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Gormley in bloody row over coursing and hunt licences

ENVIRONMENT Minister John Gormley is set to controversially approve coursing licences to allow the netting of hares -- even though he is likely to refuse a licence to Ireland's only stag hunt.

This will infuriate anti-blood sports activists who have been seeking an outright ban on coursing with live hares.

The Green Party has also pledged to introduce an outright ban on blood sports when in Government.

The two controversial dec-isions are imminent following applications from the Ward Union Hunt, Ireland's only stag hunt based in Meath, and coursing clubs.

A spokesperson for Mr Gormley said he was still considering the stag hunt application and was due to make a decision on the matter shortly.

There was, however, speculation yesterday, that minister will reject the application.

The last Ward Union Hunt resulted in a stag being chased into a primary school yard at Kildalkey, Co Meath, by a pack of chasing dogs. This caused some distress to parents and children.

Activists claim stag hunting is in contravention of the Wildlife Act which outlawed unnecessary cruelty to domestic and wild animals.

If Mr Gormley decides to ban the hunt it is expected that the Ward Union Hunt would appeal the decision in the High Court.

It has insisted that the stag was not hurt in the school incident.

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In a separate decision due later this week the minister is due to grant permission for the netting of hares to be used at coursing events around the country.

It is understood that rangers from the National Parks and Wildlife section of the Department of the Environment will attend the meetings to ensure they comply with regulations.

Aideen Yourell, Irish Campaign Against Blood Spots, said a licence to net hares would give around 75 coursing clubs the go-ahead to "cruelly snatch approximately 7,000 hares from their habitats in nets."

She said: "The hares are kept captive in coursing compounds for weeks before being forced to run in terror from greyhounds on the days of coursing."

Ms Yourell reminded the Green leader that his party's stated policy is that "when in government" they will "introduce legislation to end blood sports".

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