Irish greens use lockdown to ban shooting sports

The Irish government has banned game shooting and deerstalking due to ‘level 5 lockdown’ in the Republic of Ireland. The ban will come in just ahead of the Irish pheasant shooting season, which opens on 1 November. A statement on the Garda (police) website says that ‘sport shooting is prohibited’ because it is not organised by a ‘national governing body, funded by Sport Ireland’.

Other activities, such as children sports training in groups of 15 will be allowed to go ahead, but shooting sports, including driven gameshooting and even rough shooting is banned. The Garda adds that: ‘Shooting of vermin (rats, foxes etc) is permissible as an essential service to farming/agriculture.’

Ireland’s National Association of Regional Game Councils, which is the membership organisation for shooting in Ireland, says that the Garda is ‘erring in its interpretation of the activity of pheasant shooting as engaged in by our members nationally’.

The NARGC is seeking legal advice and plans to take up the question with minister for health Stephen Donnelly. It says that, even if driven pheasant shooting is banned, it wants to seek an exemption for rough shooting

Irish shooters are furious that the Irish government is targeting them in this way. One shooter, Niall Farrelly, told Fieldsports News: “It was first thought that we would be allowed to hunt within 5km of our houses, as allowed under lockdown rules.

“We feel, unfortunately, that the greens/antis in our coalition government must be behind this. It’s hard to believe that we can’t go in to the countryside and go roughshooting with mainly family members and respecting socail distancing in a 5km radius from our homes.”

As late as 20 October 2020, the NARGC expected there to be no restrictions on sport that takes place in open country. NARGC chairman Dan Curley issued a statement to say that the NARGC sought clear direction from the government on the matter of shooting (and fishing) during the current Level 5 of the Plan for Living with Covid-19 but a response was, at that time, still awaited. In the absence of an instruction otherwise, the NARGC directs its Members to read the publication by the Department of An Taoiseach issued on 19 October, which said:

  • People will be permitted to exercise within a radius of 5 km of their home.
  • No organised outdoor gatherings should take place
  • No organised indoor gatherings should take place
  • All training activities should be individual only
  • It is possible to meet with 1 other household in an outdoor setting which is not a home or garden, such as a park, including for exercise.
  • No other social or family gatherings should take place.

“On this basis,” said Curley, “it would appear that a member may engage in hunting activity, along with another person, provided the activity occurs within 5km from home and that social distancing, mask wearing and hand sanitisation (as required) are observed. Travel to and from the area of activity, if a vehicle is used, should be based on one person per vehicle.”

The Irish government have now gone back on that advice.

The Irish government has announced no plans for the pheasants reared over the past months for the opening of the season that will now not be shot.

Update from the NARGC (added Weds 16 December 2020):

As Members will be aware from previous Statements issued by the Association, following the announcement by the Gardaí of a ban on pheasant shooting on Thursday, 29th October 2020, the Association immediately took up the matter with the Garda Commissioner and other authorities.

Not having received any satisfactory response, the Association instructed its Lawyers to commence Judicial Review proceedings in the High Court in the name of John Flannery, a landowner and member of the Association’s National Executive. The case was first before the Court on Monday, 9th November 2020. The Judge directed that the Association put the State authorities on notice and adjourned the case to 8th December 2020. Just before the case was due to be heard on that day, our lawyers were informed that the State intended to make a proposal to resolve the issue and the case was adjourned to today, December 15th, 2020.

Following lengthy negotiations, the State agreed to provide the following confirmation to the Court, which was read out to the Judge today: “It is confirmed that an individual, who engaged in lawful rough shooting for the purpose of exercise, on his/her own, during the currency of Level 5 restrictions, did not contravene the Health Act 1947 (Section 31A – Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) (No 8) Regulations 2020, S.I. 448 of 2020, provided the individual complied with those Regulations including the requirement that any exercise take place within 5 kms of his/her place of residence.”

The effect of the State’s confirmation is that it has accepted that, if during Level 5 restrictions an individual engaged on his or her own in lawful rough shooting, for the purpose of exercise, within 5 kms of home, he or she was not in breach of the Covid-19 Regulations.

Apart from providing the confirmation, we can also inform Members that the State has agreed to make a substantial contribution towards the Association’s legal costs.

Level 5 is of course now over, but it may be reinstated at some time in the future. If it is reinstated, the Association believes that the confirmation provided today can be taken as guidance for the future.

We would like to thank all our Members for the restraint shown during the unfortunate and unacceptable shooting ban.

Dan Curley
NARGC National Chairman

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