A government minister has publicly pledged his support for coursing as the Irish Council Against Blood Sports ratchets up a campaign to outlaw the sport.
Junior Further and Higher Education Minister Niall Collins has given his stance as Clonmel, Co Tipperary, prepares for the national coursing meeting which will attract attendances of up to 20,000 over three days, commencing on Sunday.
He has also called for the greyhound industry to get a greater share of the state fund it shares with horse racing.
At present, horse racing gets 80pc with greyhound racing allocated 20pc. Mr Collins wants a 70pc/30pc split.
Mr Collins said: “The coursing clubs around the country have done everything asked of them by the State’s regulators with regards animal welfare. They have demonstrated an approach and attitude towards animal welfare which has seen a dramatic change [in] practices which were unacceptable.
“Unfortunately a minority within the sport engaged in these practices and gave the wider sport a bad name. Coursing is now well regulated. It is a very important industry and a sport which enables people to engage in outdoor pursuits.”
People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy is trying to get a private members bill into the Oireachtas to have coursing banned, and the Irish Council
Against Blood Sports has
lobbied TDs to back it.
“I will be voting against any such vote and maybe it will flush out Sinn Féin and their attitude towards coursing,” said Mr Collins.
Animal welfare groups plan to picket the opening day of the big coursing meeting in Clonmel when it opens next Sunday.
Aideen Yourell, a director of the Irish Council Against Blood Sports, said it has campaigned against coursing since its formation in 1966.
She said: “A Red C poll in 2019 showed opposition to coursing stood at 77pc. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil won’t say what their policy is, but have opposed bills to outlaw coursing in the Dáil.
“We are looking forward to Paul Murphy’s bill getting into the Dáil. We know what Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will do. The Greens have looked for a ban. There seems to be a division in Sinn Féin.”
DJ Histon, chief executive officer of the Irish Coursing Club, said it received cross-party support when a private members’ bill was voted down in the Dáil in 2016.
On Minister Collins’ support, he said: “We welcome support from wherever it comes politically. With regard Sinn Féin, they say they prefer regulated coursing than coursing that is not regulated. That’s my take on it.”