Farm Ireland

Sunday 19 November 2017

I fear the damage that the Green Party's policies could do to rural Ireland

John Shirley

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.

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Surely the controversial fox-hunting ban in Britain opens major opportunities to attract the enthusiasts to Ireland. Rather than trying to ban fox hunting and related activity, should we not be promoting and developing the industry in this country?

With the nation's economy on its knees, the Government should be taking every chance to develop rural activity and extra tourism. Rural sports have wealth-creating potential. As for cruelty and a threat to the fox, if the foxhunts I see around Carlow are anything to go by, foxes are a lot safer than the farmyard hens or the newly born lambs.

At their recent convention in Waterford, Green Party Deputy Leader Mary White is reported as saying: "We are opposed to setting animal against animal and this is our national policy."

I'd accept that Green Party supporters are generally decent and well meaning, but I fear when their policies could do damage to rural Ireland. Taken to its logical conclusion, not "setting animal against animal" could lead to a ban on horse racing. While the Greens are denying this as an objective, I don't doubt their determination to implement radical change. The bills coming down the line are the thin end of a potentially very heavy wedge as MEP Mairead McGuinness warned on the recent RTE Frontline programme. Sharing the platform on that show was Green Senator Niall O Brolchain, who scared me with his attitude and body language. He refused to countenance a free Dail vote on the bills.

Earlier this year, RISE (Rural Ireland Says Enough) was established to fight against the Green anti-rural legislation. RISE now has the support of about 20 rural-based bodies including the IFA. In particular, RISE is lobbying backbench Fianna Fail TDs who cannot be pleased to have the Green tail wagging the Fianna Fail dog in Government.


Still on foxes, I hear that the good citizens of South Dublin are concerned about the rise in the urban fox population. Foxes are doing damage to their patios and back gardens, especially around Marley Park. One remedy to keep the fox at bay is for the owner to urinate at strategic spots around the garden -- to sort of mark the territory. I'm told that it is working.

Irish Independent