Wednesday 20 February 2019

Fox hunt turned farm outing into 'a day of terror'

Eugene Moloney

A MOTHER told yesterday how a fox hunt turned a visit to a farm for her children into a day of terror.

The four children, all aged under 10, had only finished lunch at the farm in Milford, Co Cork where their great aunt was living when the galloping pack of hunt members, horses and hounds burst unannounced into the quiet farmyard. Margo O'Keeffe said she watched in horror as members of the Duhallow Hunt came around the blind side of a barn within three yards of where her daughter had been playing a short time earlier.

The mother of four told how her son Muiris (6) screamed with terror at the sight of the horses. "They were not trotting she said, they rattled through at a desperate speed," she said.

Mrs O'Keeffe told RTE's Liveline radio programme that at one stage her eldest daughter Cliodhna (9) was so close to the hunt that she was spattered with muck from horses' hooves.

"My son Muiris was hysterical. I wanted to protect my children and started roaring at them to get out of there," she said.

Pat Fleming of the Duhallow Hunt said in previous years they had been allowed onto the farm's land by its late owner Maurice O'Connor.

But Mr O'Connor's sister Mary, whom Mrs O'Keeffe was visiting yesterday, said that permission should have been sought before the hunt came into a yard where children were playing.

At one stage to protect the children and divert the oncoming hunt pack of horses from coming closer to the farmhouse, Mrs O'Keeffe's aunt tossed a stone to ward them off.

She said although she tosssed the stone, rather than aim it at a horse, one young member of the hunt said "if that f***ing stone hits my horse, I'll f***ing put that stone through your f***ing window."

Mrs O'Keeffe and her aunt last night told the Irish Independent their concern had not been so much about damage caused to farmland, as the threat posed to their children's safety.

Mr Fleming said: "We came into the yard. We didn't expect that that lady and her children would be there.

"We made a mistake. I put both my hands up and we apologise," he added.

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