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Hare netting licence dilemma for green minister

THE IRISH Government’s tenuous Fianna Fáil-Green Party coalition came under new strain last week over the capture of hares by coursing clubs around the country.

Each coursing club affiliated to the Irish Coursing Club is required to have a licence issued by the Department of the Environment before it can legally go out into the countryside to net hares for the new season, which commenced last week.

However, clubs have been dismayed at being unable to get the required legal paperwork from the department and a number of Government ministers have been besieged with requests for the licences to be issued.

Political sources said the issue of netting licences is causing a major dilemma for Green Minister John Gormley, whose department has responsibility for this area.

Mr Gormley recently came under great pressure from dog owners in Dublin to overrule the City Council’s ill-judged attempts to impose a ban on 11 breeds of dog being owned by council tenants. The latest row is certain to undermine his credibility yet further, as there is no legal reason why the licenses cannot be issued.

The Co Clare Coursing committee at Liscannor said they might be forced to call off their meeting, which is scheduled for early this month.

A source in the Green Party told the Irish Examiner newspaper that this issue might cause huge problems for Mr Gormley, given the party’s opposition to coursing as a bloodsport.

The minister has failed to sign the necessary order in time for the new netting season.

He said: ‘We expected problems and roadblocks along the way, but this has come like a lightning bolt out of the blue.’