Millstreet Coursing Club issue statement
A STATEMENT defending the partial closure of Millstreet Town Park to prepare for a coursing meeting at the end of the month has been described as ‘hogwash’ by a campaigner for the full reopening of the park in the latest twist in an ongoing controversy.
“Surely it’s time for the coursing club to take a stand and change, jump into 2022 by stopping live hare coursing, try out other ways and then you don’t have to close down for the month and have your two day meeting without putting your fellow Millstreet people out,” said Pat Randles to The Corkman.
Pat intially brought the matter to public attention by raising it on Joe Duffy’s Liveline show on RTÉ Radio 1.
Father Ted actor, Pauline McLynn told C103’s Cork Today show on Wednesday that she was confident that live hare coursing would be banned by legislation to be brought before the Dáil early in 2022, meaning this could be the last year of the Millstreet event.
Millstreet Coursing Club has issued a statement to The Corkman underlining its determination to continue with the proposed two day meeting at the end of the month which has closed down a large part of the local town park.
The statement was issued in advance of a call from animal welfare activist Pauline McLynn, famous for her role as Mrs Doyle in Father Ted and many other leading parts in TV and film, to abandon this year’s meeting.
The activist also warned that legislation to come before the Dáil in early 2022 could lead to the banning of live hare coursing.
“There’s going to be a Bill, it was introduced in our time of lock-down and it will be brought forward in the early part of 2022 hopefully and I also hope that there will be a free vote on it so that politicians can vote with their heart and not to have the party whip invoked,” said Ms McLynn on C103’s Cork Today show on Wednesday.
A long-time anti coursing advocate, Ms McLynn said she was directly opposed to everything the Coursing Club stands for.
“What I find really astonishing with all of this is that this happens every year that the Town Park is closed to facilitate what I think is animal cruelty.
“It’s for a tiny minority, yet all of the townspeople are shut out of their municipal park which is rather beautiful and in one of the most beautiful areas of the country.”
Notices announcing the closure of the Town Park from December 6 to 5pm on January 1 were posted on the gates of the community owned facility two weeks ago.
The park remained open last year as the traditional coursing club event scheduled for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day was cancelled because of pandemic restrictions.
There have been protests outside the park at Saturday evening Mass in the town.
In a statement issued this week, the club said:
“Since 1960, the Coursing Club, the Town Park and the Millstreet Community have worked together with no objection to the use of the Town park by the Coursing Club and in the interest of community, it is vital that this would continue.”
The statement reiterated that the closure was necessary and pointed out that, in previous years, the Town Park would have been shut for three months and that this was ‘reduced to one month as a compromise which recognises the importance of the Town Park as a Community Amenity as well as a venue for events such as coursing’.
“The closure is necessary to ensure that the field is ready for coursing and to allow the best possible conditions for the hares. Millstreet Coursing Club is a registered member of the Irish Coursing Club and governed by the Department of Housing and Heritage coursing license.
“The Town Park is now fully closed whilst in use by the Coursing Club and the playground, the walkway outside the pitch and the pitch and putt are all still fully open and in use.
“The Town Park spans across 13.5 acres and the Coursing Club have six acres in use for the next month.”
In its statement the Coursing Club referred to the Town Park Rule Book in which it says the use of the Town Park by the Coursing Club was explicitly provided for.
“The Coursing Club was responsible for providing the funding to purchase the Town Park in 1956,” the statement continues.
“Millstreet Coursing Club has been an integral part of the Millstreet Community since 1913.
“Since 1961 the Coursing Club has been using the Millstreet Town Park facility for its Christmas meeting.”
The Corkman has been sent the Town Park rule book and while it contains references to the Coursing Club, it does not set out the procedure by which the Town Park, or part of it would be closed for any length of time, one month or three months, to facilitate its annual coursing meeting.
We sought a clarification of this issue from Millstreet Coursing Club but there was no further response as we went to press this week.
An online petition has been launched in the past two weeks to highlight the issue and, to date, it has garnered 400 signatures.
The claim by Millstreet Coursing Club in its statement that it ‘was responsible for providing the funding to purchase the Town Park in 1956’ was contested also by Pat Randles who pointed out that £700 was contributed by the Carnival Committee which led to it being allocated four of the Town Park Committee’s places, against one place for the Coursing Club on a par with other local groups.
The Town Park Committee is to hold its Annual General Meeting to elect new members in the New Year.