The Deputy will remember my previous answers in the House on this matter.
The control of live hare coursing, including the operation of individual coursing meetings and managing the use of hares for that activity, is carried out under the Greyhound Industry Act 1958, which is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. My responsibility relates to the conservation status of the hare.
In August last year, my Department issued licences under the Wildlife Acts to the Irish Coursing Club, covering some 87 affiliated coursing clubs, to capture and tag hares for use at regulated hare coursing meetings for the 2017/18 season, which extends from the end of September 2017 to the end of February 2018. Those licences contained a total of 22 conditions which have been developed and refined over the years. Subsequently, in October last year, my Department augmented the licencing conditions to provide for more strict regulation of coursing trials.
Veterinary staff from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine carry out inspections during the coursing season to monitor compliance with the rules governing animal welfare relating to greyhounds and hares. The Irish Coursing Club also attends local coursing meetings. In addition, where resources allow, local National Parks and Wildlife Service Conservation Rangers from my Department attend coursing meetings, on a spot-check basis, to monitor compliance with licences issued to the ICC and its affiliated clubs.
It is my understanding that some twenty six coursing events were monitored by officials of my Department during the current 2017/18 season, including trials. In the 2016/17 season there were a total of 17 coursing events monitored by my Department and the same number were monitored in the previous year. The increase from 17 events monitored in each of the previous two seasons to 26 in the current season marks an appreciable increase in the level of monitoring carried out and I will keep this matter under review with a view to increasing further the amount of resources I can devote to our monitoring role. The increased monitoring will allow for a more incisive review of the season just over. It will also assist in a more informed approach to the licensing of the next season.
The final event of the coursing season took place last Sunday 25th February. All reports in relation to the season will be reviewed and all issues arising, including possible breaches of conditions, will be investigated and considered in the context of licenses for the 2018/19 coursing season.