General Election 2016 - Where do the candidates stand on animal cruelty issues?

'The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated' - Mahatma Gandhi
'Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation' - Martin Luther King

Before voting in the general election on Friday 26th February, read our guide to the candidates and where they stand on animal cruelty issues. Please make your vote count for the animals.

Individual candidate views may differ from official party policies, to which members are expected to follow in Dail Eireann. Click on the link to view party policies in relation to animal issues. Help us expand this list - let us know about responses you receive from candidates. If you are a candidate and wish to be included in this list, please get in touch with us now.


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Niall Collins, TD (Fianna Fail, Limerick County):
Niall Collins intervened on behalf of a disgruntled hunter to investigate why there was a delay in issuing him with a hunting licence. The pro-bloodsports Limerick TD considered the matter so important that he elevated it to Ministerial level. In a 22 September 2015 Dail Question aimed at Arts and Heritage Minister, Heather Humphreys, Collins asked "the reason for the delay in the issue of a deer hunting licence for a person in County Limerick; when it will be issued; and if she will make a statement on the matter."

"...the Minister travelled around the country scaring people in fishing clubs, coursing clubs, shooting clubs and anybody else to whom he could talk." Niall Collins during a debate on the Water Services (Amendment) Bill 2011, 25 January 2012.

In a February 2012 Dail Question, Niall Collins asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht "his policy on hare coursing" and "his policy on stag hunting".

In 2008, Deputy Niall Collins called on Environment Minister John Gormley to grant coursing licences as a matter of urgency. Quoted in the Irish Examiner of August 19, 2008, he said: "It stands to reason that once the licences have been granted the various coursing clubs and organisations can better plan when, where and how they will capture hares. This will help to ensure that the best possible care for the hares is provided and it will also give the various coursing clubs more certainty when it comes to planning their activities...I do not agree with the narrow view taken by the Irish Council Against Blood Sports on this issue, as they don't understand and value the traditional and cultural elements of this greyhound sector."

"In Opposition, the Taoiseach's party and the Labour Party opposed the ban on the Ward Union stag hunt. Will the Government be introducing legislation to reverse the ban? If so, when?" from a Dail debate, 8 November 2011

"Fianna Fail TD Niall Collins believed that RISE was not a mass movement of rural interests but a 'professional lobby group' led by influential people who were involved in politics or are politically engaged. 'RISE has succeeded in confusing the nation and causing upset and anxiety across all its rural pressure groups about the ban on stag hunting, even though it is clear from the Programme for Government that fox hunting, hare coursing, angling, shooting and all outdoor pursuits are all safe,' said Collins." Sunday Business Post, 4th July 2010

Alexander Cosgrave (Green Party, Limerick County):
"I personally disagree with setting animals on each other for our amusement, and the party is also not in favor of it. I also feel that the justifications used to defend it are flimsy, and not a valid reason to allow things like fox hunting or hare coursing. I feel we need a stronger set of animal protection laws as well." from a tweet to ICABS, February 2016.

Senator James Heffernan (Social Democrats, Limerick County):
James Heffernan is pro-coursing. Speaking as a Labour Party Senator in February 2014, he shamefully congratulated the owners of a greyhound used in hare coursing. During a Seanad debate on the greyhound industry, he stated: "The area I come from is steeped in the dog industry. My uncle kept dogs for many years. Neighbours and friends have a stake in the dog. Indeed the dog syndicate that my sister is involved with had a good win lately. I take this opportunity to congratulate the O'Brien family of Cush and Kilfinane who had a tremendous success in the race at Clonmel with their dog, Vale View Flyer. I am assured by all that the craic was a terror both on the way down and back. I spent many a good night at various fund-raising and other events in the refurbished dog track in Limerick." An image showing "Vale View Flyer" chasing a hare can be viewed at

In tweet sent to ICABS on February 20th 2016, James Heffernan stated: "While der is no fallback 4 thousands involved in industry, why would u advocate a ban on regulated coursing"

"Killorglin gettin all set for #puckfair, unique & great festival. The animal cruelty crowd wd want to get real #craic" - a tweet sent by James Heffernan on 7th August 2015 - - in response to calls for the caging of a goat at the puck fair to be ended.

Mark Keogh (Direct Democracy Ireland, Limerick County):
"Animal cruelty is barbaric. Yes in favour of a ban on foxhunting and coursing. Drag hunting is ok...I live in the countryside and the wildlife is what makes it special for us." from February 2016 tweets.

Cllr Tom Neville (Fine Gael, Limerick County):
Tom Neville has not responded to an enquiry from ICABS, asking if he is in favour of a ban on foxhunting and hare coursing. He is the son of outgoing pro-bloodsports TD, Dan Neville, who is on record as saying that he and his family used to rear a foxhunt pack's pups and that foxhunting is "a vital industry".

Cllr Emmett O'Brien (Independent, Limerick County)
"I'm not in favour of a full ban on hare coursing or fox hunting. I am in favour of it being regulated." from a tweet to ICABS, September 2014.

"While I have some reservations about hare coursing I cannot support any ban in its current form. I disagree that it is barbaric and consider it a part of the rural community." from an email to ICABS, November 2014.

"I am not against fox hunting, hare coursing or game shooting in any fashion." from a reply to the National Animal Rights Association, 2016.

Patrick O'Donovan TD (Fine Gael, Limerick County):
In March 2013, Patrick O'Donovan voted against amendments to the Animal Health and Welfare Bill which sought to secure a ban on some of Ireland's worst acts of cruelty to animals - foxhunting, hare coursing, digging out, terrierwork, ferreting, badger culling, fur farming and the use of animals in circus performances.

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