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.