Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Ceisteanna (852, 853, 854, 855, 856, 857, 858)

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

970 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will list the wild animals for which licences to hunt are issued by his Department. [1639/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

The Wildlife Acts 1976 and 2000 provide for my Department to make orders relating to the provision of open seasons for the hunting of protected fauna. These orders are reviewed annually by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department, taking account of the conservation needs of the individual species.

Under section 29(1) of the Wildlife Act 1976, as amended, my Department issues licences to hunt deer during the open season and some 2,050 such licences were issued for the 2002-2003 season. My Department also issues an annual licence to the Ward Union Hunt Club, under section 26(1)(ii) of the Wildlife Act 1976, as amended), to hunt deer with a pack of stag hounds.

The ordinary hunting of hares during the open season does not require a hunting licence. However, the hunting of hares with a pack of beagles requires a licence and, under section 26(2) of the Wildlife Act 1976, as amended, my Department has granted licences on an annual basis to the Irish Masters of Beagles Association.

Although the hunting of birds is covered in general by the orders providing for open seasons, individual licences are required under section 30 of the Wildlife Act 1976, as amended, for hunting on foreshore, lakes and inland waters belonging to the State. There are currently some 3,000 such licences. While such licences are applicable to the hunting of fauna generally, they are in practice obtained for the hunting of wildfowl, and are subject to the provisions of the open season orders.

These are the only licences that my Department issues for the hunting of wild animals. However, under separate provisions of the Wildlife Act, licences are also granted for the control of protected wild animals causing damage to crops or property, and for the capture of protected wild animals for specified purposes under specified conditions.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

971 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department has at any time considered the conclusions of their counterparts in the Department of Agriculture, Northern Ireland, that the deer used by the County Down staghounds were tamed by their semi-intensive rearing system and may be regarded as domestic animals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1640/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

972 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department has examined the Ward Union Deerpark in Dunshaughlin County Meath; the purpose of any such visit and the conclusions reached. [1641/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

973 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the issues raised by the Heritage Council in 1998, that it should be established definitively whether the deer used by the Ward Union are wild or domestic and if they constitute private property, have been clarified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1653/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

974 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if a copy of the advice of the Attorney General to his Department in 1998-1999 regarding the status of the Ward Union deer will be placed in the Oireachtas Library. [1654/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

975 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department has considered the question of the status of the deer in the Ward Union Deerpark; and if he will state the view of the veterinary division on this issue. [1655/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

976 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will arrange for an inspection of the Ward Union Deerpark by his Department to establish whether the deer there are domestic or wild, in view of the use to which these deer are put; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1656/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I propose to take Questions Nos. 971 to 976, inclusive, together.

In light,inter alia, of the submission made by the Heritage Council, as referred to in Question No. 973, the Attorney General's advice was sought by the then Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands regarding the application of section 26 of the Wildlife Act 1976 to the hunting of deer by stags. This advice was furnished in February 1999 and confirmed the long-standing interpretation of the above section, i.e. that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government 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.

Licence applications from the Ward Union Hunt Club continue to be determined on their merits in accordance with this legal advice. Public disclosure is not normally made of legal advice by the Attorney General to the Government. It is not therefore proposed to make the present advice available to the Oireachtas Library.

Conservation rangers from the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department and a veterinary inspector from the Department of Agriculture and Food monitor the operations of the Ward Union Hunt Club. The veterinary inspector monitors the welfare of deer hunted by the club, on a spot check basis, at the request of and in an advisory capacity to my Department, by checking on the veterinary aspects of compliance with the hunting code of practice.

Prior to the issue by my Department of the annual licence, written reports from conservation rangers and the veterinary inspector are examined to establish that the club has satisfactorily complied with the hunting code of practice, which was adopted in 1999 following extensive consultations with the relevant Departments, and that the hunt has been conducted in accordance with the conditions of the previous annual licence.

An annual inspection of the deer at the park is carried out at the end of the hunting season to ensure that the deer are healthy and sound and that the hunt records are complete. The last inspection was at the end of the 2002-3 season and showed no grounds for concern.