the wider community and in society. That is a better way to approach this issue. As a result, he brought in far-reaching improvements to the licensing of the hunt. He introduced 34 conditions, including measures to ensure the welfare of the animals would be protected through inspection by vets and to ensure the stag would be released in plenty of time to be well ahead of the dogs and so on. The current Minister has used those conditions in the licensing of hunt. The Labour Party approach achieved much progress. The Ward Union Hunt bought into the process and has made major changes and improvement in the years since 1997. This has all been based on monitoring, research and consultation with the stakeholders.

The Labour Party leader stated he was opposed to stag hunting. His views are on the record.

The Minister should allow the Deputy to speak.

There was no great uproar at that time and the Minister has implemented the conditions set down then. It was all fine until the Minister needed a new programme for Government. It was the first time in the history of the State there had to be a renewed programme for Government to keep a party in Government. The contents of the programme were all about show and nothing to do with substance. This is one such measure.

Such an ill-thought out and unconsidered approach, with a lack of consultation with stakeholders from different sectors of the community and different sides, has led to unintended consequences with which the Minister must now deal. These relate to the introduction of deer stalking provisions. There would be no need to introduce these amendments if the deer stalking provisions had not been introduced. There would be no need for them save the Bill had unintended consequences. This is a direct result of the failure of the Minster to consult and bring on board the stakeholders and to ensure the legislation is thought through and based on evidence, monitoring and consultation.

There is a good deal of evidence that the approach heretofore has brought about great improvements. Departmental reports have assessed the welfare of the animals. As it stands, the system seems to work well and the Minister could do much to build on this. He could examine whether further conditions are needed. He could legislate to include the conditions in the licences in law. The Minister could examine many ways to protect the animals in this hunt but he is not prepared to do so because he wants to put through his trophy legislation.

One concern raised by Wild Deer Ireland is the culling of females during May and June. Fawns are born during these months and up until August. The organisation maintains that legislation should restrict the culling of female deer during that season when fawns need their mothers to survive. The Minister has done nothing about this issue because he does not care about it. Such a measure could have emerged from consultation with the stakeholders. It is an improvement the Minister could have introduced for the welfare of animals but he did not want to do so. He simply sought an all-out, unilateral ban which is divisive of communities and which will have far-reaching, unintended consequences. The Minister will do anything to get his trophy legislation. It is the same as the case of the light bulbs, in which he ended up rowing back because he did not consult properly with the European Union. He ended up having to legislate in a more considered and thoughtful way because the European Union made him. I fully stand over the point that this is trophy legislation.

How many times does the Deputy intend to repeat that phrase?

The Minister should allow the Deputy to conclude.

It is a very important point. The Green Party should be about substance. They should be seen to maximise the protection of animal welfare.

What is trophy legislation?

The Minister should stop interrupting.

He should leave that to Deputy Gogarty.

How can we do this in a way that brings on the various sectors of society? How can we actually improve animal welfare? There are significant inconsistencies.

I will tell the Deputy.

The Minister is allowing——

The Deputy should listen to the animal welfare people.

The Minister should allow the Deputy to continue.

There are many different points of view among animal welfare and environmental groups and there are many different views in society on this issue. Many people are in the middle ground and are prepared to do this but will bring on board the different points of view.

The Minister has introduced inconsistencies in this legislation. Hares are captured for coursing and can be killed. Other animals can be killed but in this hunt the animals cannot be killed and their welfare is monitored.

Does the Deputy want to get rid of hare coursing?

What is the Minister doing about it? My guess is he is doing nothing because he does not care about hare coursing. It is not important to him. This Bill is more important to the Minister because it is a symbol. It has nothing to do with substance and it is all about style. Let us consider everything the Minister has not done. The Government should have more urgent priorities such as job creation.

Let us get on with it. We will guillotine this legislation.

When Deputy Sargent was leader of the Green Party, he referred to his new deal for children and everything he would do in that regard.

Let us get on with it.

Did the Minister say, "Get on with it"? This Government has done nothing about implementing the welfare legislation which has been called for in recent years.

The Deputy should stick to this Bill.

No. This is relevant. More urgent legislation is needed to address issues such as the plight of urban horses which are dying in Dublin communities. Nothing is being done for them. Nothing is being done for the animals which are dying near me in Clondalkin. They have been left to rot and die in fields. These are more urgent animal welfare issues. I would prefer to see the Minister making progress on those issues.

If we did, the Labour Party would vote against them as well.

The Minister does not need a Bill such as this to do something about them. There are basic, practical steps the Minister can take to address the issue of the welfare of urban animals, including providing more resources to local authorities but it is certain the Minister will not do that.

There are serious issues in regard to child welfare which have not been addressed by this Government, despite the all-party consensus on the need for legislation to deal with the anomalies in child welfare, statutory rape and the predatory activities of some people in regard to young people. That legislation has not been progressed. The reports adopted by this House have been left on the shelf by the Government. It has done nothing to stop incineration.

The previous Government signed an order which gave the go-ahead for the M3 and the Minister took over once the dirty work was done.

What about the Labour Party's U-turn on stag hunting?

We have a position on stag hunting. We improved the welfare of stags when in Government. That is something which can be built on in a thoughtful way.

The main issue is that the Minister has not consulted the stakeholders. There are implications for people who work in this activity. Reports by MacMillan and Phillip have stated that 30 people could lose their jobs as a result of this ban and €1 million could be withdrawn from the local economy and that is not to mention the ancillary expenditure by participants in the hunt and the service to farmers where dead animals are picked up by people involved in the Ward Union Hunt so they will not rot in the fields and there will not be environmental hazards. Will that ancillary activity of the Ward Union Hunt survive if this unilateral ban is put in place without any consultation with the stakeholders and any consideration of the consequences? Whatever the Minister does, he should ensure there are not unintended consequences that will damage animal welfare, divide communities or result in people losing their jobs.

Many jockeys have said it will undermine their capacity to develop riding skills.

That is crazy.

The Ward Union Hunt was established in 1854. It has been in existence for more than 100 years but the Minister is unilaterally getting rid of it. Prior to the renewed programme for Government, his approach was the same as the Labour Party's, that is, to try to make improvements through licensing conditions. At the very least, the Minister should have had stakeholder consultation and involvement in this process but he was not prepared to do that. If he had that process, he could have looked at the implications.

Other Governments have done things on a cross-party basis. They have studied the issue, looked at the economic impact and sent veterinarians to inspect the animals. They have tried to take a thoughtful approach but the Minister was not prepared to do that.

It basically goes back to the fact that the Green Party has very little to offer in Government. It has implemented few of the promises it made before the general election——

We have a huge agenda.

----and few of the promises it made in the original programme for Government. It needed a renewed programme for Government because it could not implement the original one. It had to come up with something a bit like the light bulbs. It decided to have a trophy to show it was making progress when it was really making no progress at all. That is cynical on the Minister's part and it is not the way to approach things. He could bring on board all sides on this, as others have done.

The Labour Party would have voted against everything.

The Minister should have taken a more considered, thoughtful and conciliatory approach which did not divide communities and was not about achieving something for the Green Party and not for the rest of society.

I respect the views of others on this issue. There are strongly held views on both sides of this argument. The Labour Party has a strong record of opposing animal cruelty. Indeed, we had a campaign on that issue in the 1992-93 period. It is from that period that the oft quoted remark from me on stag hunting was made. That was a correct position at that time.

Arising from that position, we achieved major improvements in all the legal sports where one animal was set against another with the object and purpose of a kill. The kill was eliminated from all of these sports arising from the regulations introduced by two Labour Party Ministers, Deputies Higgins and O'Shea.

Deputy O'Shea introduced the use of muzzles which prevented hounds in pursuit of hares from killing hares. That was a major improvement. Hounds on racecourses in Harold's Cross, Newbridge and elsewhere are muzzled in case they attack each other. Deputy Higgins introduced regulations concerning the Ward Union Hunt which prevented the hounds from making any contact with the deer. The regulations are monitored by Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food inspectors. The animal is examined by veterinarians before and after the hunt and, by all accounts, is well catered for in between hunts.

The regulations introduced by Deputy Higgins allowed a period of time — I believe it is a half an hour — between the release of the deer and the release of the hounds. They also require that the hounds must be called off if they come within a certain distance of the deer. That ensured that the two legal sports in Ireland, the purpose of which was set animals against each other with the purpose of a kill, were no longer a legal activity. That is now the case as a direct result of the Labour Party's action in government with Fianna Fáil. There was agreement across the House on the measures brought in. There is now no legal activity in which one animal is set against another with the object of killing one another, which is a major achievement.

It is now limited to race and chase with no possibility of a kill. That was the object of the exercise of the Labour Party and the basis of the statement by the Minister and others, who now want to opt for the draconian all-out, end of story measures proposed in this Bill.

Our spokesperson, Deputy Tuffy, has outlined the Labour Party's position and the reasons it will vote against this Bill which, as she said, is essentially a piece of trophy legislation promised by Fianna Fáil to the Green Party in order to provide it with some cover for having got so little from this Government. Many in Fianna Fáil are opposed to the measure but their mettle will be tested next week when we vote on this Bill.

There are many other urgent animal welfare issues the Minister is ignoring, such as the growing problem of abandoned horses in urban areas, to which my colleague referred. Some 350 horses were abandoned in Dublin alone last year but no action was taken by the Minister in that regard.

If this was only about the Ward Union Hunt, there would perhaps be only local interest. There certainly would not be the level of interest that surrounds the debate. The reason for the level of interest in and strong opposition to this measure is that the cat was let out of the bag on Pat Kenny's television programme and on Kildare FM by those campaigning for this measure. On both occasions, members and spokespersons for the Irish Council Against Blood Sports made it clear that this measure to ban the Ward Union Hunt was only the thin end of the wedge and that they had a much wider agenda which they would pursue. All levels of hunting of foxes, hare and deer would be banned if they got their way, regardless of the built-in safety regulations.

On my local radio station, Kildare FM, a senior spokesperson stated that fishing other than for food was cruel and should be banned and that there should be no more catch and release and no more course fishing. Shooting had no chance of being tolerated and horse-racing was also in their sights.

This is crazy.

It is not crazy; it is on the record. The Minister can name the person; I do not want to name——

It is not in the legislation.

(Interruptions).

The Minister should not try to do a Gogarty on me.

This is crazy.

The Minister should allow the Deputy to continue.

The Minister should hold his whisht and take his medicine.

(Interruptions).

He should not do a Gogarty on me.

This extended list of rural sports enjoyed by urban and rural people is threatened. That is the reason so many people have come out against this measure. I will not support that agenda. The most serious act against wildlife in this country was the release into the wild of thousands of farmed mink. Those supporting this Bill and the wider agenda to which I have referred boasted that they were responsible for this dastardly act. Mink have spread to all parts of the island. They have decimated wildlife, wiping out rabbits and water fowl in many areas, and they have attacked domestic animals and fowl. The people who committed this dastardly act and those associated with them did more damage to wildlife than 100 Ward Unions would have done.

During a recent debate in the House, Deputy Thomas Byrne attacked and denigrated Senator Dominic Hannigan because the Labour Party had not at that time made a decision on its position on this measure. The parliamentary party discusses issues and arrives at a decision, which we then implement. The decision was made recently following the publication of this Bill and the public debate on it. The Labour Party has examined the Bill and reached a decision to vote against it. Senator Hannigan will vote accordingly in the Seanad. I hope Deputy Byrne will also vote against this measure in accordance with his publicly expressed position.

I was born and reared on a small farm in County Mayo. We snared rabbits for food and for sale. It was not a kind way of catching them but it was the only way available to us. We destroyed vermin and we collected the State bounties for doing so, which gave us pocket money. We respected our environment and we protected it as best we could. After all, we lived off the land and what it produced and we had an interest in doing so. I will not accept any criticism of my commitment to animal welfare or the record of the Labour Party in this regard.

Bloodsports do not exist legally in Ireland unless one wants to count shooting and fishing, which are on the Minister's agenda.

Do not talk rubbish.

The Minister's supporters have said that repeatedly.

The Deputy is talking rubbish.

The Minister should allow the Deputy to continue without interruption.

Put the Minister out.

There is no legal possibility of animals being set against one another in this country——

They are set against each other. Shame on the Deputy and the Labour Party for doing a complete U-turn on this.

Deputy Stagg must be allowed to continue.

The Minister should be asked to leave the House.

Every time I get up to contribute, either Deputy Gogarty or another member of the Green Party thinks I am fair game. I am not and I will bite back as well.

There are no legal bloodsports in Ireland but there are plenty of illegal bloodsports and the Minister is not doing much about them.

That is not true.

It is not now possible legally to set one animal against another with the purpose of one or other being killed. The regulations ban it. There are no legal bloodsports in Ireland unless the Green Party and its supporters want to count shooting and fishing. I accept there are strong views on both sides of this debate and I respect that. I will vote against the Bill.

I wish to share time with Deputy Mattie McGrath.

I ask everyone to reflect on what we are trying to achieve with this legislation. This is not a simplistic issue and its deep implications need to be highlighted and debated. The Bill was published on 20 April. It has been suggested that stag hunting should cease for animal welfare and public safety reasons and I want to challenge this rationale. I also want to challenge both the alleged concerns about animal welfare and the exaggerated claims pertaining to public safety.

The Bill will give legislative effect to the commitment in the renewed programme for Government with the Green Party to ban the practice of stag hunting. While the Minister advises that this will not have implications for other country pursuits, the resulting effect of the Bill will be devastating to my home county of Meath and the only remaining stag hunt in the country, the Ward Union Hunt, WUH. While there are strong opinions on both sides, I have deep reservations about this legislation.

The legislation will significantly impact on the livelihoods of people in my community. Thousands of people have signed a petition opposing the proposal to ban stag hunting. This petition represents the voices of rural Ireland. These are the voices of people who understand the devastating effect that the Bill will have and who have a real connection with animal welfare. They are not involved because of a political ideology but because they deal with animals on a day-to-day basis. These are the voices of people who know and understand the realities of our natural world.

The Bill jeopardises long held traditions, the rural economy of Meath and the future of the horse racing industry. I live on the Fairyhouse Road, Ratoath, next to the Tattersalls Ireland complex and down the road from the WUH kennels. The Tattersalls complex is Ireland's largest bloodstock sales arena and major auctions take place throughout the year with people travelling from all over the world. This is the home of the WUH. Ratoath is steeped in the history of the horse racing industry and hunting. These two sports go hand in hand with each other. The connection between racing and hunting is a key contributor to Ireland's reputation as world leader in horse breeding. For the past 162 years, the two sports have benefited from each other in County Meath, as have Fairyhouse racecourse, Tattersalls and the WUH in their interaction with each other.

The hunt was established in 1854. It maintains a 150-strong herd of native Irish red deer in its reservation at Greenpark, Dunshaughlin, County Meath. The hunt has more than 200 members, employs four full-time staff and contributes €1.4 million to the local economy. It costs approximately €6,700 per annum to keep a horse. That money is spent in my local area, benefiting vets, farriers, feed merchants and saddlers. The WUH founded Fairyhouse racecourse and the first point to point meeting was held there in 1848. The link between the hunt and the racecourse is still present. WUH officials lead in the Irish Grand National winner. For decades, Fairyhouse was effectively managed in a large measure by many hunt members. The past two chairmen of the hunt were on the board of Fairyhouse racecourse.

The WUH has for a long time been a nurturing ground for many of Ireland's top jockeys. These jockeys live in my parish. Current active members of the WUH include Grand National winning jockeys Paul Carberry, Robert Power, Barry Geraghty, Ross Geraghty, Grand National winning trainer Gordon Elliott and champion lady rider Nina Carberry. Distinguished flat jockey, Kevin Manning, also grew up hunting with the WUH. They all developed their riding skills on hunts with the WUH. Ruby Walsh has also been involved. Paul Carberry, Barry Geraghty and Nina Carberry are all outstanding sports people who have said that the ban on stag hunting would undermine their capacity to practice and develop their riding skills. As the history of the WUH has demonstrated, today's young riders are the great jockeys of horse racing tomorrow. The WUH has played and continues to play a significant role in the success of the horse racing industry.

The chief executive officer of Horse Racing Ireland, Brian Kavanagh, recently said:

"In no other sport can Ireland claim such an elite Ievel of achievement. Horse racing and breeding is one of the few industries in which Ireland is rightly recognised as a world leader, due to its indigenous skills base and the tradition of enlightened government policy. This has generated positive benefits for Ireland in economic terms."

Irish trained horses occupy three of the top four places in the world thoroughbred rankings, including world champion Sea the Stars.

The Dukes report published in late 2009 was commissioned by the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association and it highlighted how the racing industry has become a significant employer with 15,500 jobs, excluding the betting industry, and it is a vital part of the struggling rural economy. However, this position in severe danger. The industry suffered an estimated 1,500 job losses in 2009. The report made clear that the industry provides vital employment in rural Ireland but that this is under threat. The ban on stag hunting will not only be detrimental to the local jobs and the local economy in Meath, but it also poses a threat to the wider economy. Why are the thousands of voices that oppose this ban being ignored? I cannot understand why that is. It is wrong to trample on people's rural traditions.

We must consider some key facts to get a picture of the significant contribution played by the horse racing industry to the economy . The gross value of the industry to the economy is in excess of €1.1 billion per annum. In 2009, a total of 6,222 Irish thoroughbreds to the value of €216 million were exported to 42 countries. Many of these were sold in the Tattersalls complex on the road on which I live. The industry generates significant benefits for the tourism industry, with approximately 80,000 visiting Ireland for race meetings, sales and stud operations. Many of them stay in homes, bed and breakfasts and guest houses in my community. The value of racing festivals and other meetings to local economies is estimated to be €260 million. This has a major impact on rural communities.

Ireland has more race tracks per head of population than any other country in the world. There are 27 race tracks in Ireland, with an average of 340 race meetings per annum. Apart from the fact that interest in racing is high, Ireland is one of the few countries which has national hunt racing all year round. This explains the high number of tracks. According to Horse Racing Ireland, in 2009 there was a severe decline in bloodstock sales at public auctions, such as the auction on my road, with sales falling by 32% to €67.5 million. The number of stallions, mares and foals fell significantly, reflecting an Irish horse-breeding industry that is now under threat. Government support for the horse and greyhound racing industries is provided under the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund. These industries directly account for approximately 27,500 jobs. A recent review of the fund found that horse racing in Ireland was "a key driver of substantial economic activity, especially in rural areas."

As recent reports have outlined, the Irish breeding industry is already under threat, and the Bill before us today poses another significant threat to the horse racing industry and the rural economy in which I live. The ban on stag hunting will result in further job losses in rural Ireland, but most of all, it will have a disproportionate effect on a single group of extremely important hunters, the Ward Union Hunt.

In times of such economic difficulty it does not make sense to jeopardise jobs, the rural economy, the horse racing industry and the wider economy.

As I have outlined today, County Meath plays a significant role in hunting and horse racing in Ireland. This ban will have repercussions for more than the Ward Union Hunt and its 200 members.

The proponents of this Bill have cited animal welfare and public safety as being the driving force behind the bill. I simply do not agree that this Bill is needed for animal welfare and public safety reasons. I have been to visit the kennels, as has the Acting Chairman, Deputy Johnny Brady. I might elaborate on that if I have time.

Stag hunting involves the separation of a deer from the herd and its transportation to a location from where it is released and hunted. It was devised 200 years ago to allow hunts to take place when wild deer became too scarce. Red deer are bred and maintained for this purpose by the Ward Union Hunt. Let us be clear on what actually happens. On a hunting day a stag is released, recaptured and returned safe and sound to the Ward Union Hunt farm. Each stag in the herd is hunted just once a year, with constant supervision by wildlife officers and veterinarians from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. This is a fact. The health of the stag is checked before and after a hunt and continual monitoring has shown no excess stress levels.

The use of road whips and road marshals has been established in the time since this Government came to power. They were introduced when issues arose with the 1997 licence. I remember working with the Ward Union Hunt at that time, and there was much interaction between the hunt and the Department of the Environment and Local Government. The hunt introduced a team of road marshals to minimise disruption and sought meeting locations with off-road parking. Persons were appointed to proceed along the roads and control the hounds, employing two-way radios for communication. In addition, the number of people allowed to hunt on one day was reduced in order to reduce the impact of the hunt. All of this required the implementation of a balloting system for members.

The hunt introduced many conditions from 1997 onwards to try to alleviate concerns to do with the licence application. The road whips and road marshals play an important role in the Ward Union Hunt as they work to ensure the safety of the public and the well-being of the stag, hounds and horses. They are in constant contact with the huntsman to ensure they know exactly where the stag is and the direction in which he is heading.

The Ward Union Hunt has an exemplary record in managing its herd of pure-bred Irish red deer, making it a unique ecological asset. If the ban proceeds, that entire heritage will be lost. I ask those who are genuinely interested in our natural heritage to consider this. The hunt has already introduced a number of regulations to ensure the highest animal welfare standards and has implemented a wide range of health and safety measures. Banning the hunt in order to address concerns over public safety and animal welfare is an excessive and unfair response, especially if other measures can be found to address these concerns. I repeat that the Ward Union Hunt is willing to engage with a view to exploring further possible health and safety measures. In that context, is a ban a proportionate response?

Over recent years, each hunt conducted by the Ward Union Hunt has been closely monitored by Government inspectors, and their reports have consistently not identified animal welfare issues. In addition, veterinarians from the then Department of Agriculture and Food conducted a major study of every deer hunted during the 1997-98 season and reported that the health of the deer did not appear to be affected in either the short or the long term after hunting. These are the facts. Hunting is not cruel to the deer and it is closely monitored by Government inspectors to ensure that this is so.

I question the use of animal welfare and public safety as a motivation for this legislation and have legitimate suspicions that the real agenda is a basic dislike of all forms of hunting and rural activities, which is informed by ideology rather than reality. The reality is so different, and I would love to see people experiencing the real hunt.

Let us further consider the alleged animal welfare concerns. An example of the Ward Union Hunt's commitment to the highest standards of animal welfare is its valuable service of a subsidised collection facility for the fallen stock of local farmers. The Ward Union Hunt has two specially equipped vehicles licensed by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for collections from farmers on a daily basis. Veterinary inspectors from the Department call to the Ward Union Hunt facility at the end of every day to examine and take samples from animals. Laboratory testing is then carried out on these samples to ensure prevention and early detection of bovine diseases such as BSE, and the facilities are audited annually. It processes around 4,500 cattle per annum, along with a large number of sheep. The Ward Union Hunt would not be able to provide this essential service unless it operated to the highest hygiene and environmental standards. The collection service is vital to the business of farmers in the area and also provides an important database to the Department on the movement of cattle. In view of this, who is it that really cares about animal welfare? There are positive actions being taken to support animal welfare around the Ward Union Hunt farm and kennels.

I emphasise that Ward Union Hunt hunts have been regularly monitored by Government inspectors and that animal welfare issues have not being identified. Proponents of the Bill are using emotive and incorrect sound bites to conceal their ideological objection to hunting and rural pastimes. It is also clear that there has been insufficient engagement with key stakeholders — the people who really do care about animal welfare.

This Bill and its impact on the rural community that I represent should not be exploited by anybody on any side of the House for cheap political gain. For me and for those I represent, it is too important. The Minister must be able to see that this Bill does not have the support of rural Ireland. The sheer number of people around the country involved in the Rural Ireland Says Enough campaign is evidence of this fact. A number of local authorities around the country have declared their support for the RISE campaign, including Meath County Council.

The Wildlife (Amendment) Bill will affect jobs. It will affect the local economy in Meath.

Why does the Minister not heckle that speaker?

It will affect the riding skills of some of our greatest sportspeople. It will end the historic relationship between the Ward Union Hunt and Fairyhouse racecourse, and it will have a detrimental effect on the horse racing industry and the wider economy.

That is Deputy Stagg's job.

She is doing very well.

That is because she will vote with us next week.

Please allow the Deputy to continue. A bit of respect for a lady.

It is astonishing, in a time of major economic challenges, that we should deliberately and knowingly implement legislation that will have a direct negative impact on jobs and our local economy. The legislation is supposed to be motivated by public safety and animal welfare concerns but is actually motivated by an ideology that is removed from reality. By its very existence it casts a smear on decent people who pursue traditions and pastimes that are fundamental to who we are — people who have a proven track record in both animal welfare and public safety and who have not been consulted in this process.

The Bill is unnecessary and has a disproportionate effect on the economy of County Meath and the Ward Union Hunt. The Ward Union Hunt has maintained the highest animal welfare standards through its 200-year history. It has also made an outstanding contribution to the Irish horse racing industry and should be allowed to continue to do so. We must consider the implications for the people I represent in my home community. What would have been so wrong with granting another licence for next season from October to March? We could have come back here in September and had a much more detailed debate.

The Deputy's time has elapsed. I am sorry I did not notify her before now. She may finish quickly.

That is fine.

Before we progress any further with this Bill, I would like to invite the Minister, and anyone else who is interested, to come to Meath, as other Deputies have done, and join me on a Ward Union hunt day. People need to see for themselves what this is about. I mean this invitation with all my heart. People can see for themselves how important it is to the people involved. I have no doubt the Minister would be greatly impressed by how humanely the animals are treated and how much care, attention and effort is put into looking after those animals.

What was really fascinating that day and it is something the people do not seem to realise, is that the deer and the hounds live together in the same yard. When the deer was put into the trailer in our presence, one would imagine he would have been fretting or worried or concerned because of the heavy barking of the hounds who were being gathered up in the yard beside him but he passed no remarks on them. Why did he pass no remarks? It is because he lives with them and beside them every day. This idea of the deer being all in a sweat in the trailer is simply not the reality.

The Minister would be pleasantly surprised as indeed were we. I am a lifelong supporter of the Ward Union Hunt but I had not been to its kennels until this year in company with the Deputies from the area. We visited the kennels before we discussed this Bill and decided to speak on it. We were pleasantly surprised and I know the Minister would be pleasantly surprised with what he would see in the Ward Union Hunt kennels. The hunt is a traditional rural pursuit and it is not as one might perceive it. It is a significant employer and is a contributor to the culture of rural Ireland and it has a very important place in my community.

As a member of the Government party I should have my hands around my two Green Party colleagues here but, unfortunately, this is not the case. I am not happy either. The Minister knows this and so does his colleague, the former Minister of State, Deputy Sargent. I have had many debates with my colleague in government and I hope to have some more during the passage of upcoming Bills but in my view, any legislation passed by this House should be assessed by means of an impact assessment study to assess the detrimental or otherwise effects on any person or community. This has not happened in the case of this Bill. There has not been proper consultation. Will there be a Bill to protect the ordinary, decent people referred to by the previous speaker and other speakers? They are having sleepless nights and are being terrorised. I have said this to Deputy Sargent on another occasion. People are being victimised and pilloried and held up as being wild men or wild animals themselves, which is shameful. It is time for some common sense.

The Minister is a reasonable man as are most of his colleagues in the House and I have said to him in the past that this policy and legislation are being driven by unreasonable people. I will not say anything stronger today although I could. These people are not being fair to the decent, plain people of Ireland. It has been noted that this stag hunt has been in existence since 1854 and reference has been made to its benefits. People who take part in rural pursuits and who get their children involved will care for animals more than any animal rights person or self-proclaimed animal rights people because they are close to nature. They understand nature and they are familiar with farming practices and respect them and the farming communities. I acknowledge there was an horrific incident involving a deer in a school yard which is not desirable.

I refer to the explanatory memorandum of the Bill which states:

Section 3 provides for a new provision making it an offence to hunt deer using two or more dogs. This provision includes the hunting of deer by any holder of an appropriate hunting licence or permission granted under the Wildlife Acts. For the purposes of this section deer includes deer that are not wild animals. It shall not make it an offence where the person has been granted permission under section 42 of the Wildlife Acts to use dogs to drive deer off land where they are causing serious damage to tree plantations or crops.

That is lunacy. I was reared on a farm and so was the Acting Chairman, Deputy Johnny Brady. I ask my learned colleagues to come and visit the farms. I know Deputy Sargent has visited farms. Nobody can drive any animal, whether wild or tame, off land as this section suggests. I had big problems in my area with wild deer and I have been in touch with the Minister's Department on a regular basis to see what can be done to help farmers. Deer are already running by themselves so it is very dangerous to run them. They run and knock fences, even electric fences and they run onto roadways. Deer can do great damage to vehicles. This Bill provides for the use of dogs to drive deer off land. The people who drafted this Bill do not understand the situation and that is the basis of our problem. This is why I am so exercised about it. I am disappointed it forms part of the programme for Government. I am shocked to think that one of our negotiators is a constituency colleague of Deputy Wallace and Deputy Brady. He should know about stag hunting. I know nothing about stag hunting because I do not live in that part of the country so I will not stray into it. However, I am disappointed in the way they have been vilified.

Nothing has been said about the fallen animals scheme and the good practices carried out by the hunt people on behalf of the community. When a member of the Garda Síochána is called to an accident involving, for example, a horse injured on the road in Dublin or wherever, a vet will come to treat the animal and put it down. He will then telephone the Ward Union Hunt and within 15 or 20 minutes, they will be on the scene to provide a fallen animal service. Who will provide this service, who will take up the slack?

A lot of good work is being undermined in this Bill. I ask the Minister to consider why people are thinking this is the thin end of the wedge. This is why the RISE! people who are coming up here this evening to lobby us, are worried. It is farcical to talk about public safety when the Bill provides that deer can be driven off land with dogs, into other land or into forestry or onto roads. This is not ensuring public safety. We are putting the cart before the horse.

I ask the Minister — with regard to another Bill due before the House — to honour a commitment he made in writing to his Cabinet colleagues in 2008. If that commitment in writing cannot be honoured here by a Minister, can any spoken commitment be believed? I ask him to think of the ordinary, plain people of Ireland who want to continue carrying out practices that have been in existence since old God's time. The Green Party is relatively new. It is in government with us and we have a good relationship. I met the Minister at a conference in the Glen of Aherlow. I would welcome him down again and we could take a walk into the woods and see nature at its best——

Hansel and Gretel.

We will not go deer-stalking. I am not easy about being part of this Bill and I have serious concerns about upcoming legislation, as the Minister is aware. I rest my case. I thank my colleagues for not heckling.

The Deputy should support what he said.

I welcome the contributions of Deputy Wallace and Deputy Mattie McGrath. The first shots in the next general election are being fired here this evening. Deputy Wallace and Deputy Mattie McGrath, among others on the Fianna Fáil backbenches, will have their opportunity here on Tuesday evening to vote against this Bill and I hope they will do so in the interests of rural Ireland. I advise them not to be hypocrites. If they do not vote against this Bill, they will be seen as the greatest hypocrites this country has ever seen. I will be watching their performance here on Tuesday evening.

I was watching the Minister during the contributions from Deputy Wallace and Deputy Mattie McGrath. While he continually interrupted Deputy Phil Hogan, Deputy Emmet Stagg and Deputy Joanna Tuffy, all he could do was to look back over his shoulder at Deputy Wallace in particular, with his mouth wide open in a state of shock. It shows how little thought was put into this Bill by the Minister and into the interests of the people of rural Ireland.

I emphasise that I am totally opposed to this legislation, as a representative of Longford-Westmeath and as a countryman who supports the rural pursuits and unique heritage and tradition of field sports. While saying this, I have also spent my life caring for animals and likewise I oppose any cruelty to them whatsoever. However, there are ways of ensuring animal safety and indeed, human safety, other than those proposed in this legislation. In what can only be seen as totally appropriate, an English newspaper yesterday contained the headline, "Yes, It's Gormley Again". While this piece of journalistic endeavour did not refer to the current Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the sentiment fully endorses the feelings of rural Ireland. The people of rural Ireland and urban Ireland are very angry with the way he has behaved since he became Minister. The Minister's name is synonymous with an increasing number of initiatives that have brought heartache and economic fall-out to rural and urban areas. Unfortunately, this legislation is a continuation of that trend. No matter which way we look at it, this Bill is rural legislation being imposed by an urban-based Minister who, with all respects, does not have a rural heritage.

How does the Deputy know that?

I know that well. The Minister is interrupting me. Why did he not interrupt the two previous speakers?

What the Minister fails to acknowledge is that hunting creates a sense of community in rural areas. My farm has facilitated hunting throughout my life and both my father and grandfather before him allowed the hunts to pass through our lands. I will continue to allow them do so. Hunting unites farmers and sports people for a common recreational purpose and tradition.

I am deeply concerned at the appalling actions of the Minister and his wilting Green Party, which are aimed at destroying countrywide field sports. The fact this Bill could be the opening salvo in a stealth attack on all field sports is of deep concern to me and my constituents in the midlands. Were there to be restrictions on other areas of country life, recreation and rural tourism, the rural population would suffer extreme hardship and unemployment and rural depopulation would escalate.

I should, of course, be relaxed and at ease about the threat to field sports, as I got the Minster's assurance that they are not at risk in reply to an Adjournment matter I tabled last April. The Minster stated then:

Last year, the Government approved the drafting of legislation to prohibit the hunting of deer by a pack of hounds. I want to make it clear that this legislation will not have any implications for other country pursuits such as fox hunting, hare coursing or deer stalking. Hunting with harriers and beagles will still be permitted and, therefore, foxhound, harrier and beagle hunting associations in the State can continue to operate as before as this legislation will not impact on them.

However, my trust in this is upset by a picture in my mind of the Minister with his fingers crossed behind his back, saying "Not yet anyway", under his breath.

I cannot help but think of the way the Minister and the Government sold out the turf-cutters in the midlands and throughout the country. How did his heritage brief come into the reckoning when he was destroying centuries of tradition? The Minister must refuse to put EU directives ahead of the welfare of rural turf cutters. Turf cutting is a skill that has passed from fathers to sons and daughters and is a community activity that fosters pride in a locality. Those involved are keenly aware of environmental issues and co-operate with local authorities in ensuring that bogs are kept waste free by removing domestic waste and other illegal dumping. Turf cutting is part of our culture and tradition. As such it faces the encroaching globalisation that is stripping us of our unique heritage. No compensation could make good the loss of the tradition of generations.

This is not to say that environmental considerations can be overlooked. The survival of our unique flora and fauna must be balanced against turbary rights. However, the Minister presided over the greatest assault on the rights of domestic turf cutters to the detriment of rural people, leaving a bitterness he has ignored but that will return to haunt him at the next election. This is a serious concern considering the 16,000 people on the live register in Longford-Westmeath and the 439,100 unemployed throughout the country. As the Minister pursues his blinkered course, more and more jobs will slip through the Government's fingers. While the initial target of the ban is stag hunting, groups such as anglers see the ban as a prelude to a wider and more aggressive so-called green agenda in the future. An eel farmer was recently put out of business in Westmeath. This ban could be the end of countryside recreation as we know it and another blow to our already hard hit tourism industry.

Perhaps this Bill is part of the syndrome that sees the Government wasting money the country does not have on frog and bat surveys. While the bats may be deserting the belfries, the Government is taking their place. Important legislation that will have a positive impact on this country is being deferred every day in the House, but the Minister thinks it is important to waste time and resources to highlight this narrow green driven agenda, at the expense of solving economic and social problems. Neither I nor Fine Gael share his misguided ideas. Rural Ireland is under threat and our traditional way of life faces destruction. Through the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2010, the Green Party, which is an urban based party, essentially puts a ban on our rural way of life, rural tradition, tourism and the rural economy.

Following this legislation, the anti-puppy farming Bill will see the Minister break another promise. That Bill will turn into an anti- kennel and anti-greyhound Bill. Before the Minister rushes headlong into creating more devastation in this sector, he should consider the fact that greyhound coursing and racing support 11,000 jobs and add €500 million each year to our economy. Deputy Wallace was right on that. The Bill will have a devastating effect on jobs if it is allowed go ahead. While €500 million may appear small change to a Government which thinks nothing of throwing €22 billion of taxpayers' money into the gutter, the revenue generated is extremely important to hard pressed rural communities.

The Minister's extraordinarily blinkered approach to the banning of deer hunting by stags has led him to remove the provision from the Animal Health and Welfare Bill and introduce it as stand-alone legislation, the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2010. This strikes me as unnecessary point scoring and an outright attack on those who have protested against the legislation in any form. It reinforces the Government system of democracy by numbers. As I said previously in the House, I was shocked to see on the Minister's website the no-holes-barred assertion that the Green Party intended to attack coursing and fox hunting and secure a legislative ban on all blood sports. As in most things, we know there is no consensus with the Green Party's partner in Government, Fianna Fáil. In April, the Fianna Fáil Minister, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe, said there was no Government proposal or Bill to ban stag hunting. How wrong he was.

Research indicates that hunting had an economic value of €111.6 million in 2007, but the Minister must not have noted this. This value is broken down as follows: game shooting, €41.7 million; hunting with hounds, €34.2 million; coursing, €26.2 million; deer shooting, €8.9 million; and falconry, €0.6 million.

I cannot emphasise strongly enough the devastation to the sporting, economic, leisure and tourism activities of any ban on field sports, hare coursing or stag hunting. Any such move would be detrimental to the country as a whole and to the countryside in particular.

The voices of the 300,000 field sports members have been loud in opposition to this Bill. Banning hunting, which is a strong tradition in rural Ireland going back centuries and over many generations, would be a threat to the rural way of life and would be strongly resisted by rural people and by people living in towns who participate in rural sports, many of whom I am delighted to welcome onto my farm every spring. Deer and fox hunting have had a long history in this country since the 19th century and earlier. The Ward Union Hunt, which is the only licensed stag hunt in the country, covers areas of north County Dublin, together with the south and east of County Meath. I note this is Deputy Wallace's constituency and I wonder whether she would have been so voluble on this issue had it not affected part of her constituency. I hope so, in the interests of country pursuits. The hunt maintains its own herd of 150 red deer. The stags are not generally killed but are recaptured and returned to the herd. Each stag is checked before and after the hunt and its stress levels recorded. Moreover, each stag is hunted only once a year and is checked by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government's wildlife officers and veterinarians. The Ward Union Hunt has 200 members and contributes €1.4 million to €1.5 million to the economy each year.

As there are 27,000 members of the National Association of Regional Game Councils who are organised in 926 clubs, the Minister can assess the impact of any attempt to curtail or prohibit field sports of this nature. My constituency of Longford-Westmeath contains 2,000 members of the National Association of Regional Game Councils, 800 of whom are affiliated to the Longford Shooting and Conservation Council and 1,200 of whom are affiliated to the Westmeath Regional Game Council. I ask the Minister to consider the implications of this ill-considered threat to the Ward Union's carted stag hunt and field sports. I do not know what he hopes to gain from the interference in a well-regulated sporting sector. However, I am aware of the great losses that would be incurred by sporting organisations, tourism groups and the economy.

Ironically, the greatest loss could be to the Minister himself and to his Government, which has presided over the rape of the countryside. The Minister, Deputy John Gormley, who I am pleased to note has returned to the Chamber, is pushing a narrow Green Party agenda and is merely attempting to cover up the failed record of his party in Government. This has included protecting bankers over citizens by virtue of a banking bailout of €73 billion that even Professor Patrick Honohan has argued was too broad. As I noted previously, last week it emerged that €22 billion has been wasted in the toxic Anglo Irish Bank. I also refer to the Government's failure to take early and decisive action in the budget in 2008 and the Minister's complete lack of a job strategy at a time of record unemployment when almost 450,000 people are out of work.

Moreover, the Minister is delaying investigations into the Dublin Docklands Development Authority to protect his partners in Government, namely, the Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen, and associates. The Government's failures also include slashing allowances for the blind, those with disabilities and children, as well as taking medical cards from the elderly. In addition, last year the Minister voted in the Dáil in support of Deputies Willie O'Dea and Bertie Ahern and the Minister, Deputy Mary Harney. He has helped to vote down all attempts to hold the three outstanding by-elections. He has overseen a water system that is not fit for purpose and which acts as a drag on the economy. He literally was asleep during the night of the bank guarantee scheme. I hope the Minister is not sleeping here today, as I notice he is nodding a little. He has engaged in a campaign against rural Ireland to appease his own narrow base of supporters. These are all factors that will militate against the Minister.

The Government has destroyed the farming sector and has left rural areas without viable infrastructure, transport, health and educational facilities. Lack of funding and lack of support has left farmers at the mercy of directives, which have consumed their meagre resources, etc.

One minute remains to the Deputy.

The Government has presided over the destruction of the REP scheme for farmers. It was a wonderful rural incentive to clean up the community and to help farmers to deal with problems arising in the countryside. The Government has decimated this great scheme and I am surprised the Minister was not more voluble on this issue. He has let people down badly in this regard. Furthermore, in an action that hit small householders and young farmers, etc., installation aid for young farmers has been done away with. The Government has literally destroyed this country.

As I noted earlier, the revolt is under way. I overheard Deputy Mattie McGrath state earlier that he is highly disappointed with the Minister for Transport, Deputy Noel Dempsey, who is from the same county as Deputy Wallace. I can see the Fianna Fáil backbenchers lining up in the Chamber and I hope that on Tuesday, they will enter the lobbies with the Opposition parties to oppose this legislation. Were they to so do, they would do their country some justice.

The Deputy's time has expired.

Moreover, I expect them to be men and women enough to do so in the interest of fair play and of the citizens and communities they represent.

Deputy Bannon's time has concluded. I understand Deputy Johnny Brady intends to share time.

I intend to share time equally with Deputy Thomas Byrne with ten minutes each.

I am delighted to have this opportunity to contribute to this important debate. Many people are highly concerned about this Bill and are fearful for the many other rural pursuits that are practised and engaged in. This legislation is being perceived as an attack that will lead to a ban on all field sports. The organisations opposed to the Bill represent more than 300,000 people involved in country pursuits. Rural field sports are family-orientated activities that are not ageist, sexist or racist. Generations of Irish people have taken part in such healthy, outdoor and family activities. Rural sports are an important economic activity in many rural communities and provide important support to the farming and bloodstock industry. As a rural Deputy, I represent an area in which there are two hunt clubs on my doorstep, namely, the Ballymacad Hunt and the Meath Hunt. I know exactly how important both these hunts are to the local community. They have major support across a broad area. Foxhunting nationally is a major contributor to the economy in the absence of any State support.

The Government has decided that stag hunting should cease for animal welfare and public safety reasons. The purpose of the Bill is to give legislative effect to the commitment in the renewed programme for Government to ban the practice of stag hunting with a pack of hounds. I call on the Minister to conduct a full regulatory impact assessment before proceeding with this Bill and to consult further with all stakeholders. A ban on the Ward Union Hunt will remove €1.4 million in spending power annually from the north-east region. A similar ban or restriction on other field sports would reduce spending power nationally by well over €100 million.

Hunting is part of the bedrock foundation of the €1.1 billion thoroughbred racing business. Each year, 80,000 visitors come to this country to take part in or watch equestrian sports and they spend an estimated €53.9 million. Deer hunting is closely monitored by Government inspectors. It operates under the terms of a strict licensing, inspection and monitoring system imposed by the Minister.

Hunts make a vital contribution to farming by providing farmers with a fallen animal collection service on a daily basis. Dead cattle and sheep are disposed of through this service. Without it there are risks in terms of animal disease control and to animal husbandry. Farming costs will increase as a result of the ban. What alternatives will be put in place by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to facilitate a cost-effective fallen animal collection service and on-site post mortem facilities? The prompt and secure removal and appropriate disposal of fallen stock is essential to mitigating the potential effect such carcases might have on human, animal and environmental health. What is a farmer to do with a dead carcass on the farm? In most cases farmers wish to know what caused the death of a cow, sheep or other animal and they call their local vet to carry out a post mortem examination on the carcass. By law, this cannot be done on the farm and must be carried out only after the Enfer BSE test shows a negative result. The test is carried out at the Ward Union Hunt kennels.

I am not happy, despite the assertion of the Minister, Deputy Gormley, that the legislation will not have any implications for other country pursuits such as fox hunting, hare hunting, hare coursing, shooting, fishing, greyhound racing or deer stalking. I consider the Bill to be an assault on rural Ireland and its traditions.

This is not the time to elaborate, but the Bill is not an isolated attack on rural Ireland. As a rural Deputy I cannot stand back and witness the destruction of traditions going back generations. There comes a time to say enough is enough——

Deputies

Hear, hear.

I did not interrupt other speakers. This afternoon I find myself wavering along a very fine dividing line. I plead with the Minister to think again on the issue. Rural Ireland is rightly concerned and annoyed about the devastating impacts for employment in farming and for rural traditions. It is not realistic to focus on no more than three incidents that occurred out of more than 400 hunts conducted in the past ten years. That is particularly so when no account is being taken of the number of deer that are injured or killed on roads and in the Phoenix Park. Is that not a much more serious public safety issue? Banning a hunt in order to address concerns over public safety is an over-reaction.

I stress the major importance and significance of all rural pursuits and the benefits that accrue from them to rural Ireland. I plead for more time and consultation for this debate. I call on the Minister to conduct a full regulatory impact assessment and to consult further with all stakeholders. I had a different view on the Ward Union Hunt following the occurrence of certain incidents, especially the Kildalkey incident. Deputy Wallace outlined the visit to the kennels which led me to reassess my view. Those involved in the Ward Union kennels have put safety measures in place since that incident. Animal welfare is No. 1 on its list. I compliment the kennels on the measures that were put in place, which were explained in detail to us. Those involved showed us the hounds and the deer. The animal welfare in the kennels is first class.

In the context of cruelty to animals, will the Minister indicate what will happen to the beautiful pack of hounds that are in the Ward Union kennels?

They will shoot them.

Is it not cruel to put the hounds down by shooting or in whatever other way? Likewise, what will happen to the deer, of which here are 150? As Deputy Mattie McGrath said, we all have deer roaming free in our area. Will the gates be opened and those 150 deer let loose? Is it right to bring someone in to put them down? I do not think so.

I was the first person to speak on the issue at our parliamentary party meeting following the agreement of the programme for Government. I was concerned. I did not know much about the Ward Union Hunt because it is not exactly in my area. However, I know enough about fox hunting and the Ballymacad Hunt and the Meath Hunt. I follow them whenever I am at home, especially around Christmas time. I get great enjoyment from them. I got a commitment from the Taoiseach that evening that nothing else would be affected. That is why, like many of my colleagues, I agreed to the programme for Government.

I say to the Minister, Deputy Gormley, to the Taoiseach and other members of the Government, that if any of the other country pursuits such as fox hunting——

That is a cop out.

——hare hunting, hare coursing, shooting, fishing, greyhound racing and others are threatened, they cannot depend on my support whether this Dáil lasts two months or two years. They will not have my support if anything else is tinkered with.

There is a vote for the Government.

I will vote with the Government on Tuesday night because I have given that commitment.

I endorse the final statement of my colleague, Deputy Johnny Brady.

Deputy Byrne will be voting with the Government as well.

Nuair atáimid ag caint faoi bheith ag fiach nó ag seilg, táimid ag caint faoi stair agus oidhreacht na hÉireann. Ó aimsir Fionn Mac Cumhaill agus Diarmuid agus Gráinne, tá muintir na hÉireann ag seilg le haghaidh spraoi, bia agus maireachtáil. The old Irish words for hunting — "seilg" and "fiach" — are all the evidence one needs to show that this is an ancient Irish pastime. No translated words from the English, German or Latin languages are required to explain something about this country that has existed for so long. That is the most important point; that hunting must be recognised. In the United Kingdom it has become a class issue. It is not a class issue in this country and it should never be allowed to become one.

The people I represent in East Meath are by and large strongly opposed to the legislation. Farmers are opposed to it, in particular because of the services for fallen animals that the Ward Union Hunt provides and because of the enjoyment they have during the winter watching the hunt passing through their lands. The community itself enjoys the hunt and it binds them together. The racing community is opposed to the Bill because of the economic benefits attached to the hunt. There are four racecourses in County Meath in Laytown, Bellewstown, Navan and Fairyhouse. The Ward Union Hunt itself is the smallest part of the equation. It is quite a small organisation but the benefits that accrue from its activities are spread far and wide throughout the county.

The Ward Union Hunt itself would say that it has not got everything right in the past. People with a contrary view to mine have contacted me and the Minister in that regard. That must be acknowledged. However, in fairness to the Ward Union Hunt, it has made efforts to change and improve things and the improvements are noticeable.

Public safety is raised constantly. We cannot keep talking about an incident, however unfortunate, that took place four years ago in Kildalkey. We cannot keep harping on about that. An incident also occurred at Christmas. They are individual isolated incidents that occur every few years. It is unfortunate that the Minister could not be specific about another incident.

My biggest concern is that we are legislating to target one particular hunt. I question whether it is constitutional to do that. Has the Attorney General advised in that regard? Can one legislate to punish one individual or group? The legislation has similarities to the old Bills of attainder which are not constitutional. How can we as legislators target individuals, people we know? It is not right. They are doing things they and their ancestors have done for generations.

That is the way they live. My colleague and friend, Deputy Mary Wallace, referred to proportionality, which has constitutional implications. President McAleese might consider raising this Bill with the Council of State before assenting to it.

This is a very difficult issue for me. I am committed to the Government. I was elected to represent the Fianna Fáil Party in Meath-East and believe we are implementing the right economic policies to get the country back into shape. I must be committed to my constituents, who are absolutely opposed to this legislation. Why are we even spending time on it when there are so many other problems facing the people?

The Deputy is right about that.

I ask the Minister to state in his closing remarks that if this Bill is passed he will have no issues to deal with in regard to animal welfare other than the couple of very minor ones in the programme for Government. The people do not believe there are no other issues. I am trying to explain to them that this Bill is Green Party policy. I want Deputy Gormley, in his capacity as Minister, to explain that there are no other issues. Deputy Johnny Brady outlined his very stark position on this and I agreed with him. The backbenchers of Fianna Fáil certainly agree.

Confidence and reassurance need to be given, particularly to gun clubs, which seem to be of the view that they will be targeted. The confusion is not lessened by some of the Minister's colleagues who differentiate between certain types of shooting and sports activities in their statements. That the Minister make the strongest possible statement on other pursuits is essential.

This is a difficult issue and has become very political. It is right that it has become a political issue. My seat will be one of the most prized by the Opposition parties at the next general election. This must also be acknowledged.

I acknowledge the remarks of Deputy McEntee, who said this is a difficult issue for us. He will receive great praise from the people of his constituency for his fight on this issue. He has been reasonable to his Government colleagues and this favour will certainly be returned if the Deputy is in a difficult position if his party is ever in Government.

The Minister's Department is causing many problems in Meath-East over one-off housing applications. I refer to its making submissions on one-off housing applications inside and far away from the Newgrange buffer zone. This is generating great mistrust. I do not know what business the Minister's officials have making submissions on the planning applications of young couples. It is terrible that the Department spends time on this. There is no national policy interest whatsoever in this regard.

When I talk to the people of my constituency, it is not just the issues of the Ward Union Hunt that arise. The Minister must understand that. People ask why he objected to their planning permission applications and makes submissions thereon. The Department is doing so in his name. I ask that it cease doing so because it cannot be legal.

I have always complimented the Minister on his progressive action on zoning and local area plans and I fully endorse and support what he is doing this week through the planning investigations. I come from an area where this activity could not but be supported because of the damage done through bad zoning. However, my problem is with the response to one-off planning applications whose acceptance would keep a community together and give young people a chance to build their own home at a lower cost. If accepted, the couples would not have to go on the council's list or live in certain areas where the facilities are not as good. They would have the opportunity to live in their own communities. The Minister is making it difficult for himself, the Government and me as a Member. I ask the Department to stop making submissions on the applications to which I refer.

This legislation is not right and the Oireachtas should not be targeting individual organisations or groups. I welcome the provision that the Minister is including in the legislation that regularises licensing for shooting game and wildlife. That may give some reassurance to the gun clubs although many of the constituents I spoke to on it today were not convinced.

I ask the Minister to confirm in his closing remarks that there is nothing else he wants to target. He has made such a statement time and again but we badly need to hear one once more.

I am very angry about this issue. I do not have the experience of the Ward Union Hunt that Deputies Johnny Brady, Mary Wallace and Thomas Byrne have. They spoke from the heart about it, specifically on the hunt. I want to follow up on Deputy Byrne's remarks. People believe the Minister is against the Irish countryside. He has his idea of the countryside and does not mind what happens to communities, community groups, football clubs, schools, churches or any other body.

Deputy Thomas Byrne mentioned one-off housing, which is irrelevant to this Bill, but it is related to the attitude that informs it. People know the Minister and his party are trying to ensure those who want to live on the farms on which they were born and reared, or near thereto, will no longer have the opportunity to do so.

The Ward Union Hunt has a proud tradition. During the debate on this issue, I became annoyed by the efforts of some to claim the Ward Union Hunt is an old British club that has nothing to do with Ireland. It has a long association with Irish traditions, as Deputy Thomas Byrne stated. It is certainly not tied to the elements that have been suggested.

The Bill is short and one could deal with it in five minutes. Its purpose is to deal with the Ward Union Hunt and to make some changes to the fines regime. It makes some welcome changes, as has been said.

The Minister referred to the history of the Ward Union Hunt and outlined the dangers of hunting. He stated his concerns are shared by some of his predecessors. He referred to public safety issues and said it is simply not possible for hunters to prevent deer in flight from leaping through hedges onto public roads. He recalled the incident regarding one deer who entered a children's playground. It is easy to pick out one incident.

Yesterday I spoke to the Minister's colleague from County Meath, the Minister for Transport, Deputy Noel Dempsey, about the road from Derry to Dublin. It links the capital to the fourth biggest city and Donegal. We are planning to give the Northern Ireland Assembly £400 million to provide a road from Derry to Aughnacloy, yet we have no plans to construct a road from Aughnacloy to Castleshane.

Only a few months ago, a juggernaut came around the corner in Emyvale village and drove straight into a group of houses. It was a miracle that nobody was killed. One family was in Scotland for a few days for a family function and the others were not at home at the time. The houses can be seen by anybody.

Many people have been killed on the road between Monaghan and Emyvale but there is not the same urgency in the House about it as there is about this Bill. We must get our House in order and realise where we can save human lives. I am not saying we should abuse stock; I love stock, I am a farmer and have lived with stock all my life. To isolate this issue and make a big deal about it is a sham.

The Minister states hunting is dangerous to people and hard on the animals. From reports I have read, there are very different views on this. As the Minister's Fianna Fáil colleagues have said, further study needs to be done on it and a report needs to be produced before a hammer is used to crack a nut. There must be some common sense in that. While the Minister's Fianna Fáil colleagues requested such a study, unfortunately, they went on to state that they were, because of party structures, voting for this Bill regardless.

I attended two meetings organised by the hunting and shooting fraternity. I can tell the Minister that those meetings were packed. One of them was in the Westenra Arms Hotel in Monaghan town, the other was in the Lavey Inn in Cavan. These meetings were packed with people who had only an interest in a bit of sport. They were not vicious, they were not antagonistic, they were just begging for the right to carry on the traditions that their people have carried on for the past hundreds of years.

My neighbours are deeply involved in both hunting and shooting, and some of them in other hunt clubs. Those people, if they are in a hunt club, contact the people in the area in which they will hunt. They do not do it behind people's backs. They are welcome. Especially on my own farm, they are extremely welcome wherever they want to go, let it be hunting, shooting or whatever else.

While the Minister is saying today that it is only the Ward hunt club that he is interested in, they are in no doubt whatsoever, from the information they are getting from the websites and elsewhere in the Green Party, that this is the first shot at all of the different aspects of Irish culture and Irish life. When I think of all the joy that those people have got down through the years in all sorts of areas of hunting, shooting, etc., I am scared for the future of this country,——

The Green peril.

——and I can tell the Minister that the majority of people are scared at present under Green government.

Only a couple of years ago, shortly after the Green Party came in, a good friend of mine who spent over €10,000 looking for planning permission on the border of County Meath, was to get the planning agreement on a Tuesday. On the Sunday night, the Minister blocked that area of rural Monaghan from getting any more planning permissions. We know exactly how the Minister operates.

We know exactly how the Minister operates on other issues. I remember getting a letter from him, through the county council, stating that he had dealt with the matter the previous January, at which time he was sitting behind me here. It was clear that he had not even read the letter that he was supposed to have signed. Those are simple facts.

We are extremely worried about where this is leading. Turf-cutting is another issue. When I think of all the people who cut their few bits of turf, the bogs are there for generations. I have been on them, I live beside them and I do not have to be told by anybody that they will not be there hundreds of years from now. We were told that there would be no more snow and no more sun, but we got both snow and sun this year. We must have some idea of what we are talking about.

This is an ongoing assault by the Minister on rural Ireland.

Why would we want to do that? Do we hate rural people, is that it?

I was born in a parish where the people had to leave in the 1950s and there was hardly anyone over the age of 15 and 16 who had not gone to England, America or elsewhere. I am proud of that parish today. I was secretary of the development committee in 1963 and we brought that parish up from nothing to a living, working community. There are very few people on the dole in it. There are very few people not living in reasonable comfort, but it is no thanks to Deputy Gogarty's type of rules. I can assure him of that.

We were not there. It was Deputy Crawford's type who were in power.

It would be better if Deputy Gogarty did not interrupt the person speaking.

I apologise. It is just that Deputy Stagg——

Have a bit of manners for a senior Deputy.

We had peace and quiet before Deputy Gogarty came in. Could he please listen to the person who has the floor.

I was listening with interest, sorry.

Have respect for a senior Deputy.

I wish Deputy Gogarty was listening with conviction. I can tell him there is a football club there which has its own clubhouse. There is a community centre. There are churches and schools that are reasonably full.

It is all right talking but if the Minister's rules on planning go through, there will not be another house built in that area if he can possibly stop it. That is a fact. The regulations are so tight on effluent and other issues that it will not happen. All that has happened is houses have replaced other houses that were there for a previous generation. They are now nearer the public roads than they were previously, but those are the facts and I can stand over them.

Other issues the Minister raised in his speech were extremely interesting. He spoke of the need for culling of deer. He realises at this stage that the Bill, as initiated, restricted groups such as hunting groups to two dogs and that simply cannot work. He has agreed to amend that and some other issues, which I welcome.

It is impossible to understand this. I often go through the Phoenix Park where there are deer, but there is a 30 mph restriction and it is not too bad if a deer runs out in front of you because you should be able to stop. What if one is going along the road at Dartry at 80 km/h and a deer jumps out in front of one? I can tell the Minister the number of persons who were maimed and seriously injured as a result of that wood and that situation. The only way that can be controlled is, as the Minister stated here, to allow for proper structures and proper licensing. There is no guarantee if he lets three or four dogs in through that wood, as there is no fence along the road, that a deer will not come out in front of a car or someone else. This issue about one incident with the Ward hunt just does not make sense. However, I welcome the fact that that issue is dealt with.

The Minister also spoke here about the new computerised procedures for issuing gun licences. We blame Brussels all of the time for the delicate and difficult forms one must fill in. The number of people who I have had into my home and into my office regarding that gun licence over the past number of months was unbelievable. They got this nine-page form to fill in for a simple single-barrel shotgun that they have had in their house for generations and they had to get people to sign that they were of good behaviour and they had to get their photograph put on their licence. They had to get all sorts of things. When one reads of all the guns that are flying about through this city, Limerick and elsewhere, one wonders what the system is all about. We blame Brussels for all the bureaucracy when it suits us, but here was bureaucracy brought in by the Government.

At the end of the day, lo and behold, with all nine pages, we hear an admission by the Minister that the Government did not provide for a hunting licence attachment and therefore the new certificates do not meet the legal requirements. It is unbelievable. So many aged farmers living on their own and all they wanted was to have the gun in their house to shoot a few crows, rabbits or whatever, and have it for safety as well. They had to go through all of this rigmarole. At the end of the day, the people who really needed the licences could not get them because the Bill was not properly drawn up. I worry that all this rushed legislation that is going through will give rise to many such difficulties. The Minister stated that by the time the oversight was identified, it was not practicable to recall the certificates issued nor to change the licensing process that was in train. I have spoken with many of those involved. They were alarmed by the stupidity shown during the dog issue and by the failure to get the licensing right.

The Government has a record on issues such as this, in that legislation is being rushed through just to stop the Ward hunt. I am not directly involved in that hunt, although I have known of it and the enjoyment it has given people for many years. Some people do not like it, which is their right, but it provides considerable employment and a good service, as mentioned by Deputy Brady and others. I hope the Minister will spell out what will happen to all of that. Who will shoot all the hounds and do away with the deer?

The Dog Breeding Establishments Bill 2009 has frightened the life out of many people. The sorts of regulation it will introduce will affect ordinary people in the hunt business. Will the Minister ensure that realistic changes are made to the Bill by the time it enters the Dáil so that it will not abuse an ordinary person who keeps a few beagles for winter hunting, cost him or her massive amounts of money and force him or her to meet all sorts of unjustified regulation?

I have no love or support for anyone who abuses the system. When we spoke at a meeting in Monaghan, a colleague from not too far away from me who spoke on the Minister's behalf stated he knew of an outrageous dog kennel located only one mile from his house. He did not name the kennel, but I have been living in the area long enough to be able to check out the only dog kennel of which I know in the locality. The owner is a huntsman who keeps the place pristine. I visited the following weekend to check whether the kennel had deteriorated since I had last seen it. I assure the Minister it was perfect. I just wish all humans were being looked after as well as that group of hounds. A flippant remark like that to try to justify unjustifiable actions does no one any good.

State-run dog kennels are causing serious problems for their neighbours, yet no effort is being made to silence the former. It is wrong that some of the people attending my office cannot sleep at night or, if they work at night, sleep during the day because someone visiting the house next door raises the noise of the dogs. I am referring to something that is being run with the support of the State as a local authority dog pound. This example gives the Minister an idea of some of the difficulties with State-run kennels. They are not perfect and I hope they can improve, but accusations are being made against decent people who are going about their business and having a bit of sport. They are being abused.

The Minister has the weekend to consider what his colleagues sitting behind him are saying. I am not asking him to consider what I have stated. His County Meath colleagues, who have lived with this hunt for generations, know what it is all about. For God's sake, listen to and be guided by them. It is not too late to decide to withdraw this Bill. I know people in the Enniskillen hunt, which goes into the Clones area. Members of one of the families involved are my best friends and invite me to the hunt regularly. It is nothing but sport. It is not abuse or anything else. Were we dealing with the crisis in health or social welfare——

The Deputy has gone way over his time.

I will conclude. I am dealing with a case in which someone was supposed to get a social welfare payment in April 2009. Yesterday, the person was told the appeal could not be dealt with for another six months.

The Minister should forget about this type of Bill. He should consider the humans and ensure they are given first chance.

The Minister of State, Deputy Mansergh's mobile telephone is playing lovely music, but I am afraid he must turn it off.

I understand the Minister of State will be sharing his time with Deputies Seán Power, Máire Hoctor and Maureen O'Sullivan.

That is correct.

Passage of the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2010 for the purpose of placing a ban on stag hunting is part of the revised programme for Government and pacta sunt servanda — agreements between parties — should be honoured.

As I have stated several times, I am generally supportive or tolerant of all existing field sports, but cock fighting and badger baiting are not permitted today and even coursing, in which regard Clonmel is the capital of Ireland, operates today under more stringent conditions than previously. The stag is a noble animal and I hold no brief for stag hunting, which is confined to County Meath and is not directly an issue for County Tipperary. It is wrong to believe that all people living in the country are uncritically supportive of field sports. A telephone or Internet poll in the Tipperary Star that I would not necessarily trust completely asked whether blood sports should be banned and received a two thirds response in favour.

Stag hunting raises different health and safety issues than fox hunting. Stags are large animals capable of killing people if they collide with them or their vehicles. There is a difference between the sports, in that the fox knows most of the terrain in which it is being hunted whereas a carted stag released into the countryside does not. The ban in this legislation is, if I understand the Minister correctly, without prejudice to lawful stalking or culling.

The Bourbons are entering into our debates regularly. One does not need to be a female Minister to be likened to Marie Antoinette. Later Bourbons were criticised by Talleyrand as having learned nothing and forgotten nothing. I prefer his statement, "Not too much zeal", which might apply to both extremes of the blood sport debate. Last Sunday, a political correspondent referred to a comment attributed to Louis XV and-or Madame de Pompadour — "After us, the deluge" — in respect of my party. The Bourbons were indefatigable hunters responsible for significant animal carnage. Louis XV reportedly killed 204 stags in one year and his grandson, the ill-fated Louis XVI, famously wrote a single word, "Nothing", in his journal on 14 July 1789, the day of the fall of the Bastille, because he had not succeeded in killing a stag. Stag hunting was reserved to the privileged and was the subject of a string of complaints by the Third Estate. The privileged nomenclature of the Soviet Union likewise indulged in the sport. An 1875 picture of the Ward Union Hunt featuring the Earl of Meath was recently sold in the auction rooms. Nowadays, it is a sport favoured by, among other worthy people, one or more builders and property developers who have figured prominently in dispatches. I am sure they will be pleasantly surprised——

I knew there was a reason, although it is an obscure one.

——to have the Labour Party on their side in this matter.

Not just government, but society is based on compromise, not one group having everything its own way. Lobbying on this issue has been out of proportion to other arguably far more important issues.

No fewer than three registered letters were in my mailbox, as I am sure is the case for other Tipperary Deputies. I cannot remember receiving the same amount on any other issue. Is stag hunting in County Meath really worthy of this degree of priority and attention?

Probably to my future cost, I hold a Burkean view of the duties of a Deputy, in that he or she owes constituents not just his or her industry, but his or her judgment. The Deputy is in Parliament to support his or her opinion of the public good and does not form an opinion to get into or continue in Parliament. I hope we are not spineless lackeys of the last opinion poll or the last angry person or lobby group to get in touch with us. While I respect the opinions of all my constituents, I do not agree that this is a matter of such importance that the Government should stand or fall on it. I am surprised at the opposition of the Labour Party, which presumably means the measure will be repealed if the Labour Party is in government with Fine Gael alone.

Neither has excluded being in government with the Green Party.

There are two chances of that.

Just listen, please. It is interesting that the Tory party in Britain has long-fingered a repeal of the British Labour Party hunting ban because they are in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. I reassure my constituents field sports will continue without interference and with no risk whatsoever, despite vastly exaggerated claims to the contrary. Stag hunting is simply not relevant to the broader interests of the equine industry, which is of great importance to this country.

Ask Paul Carberry. The Minister of State does not know his sport. He need not waffle here. He can waffle on the radio on Sunday.

Deputy McEntee should allow the Minister of State to continue.

I tried not to interrupt; it would be great if Deputy McEntee had the manners to do the same.

It is a pity the Minister of State does not know his horse-racing.

Did they learn horse riding by going stag hunting?

Deputy McEntee does not have any manners; that is his problem.

We are here to interrupt him.

The other night, when a small crowd outside was shouting to ban all bloodsports, I could not help asking myself whether parliamentary life or media political coverage as we know it would be possible if that call was heeded

I was born in Kildare and have lived there all my life. It has become known as the thoroughbred country and I admit a certain love for horses. They are a major part of life in Kildare. The industry is a large employer in Kildare. Whether people are employed in the industry or enjoy horses for sport, it is something we are familiar with in Kildare. Training yards and stud farms provide valuable employment, mainly in rural areas where it would be difficult to find alternative employment should the need arise.

The hunt has a long and distinguished record in Ireland and a proud tradition. Most villages have pictures of hunts going back over many years and there is something beautiful about watching a hunt in action. Man has always hunted. Today, that hunt takes on a different meaning but people appreciate that it has a proud historic record. This Bill has attracted much publicity. People who do not hunt or engage in rural activities have little understanding or appreciation of why others partake in the activity and the joy, fun and craic that people have on a hunt.

The renewed programme for Government, which was agreed in October 2009, included a commitment to end deer hunting by stag hounds. The Ward Union Hunt Club has been operating for more than 150 years and is the only club with a stag hunt. It has approximately 200 active members. I know some of these people personally and I regard them as normal, natural people. In any group of 200 people one can select a few and try to tarnish them all with the same brush. The same could be said of the 166 Deputies. The members of the Ward Union Hunt Club are normal people who enjoy a particular activity. From my knowledge of them, they are animal lovers who take great pleasure in participating in a stag hunt. It was with surprise that these club members realised we were introducing legislation to ban an activity they, their parents and their grandparents had enjoyed for many years. Why are they being singled out? Why is the Government pushing ahead with this legislation? The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley, has provided the licence that has allowed the activity to take place in recent times. We are proposing to ban an activity that has taken place for generations. If the legislation is passed, these men and women who decide to continue their hobby will become criminals.

The debate that has taken place would lead one to believe deer are killed every day a hunt takes place but the facts tell a different story. During the hunt of 11 December 2009 a deer collided with a vehicle and, following the intervention of two vets, the animal had to be put down. However, during the hunt season 2009-10, no other deer died. Many people, the majority of whom are not members of the hunt, are asking whether this legislation is the start of a major attack on rural pursuits. This Minister has said that it is not but I ask the Minister to publish a list of proposals presented by the Green Party during negotiations for the renewed programme for Government. This will clarify the issue of the genuine fear of many rural people. I regret we are debating the legislation in this way. I regret the application of the guillotine on this debate. Many Members would like to contribute for far longer than the time the allocated. I regret the introduction of legislation to criminalise a long and proud tradition in Ireland.

Táim an-bhuioch as ucht an deis atá agam um thráthnona, labhairt faoin mBille seo atá ós ár gcomhair inniu. I am pleased to have speaking time on this proposed Bill, even if it is confined to five minutes. I was grateful to receive the co-operation of the Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Sean Fleming, to speak at the committee meetings on the proposals in this Bill. I had reservations and concerns about the original proposals.

As a rural Deputy from North Tipperary, where the horse, hound and deer are synonymous with rural life, it was with regret that I learned last October that the ban on the 200 year tradition of the Ward Union Hunt in County Meath was part of the newly agreed programme for Government. It was brought about with absolutely no negotiation or consultation with the Fianna Fáil backbenchers, which makes it all the more difficult to proceed in supporting this Bill. I acknowledge the correspondence and telephone calls I received from Meath and people all over Ireland, seeking the retention of the Ward Union Hunt Club. I also acknowledge the anti-blood sports groups who, in a much smaller volume, made known their thoughts to me. I am fully aware of the high standards of animal welfare practice undertaken by the members of the Ward Union Hunt Club, some of whom are personal friends of mine. These people are of the highest decency and integrity, strongly involved in their communities and in activities outside the Ward Union Hunt Club. I acknowledge the co-operation of the Ward Union Hunt Club in the provision of vets, road marshals and volunteer workers. They all work with the Ward Union Hunt Club to increase safety of humans and of animals in the hunt procedure.

I regret there was no consultation with the Ward Union Hunt Club and the absence of a regulatory impact statement prior to introducing this legislation. There are no solutions offered, following the enactment of the Bill, to the loss of jobs and the future of the very valuable fallen animals service carried out by the Ward Union Hunt Club. I acknowledge the work of the fallen animals service, efficiently carried out by the Ward Union Hunt Club. That service must be replaced. On that basis, I support my colleagues' call on the Minister to carry out that impact assessment and permit another licensed season to the Ward Union Hunt Club pending the assessment of the financial impact on County Meath as a result of this legislation.

On section 3, it is clear also that Coillte and the National Parks and Wildlife Service were not consulted in the original drafting of the Bill. It is a recognised and long-established procedure that in the event where two or three deer stalkers hunt together they each might be accompanied by a tracker dog. I note that in other European countries, in the absence of a dog, qualified and authorised tracker dogs are brought in to hunt down the fallen animal to ensure the least pain is endured by the animal in the event of hunting.

I am pleased that the Minister, Deputy Gormley, has acknowledged that the original proposals in section 3 were not viable. It is a requirement of hunting leases issued by Coillte that a hunter is either accompanied by a tracking dog or that they have access to a tracking dog when stalking deer. The use of dogs is a humane requirement to ensure the swift tracking of wounded deer. Had a regulatory impact assessment been carried out prior to the publishing of the Bill, the deletion of the proposals would not have to be visited now. I say to the Minister that amendments to section 3 are not required. The deletion of section 3 is all that is needed.

I understand the Minister's officials had a positive meeting recently with the representatives of the Wild Deer Association and the Irish Deer Association but, unfortunately, the Minister has not met with the associations. Much of the confusion surrounding the practice of these rural pursuits would be eliminated if the Minister were to meet with them. I encourage the Minister to do so and to address the other outstanding issues in regard to rural pursuits in the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill. My written concerns are on the Minister's desk and I would welcome the opportunity to discuss those with him. I am grateful for the opportunity to express my concerns regarding the matters I have outlined.

Tugaim fíor-thacaíocht don Bille seo, ar mo shon féin agus ar son Tony Gregory, a d'oibrigh go dian dícheallach ar son na cúise seo i rith na mblianta. Bhí an-díomá air nach raibh níos mó déanta ar an ábhar seo sar a fuair sé bás.

I wish to focus on the hunt aspect and the proposal to prohibit stag hunting with hounds in Ireland, which will apply to the Ward Union Hunt. I believe this is a humane and an enlightened initiative that is long overdue.

Do we have some romantic view of the hunt in terms of the red jackets, the men and women on horseback and, I understand these days, on quads and jeeps, with the horns blowing, the dogs baying and the so-called thrill of the chase? The words I use are animal cruelty. There are incidents of deer becoming entangled in barbed wire, drowned and chocked to death. Do we really want to see images of hunted deer covered in blood, wounded, bitten and bruised, with steaming tongues hanging out as they drop to the ground exhausted? The hunt is causing unnecessary suffering to these animals. It is a gruelling experience that can last up to and even longer than three hours.

I cite, as the late Deputy Tony Gregory did in the Dáil debate of October 2007, the veterinary documents which show the injuries and fatalities. They include fractured ribs, ruptured aortic aneurysms, a deer collapsing and dying after desperately trying to escape over an 8 ft high wall. There is considerable photographic and video evidence of the cruelty, and reports in newspapers of numerous incidents of cruelty. Is it sport to terrify an animal so unnecessarily and for what?

A significant aspect regarding the Ward Union Hunt is its hunting of tame domesticated deer. Where is the fairness or the sport in pursuing a domesticated deer — domesticated like the Minister's dog or mine — and hunt it down to the point of exhaustion? We are aware of the incident of the stag being hunted into the school yard. Savage hands set on the stag and it was then hunted onto a public road and was pursued until it collapsed, and that is considered sport. Apart from the cruelty to the animals there is also the risk to road users and members of the public.

A significant number of farmers object to their farms and land being invaded, trespassed upon and vandalised, with fences, crops and livestock damaged and destroyed. They want their lands preserved from stag hunting which is threatening their work to produce healthy, quality food. Their "No Hunting" signs are being blatantly ignored by the hunt.

The Ward Union Hunt states that it has implemented a wide range of health and safety measures in recent years. That is equivalent to telling a prisoner that after being tortured a doctor will be on hand to bandage the wounds. What health and safety measures can be brought in that will alleviate deliberate suffering and torture of an animal? That is a total contradiction.

I am fascinated by the notion of monitoring a hunt, which I find ludicrous. Will some of the conditions be that the hounds can bite only five times instead of 20, the stag will be chased for only one hour instead of three or the hunt will use only 20 hounds instead of 40. Perhaps specific injuries will be allowed? How can we tell a hound that it cannot directly kill the deer; just terrify and exhaust it to death.

I represent Dublin Central but I have many affiliations with rural Ireland, including down the road from where the Ward Union Hunt operates. This is not an attack on rural Ireland and to see it portrayed as thus is scare-mongering and deliberately clouding the issue. The Bill simply aims to protect deer from being hounded to exhaustion, injury and death for so-called fun. Is it the view of those opposing the Bill that fun equals subjecting an animal to prolonged and agonising torture and hounding it to death? I support the Bill and hope to see it passed in the House.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Michael D. Higgins.

I will be opposing this Bill and would like to briefly outline the reason that is the case.

Many rural communities are very concerned that they are being used as political footballs for the Green Party to score points in the absence of any other tangible achievement since they joined Fianna Fáil in Government. There is a feeling that the Green Party members need to deliver something to their constituency and that the handiest way of doing that is to ban some form of hunting.

That may be a cynical view but in the absence of the Green Party having been unable to prevent the swingeing cuts across all areas of public and social provision that they said they would oppose when in Opposition, it does make sense. It is also the case that the Green Party's constituency, or what remains of it, is inimical to and, some might claim, ignorant of much of what happens in rural Ireland.

There are also claims in some quarters that the Green Party regards this as their Stalingrad and have intimated that if the legislation is not passed as proposed and that if all Fianna Fáil Deputies do not vote for it they may consider pulling out of Government. That might appear ill-conceived but given that the Green Party has little if any chance of retaining its existing seats as matters stand, it might make some sense.

It might be regarded as a cynical view if they were to take that course. It might also be seen to be somewhat hypocritical of the Green Party to take such a strong and principled position on the rights of deer while having spent the past three years meekly supporting various measures that have impinged on the lives and indeed rights of hundreds of thousands of Irish people.

It is a bit much that a party that was prepared to support the health cuts, impose wage cuts on public servants, and preside over the bailing out of the speculators that they were so eloquent in denouncing when they were on this side of the House should choose this issue as the one on which to make a stand. It is perhaps commendable that they have at least retained some vestiges of the principles they claim, but we are entitled to balance that against all the other things which they have done since they have been in power.

In regard to the issue of banning hunting, and the belief that this current Bill if successful will be followed by attempts to ban other rural pursuits, a number of issues need to be borne in mind when making this decision. There is the legitimate argument that the State, the State acting on behalf of a section of the electorate or, in this case, one political party, ought not to have the right to ban activities just because someone else does not like them. There are many people who do not like this form of hunting, and they are entitled to their beliefs. However, they are not entitled to have it banned simply on that basis.

The only basis on which they would be entitled would be if it could be proved that the practise in question was either cruel, deliberately designed to kill the animal being pursued or that the animal in question was an endangered species. None of that applies as far as I can see in this instance.

There is also the argument, including on behalf of people who have no particular interest in or affection for stag hunting, that if this activity is banned the way will be open to ban other sports involving animals. That could include hare coursing, for example, and I have little doubt that if this Bill is successful that will be the next target.

There is also the belief that the desire to ban rural pursuits would not stop there, and some of the leading advocates of banning blood sports have made no secret of their opposition to horse racing, fishing and greyhound racing. I have been on radio programmes on occasions with some of those people and they have refused to say that is not part of their agenda. If the bottom line is that humans should not use animals for sport then the logic would certainly lead to that.

My party's position is clear. At the Ard Fheis earlier this year, we passed a motion upholding the right to organise regulated and licensed hunting, as long as there is stringent regulation to protect the sustainability of a given population and to prevent the infliction of unnecessary cruelty through hunting practice.

We cannot support an outright ban on the form of hunting as proposed in this Bill in the absence of clear evidence of risk to population sustainability and of evidence of cruelty. Risk to the sustainability of the red deer population is not an issue and no sustainability evidence has been adduced. The only issue to be assessed is whether stag hunting with hounds generally, or the specific practice of carted stag hunting in particular, constitutes cruel practice in hunting.

The 1997 Kane report found no intentional cruelty related to the Ward Union Hunt. However, it found inhumane practice related to the manner and design of cart transportation and that domesticated deer in particular are generally unfit for prolonged chase. Importantly, the 1998 Kane and Guthrie report on the welfare of deer, which appears to have been much more thorough and scientific in its approach and methodology, did not find significant health and welfare issues related to this practice.

There is also the fact that hunts often proceed illegally in the face of an outright ban. Such illegal hunts would not be subject to the controls that currently apply to the now highly regulated Ward Union Hunt. These were made even more stringent with the introduction of new licensing conditions in 2008, including monitoring by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and veterinary supervision.

Regarding the economic aspects of this issue, it is estimated that the Ward Union club keeps approximately 30 people in direct, indirect and ancillary employment. This breaks down to four full-time equivalents in direct employment, 13 grooms in indirect employment and 11 in ancillary trades. Income to the locality is estimated at approximately €1 million per annum. Hence in the worst case scenario, the legislation could result in the loss of up to 30 jobs and a loss of €1 million per annum to the local economy in Meath.

For all these reasons Sinn Féin will be opposing the Bill as drafted.

It would be a great pity if a simplistic rural-urban divide emerged in the debate about the welfare of animals and our heritage. Issues around these areas must be treated with respect for their complexity and each considered on their merits.

Between 1993 and 1997, I had ministerial responsibility for many of the matters contained in this legislation. Before the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley, leaves the Chamber, I must say it is absolutely outrageous to suggest that I and any Member of the Labour Party are in favour of cruelty to animals or bloodsports. When I was Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, I ended by regulation the possibility of any deer being killed and my colleague, Deputy Brian O'Shea, regulated for greyhounds to wear muzzles to eliminate the kill in coursing. Those are the facts. I want this debate to be unemotive and practical.

Between 1988 and 1996 no licence had been issued to the Ward Union Hunt. I took the position that the Wildlife Act 1976 had not been properly observed. Accordingly, I asked for time to investigate how the Ward Union Hunt took place.

The results of my actions are contained in my replies to parliamentary questions then. For example, Parliamentary Question No. 25 on 20 February 1997, tabled by Deputy Sargent, asked about the outcome of the monitoring of deer hunting activities by the Ward Union Hunt and if I would have regard to the many landowners, road-users and compassionate members of the public, both rural and urban, who object to deer hunting with hounds before deciding on future policy on this activity.

I believed this activity should have been monitored and controlled but it had not between 1988 and 1996. In my reply, I drew his attention to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 126 on 22 October 1996 which gave a historical background to the issue. I also informed Deputy Sargent:

Following this reply there was an exchange of correspondence between the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department and the Ward Union hunt club in relation to the requirements for a licence under the 1976 Act for carted stag hunting. Ultimately, this correspondence resulted in an application for a licence.

The reply also listed the conditions I had attached to the licence which included the health and condition of the animal before and after the hunt, the treatment of the animal during the hunt, the control of the hounds and the behaviour of those on horseback. I was seeking to operate with as much consensus as I could to ensure no allegation of cruelty could be made.

Due to the deer used in the hunt being reared domestically, I decided to hand over the responsibility of ongoing examinations to the then Department of Agriculture. I also commissioned a report on the Ward Union Hunt from K.W.S. Kane, a veterinary inspector, which was presented to me on 16 May 1997. Mr. Kane made criticisms about how the deer were transported to the hunt, that is, carting and so forth. As I was about to leave office, I wrote a note for my officials stating that we should address the additional necessary conditions to ensure there was no stress on the deer. I had already eliminated the kill element in deer hunting, as did Deputy Brian O'Shea with the hare in coursing. It is an outrageous untruth — I cannot use the other word that I would like to use — to suggest the Labour party has changed its position. It does not serve the Minister, Deputy Gormley, well and adds to his reputation for bitter pills.

I had ministerial responsibility for heritage when it was managed properly. I took decisions that were not popular but necessary. Why did the Minister not use the conditions I had laid down? If he felt there were new circumstances surrounding public safety, why did he not add them as new conditions and require them to be attached to a licence? Instead, the Minister has done a sloppy thing by taking the capacity of the Minister out of the 1976 Act. That is lazy. If he had left it untouched, he would have given himself the space and obligation to put in conditions that would guarantee no cruelty would be experienced. The Minister must explain why he went instead for the simplistic approach. By striking down this section, he has removed certain other ministerial capacities.

There are differences between us on our ministerial approaches to this issue. When I was Minister, I began with animal welfare while this Minister, Deputy Gormley, has begun with a ban. For example, I foresee serious problems arising in respect of stalking if the legislation does not specify the conditions under which a person may shoot at a deer. Sometimes deer are wounded and wander in a wounded condition, something which directly affects an animal in a way far greater than an animal that has been carted. I am not making comparisons for idle purposes. Other issues arise such as the question of how irresponsible it would be to make the animal welfare conditional on property ownership. Under this proposed legislation, if one owns property one can take as many dogs as one wishes to drive a deer off one's property. How can one declare that represents animal welfare? How can one say that enhances public safety? These are glaring blemishes in the legislation although the Minister and I are agreed that we wish to end up in the same place.

It is outrageous to make a cheap comment to the effect that I have changed my mind on animal welfare. I have not. I would simply do this in a different way. I could have taken these conditions and the Minister could have built on them.

The Minister has done something politically dangerous. During his speech this afternoon, he provided a number of guarantees. He has said it will only be this and this alone. In doing so, he has enabled other issues to be removed from the agenda. He has provoked a reaction that will provide a shelter for those who do not want other issues to be addressed. Many people who objected to the Ward Union Hunt — I am familiar with some of these people — objected to some of the participants as much as the practice itself. They took the view that it was ridiculous that some of the best know speculators would mount on horseback and behave like the new gentry and go galloping across people's land. I have some sympathy for that view because I recall in my youth getting a half a crown in County Clare for opening the gate for people propped up on horseback. We were entertained to guess how quickly they would fall off.

We must draw a distinction. I hold no brief for the social composition of the Ward Union Hunt. I refer to other members of the hunt. When I made my moves in 1996 I distinctly remember some very distinguished families from County Meath, including relatives of the then Taoiseach, Mr. Bruton, coming to see me and explaining the outrageousness of my proposals. The point is my approach was very different from that of the Minister, Deputy Gormley. I met the Irish Council Against Blood Sports. I provided the date of the meeting in the answer to the question. I also met the Ward Union Hunt. I used the Heritage Council to prepare a report. I consulted as widely as possible. I took the view that although I was proceeding slowly, it was the way to achieve the best result. I finished putting in place these conditions in 1996 or 1997. It is true that two reports were carried out, namely, the Kane report and the Guthrie report. As far as I was concerned, if this activity could never be sufficiently controlled with conditions attached to licence, one should keep adding to the licence conditions until it had withered on the vine.

This is not what the Minister has done. He has made a gesture out of the legislation. I listened patiently to the speeches given from all sides of the House. The Minister has enabled a reaction to be composed and that reaction will oppose other issues. I do not believe the Minister is against rural Ireland and it is outrageous for people to suggest as much. We should be mature about how we approach these matters. It is unfortunate that the content of the legislation is so flawed and that the tactics in bringing this legislation to the House are equally flawed. It is disastrous that the issue has been so divisive.

Heritage issues within the Minister's Department have been damaged, which is a great pity. People have made very reasonable points. I refer to parts of the country where people who were farming would not cut the hooves of their donkeys. The poor old ass was crippled with neglect. I refer to the cruelty of those refusing to allow the issue of the urban horse to be addressed, which is scandalous. These are real issues.

I dealt in a complicated way with a point the Minster has in the proposed legislation. His officials will advise him on whether the Attorney General has waived on the matter. I dealt with the issue of when an animal is considered feral according to the description under the Wildlife Act 1976 or when an animal is considered domesticated, in which case it is a matter for the Minister with responsibility for agriculture. It is a genuine attempt by the Minister in the relevant section to use the phrase "any other deer". I suggest the Minister examines this seriously before Committee Stage because I suspect it is legislatively fragile. I do not say this to score a point but this was an area for which I held responsibility.

It is not the case that there has been any great change in the Labour Party's position. It is simply a matter of the way in which this legislation is put together, the context in which it has been delivered and the consequences it has with regard to dividing communities that should combine to treat heritage issues adequately. This is why the Labour Party has a reservation on the matter. Our opposition to cruelty, our love of animals, our loyalty to urban and rural animals and so forth remain the same.

I wish to share time with Deputy Trevor Sargent. We may offer different views on this Bill.

I have no connection with the hunt or the people involved. However, I speak as someone with a love of animals. We have always kept dogs in the family home and currently we keep two beautiful cavaliers. I represent a vast number of constituents from Dublin North who are actively involved in the hunt and others not involved in the hunt but who support it.

Let us consider the history of the Ward Union Hunt over 150 years. It has produced many famous people in the horse riding business, including members of the Carberry family, Paul, Philip and Nina, as well as Barry Geraghty, Kevin Manning and the trainer, Noel Meade. As Irish people, we roar on these people whether at race meetings on the television such as Cheltenham and the Aintree Grand National or at home. All of these people honed their skills by participating in the Ward Union Hunt and by riding out their ponies and becoming accomplished horse riders.

We should carry out an impact assessment on the business activities related to the hunt. A total of four direct employees are involved with the Ward Union Hunt and it has a business turnover of €1.4 million. We are all aware that the horse breeding business is of the order of €1 billion for the Irish economy. If we were discussing any other aspect of business life, there is no way any Member would suggest we do something arbitrarily that would impact on a €1 billion business or a local business worth almost €1.5 million. One need only consider the activities involved to realise how that business is comprised. Apart from the buying and selling of horses, at issue is jobs in animal feed, including feed for horses and hounds tack and riding equipment, transportation, farriers and vets. That is to ignore the local shops, pubs and restaurants, all of which attract great business during the hunting season. I do not subscribe to the view that we should write off that business without a thorough investigation. I do not subscribe to that. I implore the Minister that before he makes this decision to ban the hunt, he does what we call for in all walks of life, namely, that we investigate this. As a courtesy to this House and the Seanad, I ask him to bring us a report and to come back in the autumn or mid-winter after we have gone through all the facts and figures to discuss them. If there are issues in terms of animals suffering, let us deal with them.

As I said, I do not have any involvement in this but I have had discussions with many people. There is general consensus that there is no animal cruelty involved. I would like the Minister to give an assurance that he will carry out an assessment and give us three or four months to investigate this, which is reasonable.

Other speakers referred to the fallen animal service the Ward Union Hunt provides. Has the Minister discussed with his colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Deputy Smith, what replacement service will be put in place if the Ward Union Hunt ceases to exist? Almost 5,000 dead animals are collected all over north Dublin and Meath. They are collected quickly, efficiently and at a subsidised cost to the farmer. I know from talking to one of the veterinarians involved in this process that we will not have this service whereby the animal is collected from the farm within hours, which is very important from the point of view of our reputation as a food producing nation. Will we replace that service quickly, efficiently and at the same cost?

I listened attentively to Deputy Higgins. The conditions and restrictions he imposed as Minister were reasonable and practical and were further refined last year by the Minister, Deputy Gormley. There is no reason we should not endeavour to continue to refine them. We can avoid similar incidents to the one or two which occurred with the licensing arrangements but it is not right to ban this because there has been one incident.

The whole purpose of any consultation process is to thoroughly investigate. I am not saying people should not have different opinions to mine but we should thoroughly investigate how we can improve this before we reach the ultimate decision to ban the activity.

From my observations of deer, I believe they are wild animals. They are brought up as wild and to run. Instinctively, I believe they expect to be hunted. I am not suggesting for one second that they should be mauled by hounds or anything like that. I would abhor that. I would have a greater problem with hare coursing where I believe greyhounds get very close to the unfortunate hare.

Will the Minister put this Bill on hold for the next three or four months? Let us carry out an assessment on how we can regulate more if we need more regulation and restrictions. In terms of the business aspect, people in north Dublin, Meath and elsewhere enjoy a good business and God knows we need to protect and courage business given the job losses and the recession.

I hope the Minister will make a pragmatic decision and will ask for a report. He has asked for many other reports. Currently, he is correctly looking for reports on local authorities. He has not sought to abolish Cork County Council because he is investigating it. He has merely asked for an investigation and he should do the same in this case.

I listened to Deputy Higgins speak about his involvement. He met the Ward Union Hunt. Will the Minister meet these people who are Irish people? The Ward Union Hunt may have started out in the 1850s with British aristocrats but the majority of the members of the hunt comprise ordinary Irish men and women and young people. They deserve to be able to put their case to the Minister. There is no reason the Minister would not afford them the opportunity to meet him and for him to put his concerns to them. If he has concerns, he has the right to put questions on animal welfare or, if he suspects any, animal cruelty to them. Will the Minister give this House the opportunity to consider an assessment and revisit this matter towards the end of the year?

Ar dtús báire ba mhaith liom a rá go gcuirim fáilte roimh an Bhille um Fhiadhúlra (Leasú) 2010. Mar chuid den chlár Rialtais, tá an Bille seo i measc go leor rudaí eile atá aontaithe le déanamh ag an Rialtas agus sin an chúis go dtacaím leis.

All of us who signed up to the programme for Government may have issues with items along the way but it is the nature of politics to arrive at the most practicable, workable and broadly based compromise. This Bill is one aspect of that and it is quite short. In that regard, the discussion must reflect that the Bill comprises five paragraphs and is quite limited.

I hope we can get back to dealing with the issues most people outside this House probably want us to deal with in terms off ostaíocht, rialú ceart na mbanc, caomhnú fuinnimh, an córas taistil, pleanáil ceart agus go leor rudaí eile lena bhfuil an Comhaontas Glas ag plé agus ar a bhfuil sé ag obair go tréan. Ina measc tá cosaint na ndaoine is boichte sa tír, talmhaíocht, gnó bia, an córas sláinte agus córas tinnis, truailliú, cumarsáid, foraoiseacha, an comhshaol, scolaíocht agus cúram leanaí. Tá a lán ábhair idir lámha ag an Rialtas seo agus ag Airí Glasa agus ag an Comhaontas Glas i gcoitinne. This is but one.

Even in areas where this is quite hotly debated, such as Garristown in north County Dublin which Deputy Kennedy and I represent, tonight most people there are probably more concerned with their water being cut off at 6 p.m. until 8 a.m. and having to depend on a couple of water tankers.

That said, let us deal with this matter in the way that it must be dealt with because it is outstanding. It has gone to the courts. The Minister tried to regulate it, as Deputy Higgins suggested, but unfortunately that did not go down too well and it ended up in the High Court. It comes down to a difficulty in trying to make progress on this. The Bill takes the live quarry out of the equation in a hunt but does not ban hunting. Drag hunts will continue and traditions, kennels, horsemanship and the fallen animal service do not require a stag to be part of the equation. This reality needs to be discussed.

I live in north County Dublin and I know many of the people who ride out with the WUH. However, the majority of those who raised this issue with me are opposed to the activity for a number of reasons, many of which relate to animal welfare. There is no getting away from that. The Irish Farmers’ Journal printed a report in 2007 of a deer choking to death. In 2005 a deer died having broken a rib leading to an aortic rupture. The stress endured by the animals must be acknowledged. A 300 kg stag aged five bolted through a hedge and was hit by a car last December and that gave us a salient warning. Thank God there were no human fatalities but the deer had to be put down.

These issues cannot be brushed under the carpet as if everything is a picnic and there is no animal welfare issue. We must not be blind to it. As a former Minister of State with responsibility for food and horticulture, I have met many people with an agricultural background who are not at all happy. Horticulturists find it difficult to make a living and they do not want horses and hounds traversing their land. I live near a farmer who has a field of turnips. The gate was left open by the hunt members. Generally they disregard the difficulties people face in trying to make ends meet and to maintain their livelihoods. We must have consideration for the wider community in this regard.

Condensing the issue down to wide open fields and rural communities does not tell the full story. I recounted an incident earlier to Deputy Kennedy of a stag appearing in a man's garden while he worked in his house. Nobody was chasing it but it was distressed having escaped the hunt at least momentarily. A veterinarian was called and the stag had to be tranquilised. The tranquiliser did not take effect immediately and because this large animal was agitated, it took off again towards Rivervalley, a highly built up area in Swords. The tranquiliser only kicked in when the stag had made it 2.5 miles down the Brackenstown Road. When a stag is trying to escape, it will try to do anything. It will go into a school yard, the grounds of a church, a graveyard or a garden. It will do whatever it has to do to escape. That is the reality in the name of the WUH.

I hope Fine Gael and the Labour Party will reflect on the position they are taking.

And Fianna Fáil.

I am not sure whether they are united. Deputy Shatter held a much higher position in the Irish Council Against Blood Sports than I could ever aspire to but he has not contributed to this debate. Perhaps he has been silenced in more ways than one.

Perhaps he is cycling in front of a squad car.

Perhaps he is slightly embarrassed. Labour Party members signed petitions seeking a ban on stag hunting for years. I received a text message from a man in Galway who is mystified by the Jesuitical hand wringing on this matter of Deputy Michael D. Higgins. He asked since the Deputy had signed a petition what his position is now. It may be Augustinian — "Lord make me pure but not yet".

He explained his position clearly.

But the man in Galway is still wondering and questions remain for Deputy Higgins. All I can do is give this man a copy of the debate and let him make his own mind up.

If there is a fatality, will Fine Gael and the Labour Party say they are sorry they blocked the Minister and his attempt to regulate this sport in order that road safety would not be compromised and they are sorry for the fatality? Let it be on their conscience that they did not put an end to that risk when they had an opportunity. I regard that as irresponsible. I hope we can pass this legislation quickly and we can move on with the weightier issues of State, which must be dealt with for the country to prosper.

That is what the Green Party should put first.

That is what we have been doing.

It has a sorry record.

I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the debate. I always knew the time would come. With regard to Deputy Sargent's contribution, the people of north County Dublin might be worrying which way the Meath flag is flying on Sunday evening but whatever happens, happens. The six Members from County Meath will travel to Croke Park together on Sunday to shout for our team and before we leave, we will join up with our Dublin counterparts who have joined us in Meath. We love the number of Dublin people who have moved to our county. They brought their wit, culture and so on but I have not been contacted by one of them since this debate started two or three years ago asking me to stop my way of life.

I could be emotional about this issue but I am clear about it. I can also be risen easily but when one knows one is right and there is compromise at the end of the day, it is easy to speak. I was elected to the House in a by-election by people from different walks of life and people of different political persuasions. Almost 2,000 Fianna Fáil supporters gave me a first preference. Labour Party, Green Party, Sinn Féin and Independent supporters gave me their lower preferences and I am here to represent all of them.

Two years ago when the issue raised its head, there was a struggle and the Minister implemented regulations. Within six months, members of the WUH were happy they were implemented because they made it easier for them and it worked out well. I could not believe my ears when I heard we were back to this again because I am a person who believes in live and let live. We should respect each other's culture and each other's party. I could make great hay in my county about this issue, as my party colleague said, but I will not because that would be a short-term reaction. The six Members from County Meath are all of the one type and I am under no illusions that we are in the House on behalf of the people. I keep in contact with my people. Sometimes I must make up my own mind on the spur of the moment like I did last night with two Members from Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party regarding an amendment to another Bill where common sense worked at the end of the day. I guarantee common sense will prevail next Tuesday evening. There is a great deal of common sense in the Green Party.

I support the Green Party on one issue. I do not support it on a lot of things and I did not vote with it the first night I was in the Dáil. I left the House, even though its Members were on this side of the House, because I was not clear on the issue. Anything I knew about the Green Party told me that its agenda was not in the interest of County Meath at the time. However, there is one thing in County Meath in which I have an interest — that is, the opening of Panda, where there is recycling instead of incineration. It was one of the best days I had since I was elected and I know it was one of the best days the Minister had.

There is no one better than me to throw muck, as Deputies know. Sometimes one does not like doing it, but one needs to. Deputy Mansergh said I was biased and he is right. I was taught to fight fire with fire. That is the only way it can be done. We can beat around the bush as much as we like, but when I am hit with fire I hit back with fire. Ultimately, we will all need to come back here and talk about far more important issues. This is needlessly bringing us down.

I know the Green Party has its issues about animals. Those who hunt are great people — I have listened to them. I know these people, who are of a farming background. Contrary to what Deputy Kennedy said — although I will not get annoyed about it — they are true Irishmen. There is not an ounce of English blood in them. They are not gentry; I know them. They are true Irishmen. I did not like that comment.

Dodgy builders.

Fionn Mac Cumhaill was a great hunter.

The Deputy can say things like that. That is fair. However, I am telling the Deputies that I know these people. They can take my word for it. I grew up with them from the age of 12.

Fine Gael's kind of people.

The Deputy can go into that and try to rag me; that is fair enough. I have no bother with that.

I did not say Deputy McEntee; I said his party. I have more respect for the Deputy than for some in his party.

That is fair enough. However, we have come to a point at which decisions must be made. What Deputy Brady said was true. I was at an environmental meeting and I found it hard to accept that people in the industry were not consulted. That is a fact and it is on the record. It is not right. Deputies Higgins and Broughan are correct; this measure will be challenged. Fine Gael and the Labour Party do not want to have to reintroduce stag hunting when Fianna Fáil and the Green Party leave Government, whether it is now or in two years' time. We do not want to have to spend time on that. However, we will bring it back in. That is guaranteed. The Green Party has a lot of good ideas. If it wants the trust of the Irish people, it must ask why it ended up with no councillors.

We have councillors.

It has a few left.

We did what was right rather than what was popular.

I ask the Deputies to take this in the right spirit. They must consider why they have so few councillors. Its principles did not follow from this side of the fence to that side.

The Irish people were wrong, were they?

The same will happen to us if we do not reintroduce stag hunting, and the same will happen to the Fianna Fáil Deputies. Its rural Deputies know, when they walk in here next week, that they must face their fate. That is where RISE comes in. Rural Ireland did not allow the Ward Union Hunt to be hung out to dry.

Hunting is a pursuit that is an escape from ordinary life, similar to fishing, Gaelic football, soccer or badminton. When things get tough, one has a pursuit at the weekend. We have open battle on Sundays. More blood will be spilled in Croke Park on Sunday than in the next ten stag hunts — that is for sure. That is the way it will be.

A Deputy

Spoken like a true Meath man.

It is an organised campaign, and I compliment the Minister on what he has done to get the legislation to this point. I ask him to listen to what I am saying. What is another year? Let it be right. Why put these people out of a pastime? I know how hard they work. Their children get up in the morning and look after their ponies. It is their way out from drugs and everything else. It is hard enough. I come into Dublin and I see cruelty. I walk down the street every day and give every penny I have in my pocket to those poor people.

I cannot accept the Bill that the Green Party is introducing. The principle is right, but it should not isolate one group of people. Up to last Wednesday, everybody accepted everybody. The Thirty-two Counties accepted each other. Next Tuesday we will cause a divide, and that is wrong. One part of the community, which is 150 years old and pure Irish, will be isolated. The industry provides jobs and keeps kids off the street. I am asking the Minister to draw back, and I will continue to ask him up to the last minute on Tuesday evening, because I believe in democracy and in doing the right thing. I know the Green Party will do it and I know my colleagues in Fianna Fáil will do it. They must do the right thing.

In politics, one must do the right thing and one is there to represent people. I represent the people of Meath, regardless of their politics or sporting pursuits. Deputies have seen over the last six months how political a country we are when things are tough. The Government knows we supported its side on the night the bank guarantee was introduced. Let us be right or let us be wrong — we know what is ahead of us. We must not interfere with sport and with a way of life. The Government may wish to get this over quickly, but it will be the longest drawn out battle of all time. The Green Party will have no support from the Government. It is the only thing it will get done. There are many Green Party issues that must be addressed.

Two years ago a letter was sent which stated that pack hounds would not be included in the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill, but it was not true. It was a broken promise. Why should anyone trust the Green Party Members a second time? I trust them to do the right thing, as I trust every person elected in this House to do the right thing in the interests of the people who elected him or her.

Deputy Sargent is right when he says we should not be spending our time on this. We did not bring it up; I thought it was dealt with. We must act responsibly in situations such as this. There are many things in my party that I am not happy with and that I would like to bring up, but one must take it bit by bit and prioritise.

The banning of the Ward Union hunt when the country is on its knees in debt is appalling. There was a man in my office the other day who had been buying the cheapest possible food for himself because he had four children who were home for the summer. Yet here we are talking about removing €1.3 million from the County Meath economy. The Green Party has its principles, which I respect, but it should not destroy people's way of life. That is what it is doing.

Why has RISE succeeded? It is because the hunting men, the fishing men and the shooting men simply do not believe the Green Party.

It is not. I ask Deputy Sargent to listen, because if he does not then not only will the Green Party lose all its councillors but when the next election comes it will be more extinct than the stag. There will not be a Green Party Deputy in the House. Any Fianna Fáil Deputy who walks with the Green Party Deputies is narrowing his or her chances too. I accept it is up to those in my constituency to nominate me; I have been in politics since I was 14 years of age. If my party members do not want me to run I will not run. If they want me to put up posters I will do so. However, I will listen to them and I will do what I am told, up to a point, although I will have a mind of my own.

I will finish on this note. The Green Party has lost all its councillors because the people did not trust it. It is all down to votes. The Deputies should be in no doubt about that. If they want to implement more of their policies they should show that they have an ability to compromise. They should not be single-minded, as the Minister of State, Deputy Mansergh, said about me. I am more single-minded, but ultimately I have an ability to compromise a little. Each of the Deputies has also. They should go back and think about it for three months over the summer. They can get all the organisations together, sit down and sort it out. If they railroad the Bill through, it will be no good to anybody.

The Green Party in government will be remembered as the party that banned the stag hunt. That will be the end of the story. Fianna Fáil will not back the Greens any more; its members have said so now. They will back the Greens in nothing and there are still two years left to go for this Government. I predict it will last two years but nothing will be achieved by the Greens.

I am a backbencher and that is why I am sitting here all day. I do not always listen to what the front benchers say; I am going to fight my corner and they know that. We come out and we come out united. I am asking all the Green Party Deputies to go back and talk to Deputy Johnny Brady, Deputy Mary Wallace, Deputy Thomas Byrne and Deputy Noel Dempsey. They are their partners in government. I urge them to come up with a compromise and throw out this Bill. We will come back in the middle of July if we have to. I urge the Minister not to railroad this Bill down our throats. That is all I am asking and I will give a greater warning. They should not railroad this Bill down our throats or they will have no party and Fianna Fáil will have a lot fewer Deputies because the people in RISE come from Donegal to the end of Kerry. A total of 9,700 people — voters — in my constituency have signed up to support RISE. That number is a quota on its own. As I said in Simonstown last night, I do not want that. I want my colleagues in Fianna Fáil, whose supporters are in the Public Gallery, to get them to do the right thing, to do what is good for County Meath and not to look for some short-term gain. The Green Party would have support in County Meath. I ask them to open their minds and not to be so god-damned narrow-minded about everything. This is a country of 4.5 million people and that population will build up to 6.5 million within 30 years when we will need food, electricity and a lot of green agendas. I urge the Green Party Deputies not to end up like their councillors on the scrap heap because that is the bottom line. These are the facts. The reporters are here and they can write about it. The facts are that the Green Party has no councillors and it will have no TDs if its Deputies do not listen to people. They will bring people along with them if they listen to them.

How much time have I remaining, Acting Chairman?

The Deputy has four and a half minutes remaining.

What will I say in four and a half minutes that I have not said already?

The Deputy does not necessarily need to take all that time.

Maybe I will talk about the match on Sunday.

I have nearly said all I can say. As I said two years ago, we came in and we fought and it was hot and heavy. I was delighted with the Minister. A system was set up. It cost a few pounds but everything was regularised and it worked very well. There were no complaints. I remind the House there were no children in the schoolyard the day the stag broke in. That is a case of being hit by a bus when there is no bus.

I remind the House that 30,000 deer are illegally killed every year. Who is killing them? Is it the gun clubs of County Meath or County Waterford or County Kerry? Is it the fishermen? If I am wrong in those figures, I stand to be corrected because that information was given to me but one cannot always be right in everything. However, there is a large number of deer killed illegally in this country. Does the Minister of State not think they are the ones that should be looked after in an animal welfare Bill? I think they are.

I know all the people involved in the Ward Union Hunt and in other hunts. They are all farming-minded people, so to speak. As Deputy Michael Kennedy said, he was not a farming person but these people are all animal lovers. They would stay up at night to mind a calf that was born two months premature. They would get up ten times at night to make sure it lived. They would do it for any animal. They are not cruel people and I resent that insinuation from anybody. The sport has been regularised and the Minister has done a good job in that regard. The vets have done a good job. Why not just leave things alone and leave the people alone? The Green Party is getting people's backs up. A total of 300,000 people are up in arms. The names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mails addresses of all those people are now on a system. That makes a total of 30 quotas in an election. The Minister of State knows what we are all like in elections; we can be nice fellows but it is votes we want.

I say to the Green Party and to my five colleagues, including Deputy Damien English, I expect us to stand together on Tuesday night but I also expect in the meantime that the north County Dublin Deputies — I will not name them — and my colleagues in County Meath, will sit down with the Green Party, somewhere, not the Green Isle Hotel, but somewhere else, to sort this out and to come back on Tuesday or the week after. It is the right thing to do and many of the Green Party members know it is the right thing to do.

There are too many arguments when a subject is raised. I was gung-ho when it came to the Road Traffic Bill, as was the Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey and Deputy Broughan but we saw common sense during the day yesterday and we amended the Bill in the House, in the interest, as I said, of fair play. All I am asking for is fair play on behalf of these people who work so hard from one year to the next, who mind their stock, who work in offices, who are plumbers or carpenters or farm labourers or shopkeepers. They all go out together, they have their bit of fun, they mind their horses, they do nothing that will do harm to these stags.

I thought I would not have anything to say in this debate, having listened to Deputy Wallace, Deputy Brady and Deputy Byrne but there was one little thing they did not get right: they said they would be voting with the Government. That is the only part they did not say right. They know the consequences. Deputy Johnny Brady put it very well. If Members think I am passionate about this matter, he is twice as passionate. I have seen him standing on a box outside mass 30 years ago and he would put the hair standing on one's head when talking about Fianna Fáil; so much so, I would nearly join it myself. What he said in the debate was right. Deputy Michael Kennedy was right. He advised them to sit down between now and next Tuesday. It should not be the case that people are coming up from Cork and Kerry. We should not be fighting among ourselves in the House because we have far too many issues to discuss. I am asking the people opposite to talk. I know the Minister of State is a hunting woman. I ask her to give the lead, as a Carlow Deputy. She knows what it means. If an agreement is not possible, then so be it, but at least they should try. That is all I have to say.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Paul Gogarty.

I thank Deputy McEntee. I come from a rural background and I am pleased to have a few minutes to say that I am alive and well as a rural Deputy representing Carlow-Kilkenny. Some of the information coming from RISE has been totally disingenuous. Its members have disregarded my democratic mandate; they have disregarded my very existence; they have disregarded the fact that I used to hunt.

I used to have a little pony called Lucky, when I had little yellow plaits. I used to follow the Bray Harriers when I was ten. Then I grew up. My father could not afford the pony — he used to rent them from Delahunt's stables in County Wicklow — but my sister and I loved ponies. We loved the rural way of life. I live under the Blackstairs mountains in County Carlow. I am great friends with many members of the Carlow Farmers Hunt and I support them on many of their fund-raising activities. There are two sad aspects to this debate. One is the completely erroneous statements from RISE about the origins of the Green Party's policy on this issue, the completely erroneous statements that the Greens know nothing about rural Ireland. I know a lot about rural Ireland. I was brought up in rural Ireland, I married somebody from rural Ireland and I live in rural Ireland. For many years, I used to shoot and fish to feed my family. I know what it is like to hook a salmon. I know what it is like to shoot a pheasant. However, the countryside has changed in Meath and in north County Dublin; it has become increasingly urbanised. Deputy McEntee knows this and he spoke very passionately and honestly and I respect that. However, he must also respect my views that the Green Party members are aware of how the countryside ticks. We do not all live in the middle of cities such as Cork, Dublin or Galway, where we have elected members. Some of us live and breathe the country air and know how the country works.

The Labour Party has executed a complete volte face and it is now deciding to vote against this Bill. The Labour Party supported it and many of its Deputies, whether it was Deputy Rabbitte or Deputy Gilmore, were against stag hunting. Now the party has done a complete 180 degrees turn.

It may have made that turn because of the pick and mix politics in which it now engages or because of the very comfortable position it holds on most of its policies — sitting on the fence.

Many people watch hunting sitting on the fence because they like the colour and glamour of the hunt as it passes. However, Labour Party policy now is a policy of sitting on the fence, which is a very comfortable place to be. However, it is about time the Labour Party members came off the fence and told us where they stand, rather than watching the polls and tick-tacking to see which way the wind blows. It is very interesting that Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council moved a motion calling on the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to honour his commitment to outlaw stag hunting and to cease immediately providing licences for the purpose of carrying out stag hunts. This motion was passed in Deputy Gilmore's constituency.

We must be genuine in our debates here. I will be genuine and recognise Members' genuine concerns. However, we have not talked about the genuine concerns of people who had near fatal accidents as a result of stag hunting by the Ward Union hunt. We are all aware of the incident where the stag went into Kildalkey school yard. We heard about it and saw the photograph of the little children with their faces pressed against the classroom windows as they looked out terrified as the stag came into the school yard. We are also aware of the incident that occurred before Christmas where a stag jumped onto the bonnet of a car, which nearly had disastrous consequences. We know too about a gardener — a friend of mine and of Deputy Trevor Sargent — into whose garden a stag entered when the hunt chased it.

This issue passes all political boundaries. It is an issue of safety and we should recognise that and that the urban environment is increasingly encroaching on the countryside of both Deputy McEntee's constituency and the constituency of Dublin North. I gave up shooting and fishing because the countryside has changed. If I am having a go at the Labour Party, I am doing it with scientific facts. There is hardly a fish in our rivers now. We have catch and release for salmon and some rivers are still closed. The reason this is the case is because when Deputy Gilmore was Minister of State, he legalised monofilament drift netting. We are still suffering from that decision in the great riverine constituency I represent, with the Nore, the Barrow and the Slaney. This is the reason also that tourism is falling. People used to come here to fish but because monofilament drift netting was legalised, we lost billions in revenue. We are still losing billions because of these walls of death in our sea capturing salmon and almost causing them to become extinct.

The issue we are debating today is an issue that goes beyond party politics. It is an issue of safety. If I or any reasonable person had a daughter in Kildalkey school on the day the stag entered the yard, we would have asked why it was deer could run into the yard or over car bonnets and cause distress to local people. We have not addressed the issue of animal welfare either. I attended a meeting recently in the Royal College of Physicians at which a vet spoke about the distress caused to the deer. I know the Deputy said the deer is only carted out once every so often and is then returned to its place in Meath. However, the vet told me and hundreds of others at the meeting that there is huge stress on the animal. Therefore, we must talk about animal welfare and about man as a thinking being with control over animals under his care. Is it right that he gets pleasure from the hunt?

Perhaps we should have a philosophical discussion on whether we get pleasure out of causing fear and anxiety to animals. Perhaps people do not think about that, but only about the thrill of the chase. The stag is a farmed animal whose antlers have been cut off. When the stag is cornered with the hounds at bay, grown men jump on the stag, bring it to the ground and wrestle it back into the horsebox. Man is a sentient being with a higher mind than an animal. Is it right for him to take pleasure in this? That is what is at the heart of this Bill. The issue is not jobs or pleasure, but about man as a superior being having control over animals. This is the philosophical question.

Does the Minister of State include fish in this argument?

We catch fish to eat them. People are not chasing the deer to eat it. As the Deputy knows, we are not afraid of culling deer when they need to be culled in our national parks when they overgraze or over populate an area. I know the statistics. I am a country woman born and bred.

I asked about fish because we were on a philosophical debate.

It is a philosophical debate whether man takes pleasure from causing pain to a lower being. That is the question we must ask. This Bill is being introduced to ensure we protect animal welfare and an increasingly urbanised environment in the area represented by the Deputy. In picking Meath County Council as one of the councils for a review of planning practice, the Minister shows he is conscious of the extensive nature of over-rezoning and planning in that area. This fleshes out my argument. Meath has become completely urbanised in parts and the hunt has the capability to drive a stag into that urban environment. That is not good.

As a person who understands the countryside well and who was brought up in the countryside, I used to follow the Bray harriers. I used to fish, but now there are no fish in the rivers. I used to shoot, but my local environment has changed and because of climate change and the fact the bogs have been drained, the wild birds such as woodcock, pheasant and snipe are no longer there. Let no person from Rural Ireland Says Enough, RISE, tell me I do not understand the countryside because I do. Let no person from RISE tell me this Bill is the thin edge of the wedge. It is not. There is nothing in the programme for Government that will put a stop to fishing or shooting, and the Deputy knows that. This Bill is not part of some salami slicing agenda that the people in RISE, Fine Gael or the Labour Party want to latch on to. This is a simple Bill to protect the people of north Dublin and to protect animals.

I appreciate the concerns of Deputy McEntee, who spoke from the heart. I speak as a practical countrywoman who was elected by the people of Carlow-Kilkenny and who knew the Green Party policies when the people elected me to this House with their votes. I have no fear about the future. The people will either reject me or return me, but I must be honest with myself. As a country person, I know how the countryside ticks. I find it despicable of RISE not to take into account where I come from as a rural Deputy. I am happy to point out that Mr. Mike Bailey and the Labour Party are now in the same tent as they are both on the one side.

Deputy Tuffy described this far-reaching Bill as a small Bill and — as one of many pieces of legislation for which the Green Party is responsible — as a trophy Bill. She suggests it is a Bill that will cover up areas where we have not achieved. I do not intend to spend too long on that argument because it is laughable.

We have made achievements, particularly following the programme for Government negotiations of 2009. Deputy Tuffy asked what was the difference between our achievements of 2007 and of 2009. The simple answer is mathematics. In 2007, the Green Party was not absolutely required and we had less of an input. However, we decided to enter Government anyway in order to achieve what we could. That was the right thing to do rather than hurl from the ditch. There was, of course, an alternative. We are all aware of the story of how Deputy Kenny rang my colleague, Deputy Sargent, and asked him to talk to Sinn Féin. That was done, but a couple of years later he denied it and basically accused me and Deputy Sargent of lying. I am speaking about "honest Enda" as he has been described by some of his colleagues. We know there could have been an alternative, but there was not.

The only alternative, therefore, was Fianna Fáil and the Green Party. The mathematics mattered in 2009 and because the Green Party numbers had a more relative import then, we had more clout in the programme for Government negotiations. Therefore, we achieved more in areas such as sustainable measures to deal with the impact of climate change, widening the tax base, protecting the education budget at a time of economic recession, stopping the reintroduction of third level fees, creating new green jobs and cleaning up the planning mess caused over many years among the larger parties. In addition to these legislative achievements, we also took tough, but necessary and unpopular decisions to sort out a mess that was not of our own making.

A total of 450,000 people are unemployed.

I am a GAA man and am as able to muck it as any man from County Meath. Members already had this debate at Christmas and it would be the easiest thing in the world to jump off the ship and start a populist rant to the effect that one could not do something because it is unprincipled. It is far more principled to stay until the last blow of the whistle and to take all the knocks because one stands up for one's team. My country is this team.

Just like in 1991.

In this context, the Green Party is introducing legislation in the belief that it is the right thing to do. It has nothing to do with popularity. Deputy Tuffy also asserted that this legislation was an attempt to save a seat or two for the Green Party but again, this is baloney. Deputy Tuffy lives a couple of doors away from me and I am sure she will testify directly or under a lie detector that were she asked about me specifically, she would acknowledge that rarely if ever has she seen any reference to animal rights in my leaflets. I talk about dodgy planning by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. I talk about school infrastructure, the Liffey Valley Shopping Centre and issues within the community. I do not talk about animal rights, even though it is something about which I am passionate, because my constituents, to be honest, are not that concerned about it.

Does the Deputy check all the Green Party's members? Has he done that?

If asked, the majority of people in Ireland wish to have stag hunting banned. The majority of people, including those living in rural areas, also wish to have hare coursing banned.

The Deputy knows what I am talking about too.

Politics is the art of the possible and this is what the Green Party is attempting to do. I have never included anything about animal rights on my leaflets because I work for my community. This is all about doing the right thing. It may cost me votes. I will not gain a single vote for standing up for animal rights but may lose a few for so doing. While I may lose the votes of those who do not wish this legislation to be passed, it will not gain any votes for me. However, it is the right thing to do, which is the reason I support it.

Unfortunately, in this instance the Labour Party, if Members pardon a pun that may have been used earlier, appears to be running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. I used to believe the Labour Party had principles and I know this used to be the case. Deputy Tuffy is someone for whom I have great admiration and she certainly has principles. I question the decisions by some Labour Party members, such as the example provided by Deputy White of the introduction of monofilament drift netting by the then Minister of State, Deputy Gilmore. My favourite is the introduction of incineration by Deputy Stagg, as well as the votes in favour of the Ringsend incinerator in the Dublin regional waste management plan by Labour Party councillors, among others. Despite this, poor old Deputy Gormley now receives all the harangues and harassment about the subject although its introduction was not his fault.

Is he not now running with the hare and hunting with hounds on that front?

I have been accused by the Labour Party about raising the issue of bad planning decisions and I acknowledge that very few dodgy or corrupt decisions were made by Labour Party members. However, many bad ones were made. For instance, in the home of the Mullingar accord, enough land was rezoned to last until 2083, which constitutes bad planning. Similarly, it is bad planning when Deputy Gormley has been obliged to reverse decisions made by councillors across the country because they are creating unsustainable communities.

The Deputy should go back to his own party members.

I argue that the fabric, heart and soul of rural communities throughout the country have been destroyed to a far greater extent by bad or dodgy planning in exchange for a few legitimate donations or because of poor thinking than because of stags or hare coursing.

The Deputy should go back to his own party members. People in glass houses should not throw stones.

This is about the maths. Deputy McEntee knows as well as do I that the maths——

People in glass houses should not throw stones.

——and the clout do not add up for the Green Party to ban hare coursing although we have expressed our desire to get rid of hare coursing.

Deputy Higgins had principles and introduced legislation on this issue. Had he been in power with the Green Party in a left-leaning alliance, he would have managed to ban stag hunting outright. However, he was in coalition with Fine Gael and so he did what he could. The Green Party is in coalition with Fianna Fáil and I make no apologies for doing what we can to implement Green Party policy as befits the mandate we are given by the people. I respect those who work to achieve what they can based on what they know to be right and to take the flak when they are obliged to make what might be an unfair decision, albeit for the right reasons.

However, new Labour in particular is not like that. It now appears to be the stand-for-nothing party. It is the party that offends no one and which avoids offending its trade union donors or potential new rural voters. It will share common cause with the Bailey brothers if that means turning into a rural catch-all party like Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Deputy Tuffy stated that this legislation would divide communities and that we need rural and urban to work together to pull the economy forward.

While tourism is a great way to bring people together and to pull them forward, the tourism industry has been decimated because of bad and dodgy decisions. As for the issue of jobs and the influence of the Ward Union Hunt this issue does not pertain to jobs. It is about the boys on top of the horses not being willing to drag hunt. They are not willing to lay down a scent for the hounds to follow as they can do everything else with the arrangement of the farmers. However, they want to cause wanton cruelty and to engender dread in the stag. There is no other reason for it because they can do everything else. They can dress up in their finery; they can lord it over every field and can pee off some of the farmers who do not wish them to go across their land. However, they do not wish to do this if they are dragging a scent. They want to have the fun implicit in scaring the bejasus out of a dumb animal. I say that they, and not the stags, are the dumb animals in this instance.

Many proud rural traditions have been stopped over the years. Several hundred years ago, although some chauvinists among Members might call for its reintroduction, a woman who scolded a man could be dumped into the river. That legislation was only repealed in the United Kingdom in 1967. Although it was a proud tradition in many communities that a woman who spoke up for herself could be sorted out, that now has gone. I acknowledge this is a frivolous argument. However, in respect of the issue of female genital mutilation, which has been mentioned previously in the media, a much sorrier tradition is being carried on. One is accused of being an imperialist Westerner when one dares to suggest that this is a cruel and abhorrent practice. The same sort of cultural imperialism message, to paraphrase Edward Said, is coming across in this spurious rural-urban argument to the effect that somehow, anyone who suggests it might be wrong to treat an animal cruelly is purely a jackeen who knows nothing about rural issues.

Thirty seconds remain to the Deputy.

Deputy White has proved that point to be wrong and many people in rural areas also consider this practice to be wrong. The programme for Government is the wedge and there is no other thin end or hidden agenda. The Green Party has the input based on its numbers and that is what will happen. I assure Deputy McEntee that this legislation will be passed next week, after which we will move on to the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill and we will sort out dodgy planning once and for all.

The Green Party will get some mess when that it is introduced. The Deputy should look at his own party's members.

I call Deputy Sherlock for a very brief contribution. Although this debate will adjourn shortly, he will be in possession when it resumes.

I appreciate the time yielded to me by Fine Gael on this issue. In the short time available to me, I do not intend to go into some of the comments I have just heard. I have no intention of personalising this issue even though people have referred to me and to my colleagues. In the view of the Labour Party, the bottom line is whether this legislation is necessary at present, whether it is purely politically motivated or whether it is based on true animal welfare. In 2007, the Minister, Deputy Gormley, issued a licence to the Ward Union Hunt on which, unless I am mistaken, he placed 27 conditions. In 2008, he issued a licence to the Ward Union Hunt on which 34 conditions were placed. In 2009, he issued a licence to the Ward Union Hunt, unless I am mistaken, on which he placed 35 conditions.

If one speaks to the rights of man, common sense or a man's motivation, if at that time, he as Minister issued a licence for that hunt to proceed, surely that includes a tacit understanding that he recognised its right to exist as a hunt?

There is no reason——

Why is he now moving, in 2010, to revoke the licence? It is bad legislation——

It is called mathematics. We did not have the numbers.

—— and the solution proposed by Deputy Higgins in 1997 was a reasoned, rational and responsible approach.

Fine Gael would not allow him to go any further.

I asked the Deputy to move the adjournment. He will be in possession when we resume next week.

The absolute fundamentalists who exist within this Parliament legislate on an absolutist approach. It is the wrong way to do so because I foresee trouble ahead in respect of this legislation. It is the wrong way to legislate.

I invite Deputy Sherlock to move the adjournment of the debate. He will be in possession on its resumption.

It remains to see whether Fianna Fáil will stand up to the Green Party. The Green Party is in for a surprise on Tuesday evening.

Debate adjourned.