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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Siobhan Ambrose (Fianna Fail, Tipperary):
In 2013, The Nationalist newspaper reported that Siobhan Ambrose attended the hare coursing finals in Clonmel - "Borough council and county council colleague Siobhan Ambrose was an early contendor [sic] for Most Appropriately Dressed Woman at the event."

Cllr Jackie Cahill (Fianna Fail, Tipperary County Council)
"I would not support such a motion" in reply to an ICABS email asking if he would support an anti-bloodsports council motion. 12th September 2014.

Noel Coonan, TD (Fine Gael, Tipperary):
"He might allow hare coursing be shown free to air." Directed at Eamon Ryan (Minister of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources) during a Dail debate on Broadcasting Legislation - 1 June 2010.

Gearoid Fitzgibbon (Green Party, Tipperary)
"Supportive" from a 19th January 2016 tweet in reply to ICABS asking "Are you in favour of a ban on foxhunting and hare coursing."

"Bloodsports - against" from a reply to National Animal Rights Association

Tom Hayes, TD (Fine Gael, Tipperary):
In November 2013, Tom Hayes was photographed at a hare coursing meeting in Tipperary. "It reflects very poorly on the Republic of Ireland that a Minister of State deems it appropriate to be involved with a cruel bloodsport that is now illegal in all our neighbouring jurisdictions," ICABS stated in a Facebook message to him.

At the Knockgraffon coursing meet in November 2012, the owner of a winning greyhound was listed as The Coalition Syndicate. According to the Clonmel and Kilsheelan coursing club website, one of the members of this syndicate is Tipperary South Fine Gael TD, Tom Hayes.

"Local Fine Gael T.D. Tom Hayes has confirmed that 1 million Euro has been secured for the redevelopment of Clonmel Greyhound Stadium following discussions with Bord na gCon. Speaking on today’s announcement the South Tipperary Deputy said, 'This news is the culmination of months of work and I am delighted to see such a commitment being made by the IGB to Clonmel Greyhound Stadium...Given that the construction plans are already prepared I expect to see the entire project completed in time for the 2013 coursing season.'" from the Tom Hayes website, February 14th, 2012.

"At a recent meet of the Kilmoganny Hounds, members were canvassed for their support by successful Fine Gael candidates Tom Hayes (Tipperary South) and John Paul Phelan (Carlow-Kilkenny)". From the Hunting Association of Ireland website. An accompanying photo shows "Tom Hayes and John Paul Phelan at a recent meet of the Kilmoganny Hounds" next to horses and hounds. (2011)

"I attended six coursing meetings in the past few months and I did not see one hare killed. I love what is good in rural Ireland, whether it is coursing, hunting hares, beagling or whatever, and I believe there is a strong agenda to stop those sports...I represent a constituency that is proud of its heritage in the coursing and animal welfare world." (March 2005)

"A growing number of people have an agenda to try to get sports such as coursing banned...I come from an area of the country that has a very strong tradition of coursing. Given the way those coursing meetings are guarded and protected, I would challenge any of those people opposed to those sports to come and see at first hand exactly how they are run. Too much is being written and said about those sports which are major tourism attractions, particularly hunting and fishing...Some people have an agenda to suggest to the public that those sports are cruel. The people involved in those sports are committed to animal welfare and protecting all the animals involved...I challenge them, and particularly those Members of this House, to come with me to the coursing in Clonmel and Cashel, and to the fishing in Golden. They could come to any place in my constituency and see how the people in that area look after those animals and look after their sports." Animal Health and Welfare Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Second Stage, 20 September 2012.

"The Fine Gael opposes the "anti puppy farming" Bill because John Gormley has broken his promises and turned it into an ‘anti hunt kennel’ Bill. It threatens the demise of the sport and industry of greyhound coursing and racing...They propose to ban the Ward Union Staghounds in counties Meath and Dublin. Fine Gael has opposed this ban because it is the thin end of the wedge of banning other rural sports like fox hunting, harriers, coursing, gun clubs and even angling." from Rural Ireland struggles as Fianna Fail bows to the Greens, Tom Hayes TD website, 16th April, 2010.

High-profile supporters of [coursing] in Ireland include footballer-turned-movie star Vinnie Jones, forner Irish soccer international Niall Quinn and a number of politicians, including Fine Gael TD Tom Hayes, who had a dog racing at Clonmel which he shares with former TD Liam Burke. from Hare today, gone tomorrow? Irish Independent, 7th February 2004

"A coalition of [hunting, shooting and coursing groups] have praised Mattie McGrath as well as Tom Hayes, Michael Lowry and Noel Coonan for their opposition to John Gormley's bill [which banned stag hunting in Ireland]." The Nationalist, 5th July 2010

"The greyhound and coursing industries have been getting bad press due to a lack of knowledge." Greyhound Industry (Doping Regulation) Bill 2006: Second Stage, 8 June 2006

Seamus Healy, TD (Workers and Unemployed Action Group, Tipperary):
"I ask the Minister to confirm that the Bill will not adversely affect any properly organised or regulated greyhound and coursing industries. That is an important consideration." Animal Health and Welfare Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Second Stage, Thursday, 20 September 2012.

Cllr. Seamus Healy said at this week's County Council meeting the fact that coursing was being discussed in the Programme for Government talks put the coursing industry in jeopardy. The national coursing meeting was very important for Clonmel, bringing in millions of Euro to the local economy during the festival week. "It is an industry that has created employment and is very important to Clonmel and South Tipperary," he told the meeting. Cllr. Healy proposed that the Council write to the Taoiseach and Fianna Fail Oireachtas members on the issue. The Nationalist, 7 October 2009.

"This is a small but important industry, particularly in the area from where I come in south Tipperary in which the Clonmel track is located and which hosts the national coursing festival each year. The greyhound and coursing industries are important and give much employment and support to other industries and business in the town of Clonmel and much enjoyment and sport to the many people involved at all levels." Greyhound Industry (Doping Regulation) Bill 2006

"Cllr Seamus Healy said he had no brief for stag hunting and did not support it." Tipperary Star, 15 June 2010

Alan Kelly TD (Labour Party, Tipperary):
In March 2013, Alan Kelly TD 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.

Michael Lowry, TD (Independent, Tipperary):
"A number of TDs, including Jackie Healy Rae and Michael Lowry, had earlier voiced concern that the Greens' ban on stag hunting and their dog breeding bill indicated a lack of empathy with country pursuits." (Sunday Business Post, 04 April 2010)

"After today's discussion with John Curran Government Chief Whip, I confirmed that I am not in a position to support this Stag Hunting Bill which threatens the future of hunting and coursing in Ireland. In advance of my discussions with the Chief Whip, I consulted with my Independent colleague Jackie Healy Rae T.D. who is equally concerned with the implications of this legislation for rural Ireland. Jackie Healy Rae is taking the same stand as myself on these two Bills. It is my firm intention to vote against the Bill and I will not be deflected from that decision...I represent North Tipperary, a land famous for its long tradition of hunting, coursing, greyhound racing." Statement from Michael Lowry TD, June 2010

Independent TD, Michael Lowry, voted AGAINST the staghunt ban in June 2010.

Mattie McGrath, TD (Independent, Tipperary):
"The [hare coursing] meet at Knockgraffon was a huge success and is a further testimony to the enduring popularity of this traditional rural pursuit. What was even more impressive was the ability of the event to draw a substantial crowd of visitors from the UK who all thoroughly enjoyed the enthusiasm of the home crowd and the fine quality of hare and greyhound on display...I am sure that the Clonmel Coursing event in two weeks’ time will also be a massive success and one which will draw in significant revenue for the local economy. It is events like these that continue to thrive and draw high volumes of visitors to our localities year after year. We must do all we can to support such events and educate those opposed to them by demonstrating the high quality conditions under which the events are managed..." from a statement by Mattie McGrath TD, published on his website, 20th January 2014.

"I am totally supportive of the practice of coursing...I have a gun licence to shoot fowl...Is it not better for a young boy or girl to be outside fishing or hunting than sitting at home every day in front of computer on Facebook, Google or whatever else? At least when they return to school after the summer, their teachers can ask them about flora, fauna and mother nature, about which I learned when I went coursing as a buachaill og with the men of the parish. Coursing was good, healthy exercise and all I had was the butt of a stick to hit a ditch." Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Second and Subsequent Stages, 18 July 2012. Watch on Youtube

Mattie McGrath spoke in favour of hare coursing on the Pat Kenny Radio Show on October 1st 2009. You can listen to Deputy McGrath's defence of this cruel activity by downloading the show. Deputy McGrath voted against the ban on staghunting in June 2010.

"It has been noted that this stag hunt has been in existence since 1854 and reference has been made to its benefits. People who take part in rural pursuits and who get their children involved will care for animals more than any animal rights person or self-proclaimed animal rights people because they are close to nature...I know nothing about stag hunting because I do not live in that part of the country so I will not stray into it. However, I am disappointed in the way they have been vilified." Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2010: Second Stage, Thursday, 24 June 2010

According to a comment left on a hunting website, Mattie McGrath "was at the national coursing meeting plying for votes this week [February 2011] on the strength of his stand against the hunting ban".

"Hopefully, the Minister will be able to find Eur 1 million or so for the track in Clonmel. It is very important. Coursing is a huge industry and is worth Eur 6 million or Eur 7 million to South Tipperary. The Clonmel event is known throughout Europe. I have been there many times. There is none of the savagery that is often spoken about." From a Dail debate on the Welfare of Greyhounds Bill 2011, 30 June 2011

Cllr Michael Smith (Fianna Fail, Tipperary County Council)
Opposition to the Government's hunting proposals was also expressed at last month's meeting of North Tipperary Co Council, where local councillors spoke of the importance of hunting in the county...Cllr Michael Smith (FF) also supported the motions, and while none of the councillors would be in favour of animal cruelty, he said there should be more dialogue between the stakeholders involved. From an article in the Nenagh Guardian, 10th July 2010.

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