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Unlikely allies for Cowen in row over stag hunting

DUBLIN'S two independent TDs said they will support a ban on stag hunting even if it means they keep Fianna Fail in Government.

Finian McGrath and Maureen O'Sullivan have told the Herald that they are determined to see stag hunting ended.

Both say that blood sports are entirely wrong and should be stamped out as soon as possible.

Seven Fianna Fail TDs have already expressed reservations about tomorrow's Dail vote on legislation that aims to ban stag hunting.

Campaigners opposing the bill said they believe up to four Government TDs could vote against the legislation.

Independent TD Michael Lowry has also threatened to oppose the legislation which has been driven by the Green Party.

However, Dublin North TD Finian McGrath told the Herald that he will save the Government blushes if necessary.

"I would be totally against blood sports," he said. "I have major concern around the chasing of stags. There have been a couple of serious incidents.

"In one incident a stag was chased into a schoolyard. It was appalling, disgraceful."

Similarly Dublin North Central TD Maureen O'Sullivan said that she is supporting bill not just on her own behalf, but also on behalf of the late Tony Gregory. "Tony was fully in support of animal welfare and animal rights and one of his regrets was that there wasn't more done on it. It was one of the things that he asked me to mention at his funeral," she explained.

The proposals to ban stag hunting and another bill to regulate dog breeding have split Fianna Fail backbenchers with some believing they go too far.

The bills even led to a verbal altercation between TDs Bobby Aylward and Mattie McGrath last week, which sources said came close to a fist fight.


And although both men have now made up, it appears that the tensions within Fianna Fail are still high.

Seven TDs have already spoken out against the new legislation and if a significant number vote against it or abstain, Brian Cowen's position could be in trouble.

But Finian McGrath said that a close vote won't sway him to go against the Government.

"Of course I'd have reservations about supporting the Government because I'm very angry at them over everything else," he said.

"But I vote on the legislation as it comes up. That's the way I've been doing it."

Ms O'Sullivan criticised the Labour Party for their opposition to the legislation, describing an apparent U-turn as "disgraceful".

"To me it's animal cruelty. To see deer caught in barbed wire, bruised, bleeding, hurt," she told the Herald.

"I don't consider it sport to terrify animals, the hounds baying. In some cases they are going after domesticated deer. They are often killed through exhaustion. It's ludicrous."