Stag ban not an attack on rural life, says Cowen
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen insisted yesterday that the ban on stag hunting was not the start of a clampdown on rural pursuits such as shooting and fishing.
Mr Cowen was responding to a revolt on the Fianna Fail backbenches over Green Party animal welfare laws.
A number of Fianna Fail TDs threatened to withdraw support if there are further moves in this area and remain suspicious of Environment Minister John Gormley's long-term plans.
But Mr Cowen said the minister had been "very clear" on this matter and that the legislation banning stag hunting with packs of dogs was about a particular safety issue.
"It is not the intention of the Government in any way to have this as a precursor for other proposals in this area broadly," he said.
Despite the dissatisfaction expressed by Fianna Fail TDs, Mr Cowen said the legislation was part of the Programme for Government and would be implemented.
"At the end of the day, there is a recognition by all of us in Government that we wish to fulfil all parts of the programme, including this particular measure," he said.
Speaking after the British Irish Council meeting in Guernsey, Mr Cowen also denied that the Government was trying to interfere with country pursuits.
"As we know, it's sometimes portrayed as an effort to undermine country pursuits. That is not the intent of the legislation whatsoever. It's to deal with a specific issue. All of us recognise the validity of country pursuits," he said.
Enterprise Minister Batt O'Keeffe said yesterday he was not surprised at the scale of the Fianna Fail revolt on the topic, given the amount of "misinformation" that has been put out.
"The important thing to point out is that all that is banned is the stag hunting. All of the other rural pursuits are allowed. Hare coursing will continue, fox hunting can continue and deer stalking can continue."
Thousands of pro-hunt protesters will gather in Trim, Co Meath, today to object to the ban on hunting deer with packs of hounds.
The rally is being organised by Rural Ireland Says Enough (RISE), which is lobbying against the animal welfare laws.