I fear the damage that the Green Party's policies could do to rural Ireland
I was never much into hunting or fishing or the dogs or horses. I always preferred sports with a ball that you could grab or chase. If there was a bit of rough and tumble thrown in, all the better.
But I recognise the vital role that the equines and canines play in Irish life, especially rural life. I am concerned at some of the legislation in the pipeline which is being driven through by the Green Party in Government. Green policies were fine in the abstract when the party was in opposition. It's different when this policy becomes the law of the land.
Currently there are three Green bills in the pipeline which will impact on farming and rural dwellers. These are:
- The Dog Breeding Establishment Bill which will shortly be in the Seanad.
- Animal Health and Welfare Bill.
- Wild Life Amendment Bill.
The Dog Breeding Establishment Bill is an attempt to regulate what has become known as "puppy farming". No harm in that, but the original bill being drafted under the then Minister Dick Roche was to exclude greyhounds and foxhounds. Both are already well regulated. Now, under Green Minister John Gormley, both greyhounds and foxhounds are being dragged into the new, costly legislation.
With the Wildlife Amendment Bill it is hard to see it other than an attempt to stymie the Ward Union Stag Hunt with an Act of the Oireachtas.
I can see where the Green activists are coming from in terms of eliminating all cruelty from sport. They are in Government and it may be a long time before they get another chance to have their ideology enshrined in the laws of the land.
Equally, I can appreciate the fact that field sports have been part of the Irish rural life forever. Nothing is perfect, but on balance I see little gain but much loss if the Greens succeed in their campaign.
Recently in Britain, at a lunch with a horse owner and her employer, we vaguely discussed fox hunting. When her boss left the table, the lady horse owner suddenly became highly animated: "I didn't want to say anything in front of my boss but I and my friends would love to come to Ireland to partake in fox hunting. Can you arrange it?" she asked.