28 February 2007
A 6-year-old boy was left hysterical and screaming in terror as Ireland's oldest hunt came thundering through a farmyard in County Cork last Thursday. The boy's mother told RTE's Liveline programme that she feared for her children's safety and roared at the hunters to get out.
Speaking to presenter Derek Davis, Margo O'Keeffe described how mounted hunters from the Duhallow Foxhounds rode around the side of a barn on the Milford farm and came so close to her that muck was spattered on to her clothes. "The hunt horses came within three yards of the concrete yard where my kids were playing," she said.
"[Me and my aunt] went out obviously - because my children were out there and I wanted to protect my children - and we started roaring at them to get out of there, they had no permission," she added. "They were so close to me that there were spatters of muck on my clothes. I was shouting at my children to stay behind me. My son was hysterical; he was running around the yard and I was shouting at him to get into the house."
The aunt expressed her upset at the incident. "I was very upset and very angry," she said. "It was the fact that this was an invasion [into] a private farm in a private area. We should be entitled to that privacy."
She also told of how her fear for the safety of the children prompted her to lob stones into the air to try and divert the hunters away from the yard. She insisted that she was aiming to miss the horses but, regardless, one of the men on horseback gave her this abusive response: "if that f***ing stone hits my horse, I'll put that f***ing stone straight through your window."
A hunting spokesperson agreed with a statement by Derek Davis that "at a time when hunting is under huge pressure from the anti-blood sports lobby, you need all the friends you can possibly get and that behaving like the seventh cavalry isn't the way to do it".
Derek went on to question the general disregard that hunters have for private land. "There is, amongst anglers, a protocol about going on other people's lands, about sterilising boots (where requested) and fishing tackle before bringing something in from the open road on to somebody's land. That doesn't seem to affect the hunts at all. There's also the protocol of going on to private property - you seek permission. You're trying to draw a comparison between anglers and huntsmen on horseback [but] I'm unlikely to come around the corner of a farmyard at 30 miles an hour brandishing a fishing rod and telling someone to f*** off, crossing their land."
Admitting that they had made a mistake, Duhallow Hunt chairman, Pat Fleming, apologised for the hunters coming into the farm yard, saying "I've already apologised and I'll apologise again for that...We came into the yard and we didn't expect that lady and her children to be there. We have apologised." Retorted Derek Davis: "It would have been nice if somebody on the day had apologised."
According to the Irish Field directory, the Duhallow Foxhunt is "the oldest hunt in Ireland". Among the joint-masters listed in the directory is Kate Horgan, chairman of the Irish Masters of Foxhounds Association. Meanwhile, the IMFHA website boasts that Duhallow hunters "maintain the best possible relations with...the general public"!
This frightening incident in Cork comes less than a month after hunters invaded a school playground in County Meath which resulted in children crying and running for cover. A few weeks earlier, locals in County Limerick were left distraught after a hunt hound was seen killing a pet cat. Previously, a girl in Northern Ireland was left in tears after hunt hounds killed her beloved cat.
ICABS has brought all of these incidents to the attention of the government and renewed our appeal for hunting with hounds to be banned - for the sake of our wildlife as well as farmers and residents plagued by hunts.
Liveline radio show
Please click on the links below to hear:
Alternatively, choose to listen to a selection of extracts from the show.
Extracts from Liveline show (23 February, 2007)
URGENT ACTION ALERTS
Urge An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, to urgently implement a ban on hunting with hounds - for the sake of wildlife and for farmers and other countryside dwellers adversely affected by hunts.
Bertie Ahern, An Taoiseach
Urge Environment Minister, Dick Roche, to amend the Wildlife Act so that the hunting of foxes with packs of hounds is outlawed.
Minister Dick Roche
Urge Agriculture Minister, Mary Coughlan, to amend the Protection of Animals Act so that the hunting of wildlife with packs of hounds is banned.
Minister Mary Coughlan
Please also contact your local TDs/Senators and urge them to put pressure on the Ministers to ban foxhunting.
Write to your TD at Dail Eireann, Leinster House, Kildare Street, Dublin 2.
Write to your Senator at Seanad Eireann, Leinster House, Kildare Street, Dublin 2.
For TD/Senator names, visit www.oireachtas.ie/members-hist.
Keeping hunts out: ICABS advice to landowners
Unless hunters hold sporting rights to hunt on your property (this is not usually the case but if so, it will be specified on the title deeds to the property), neither they nor their dogs have a right to trespass on your property.
Under the (Control of Dogs Act - www.irishstatutebook.ie/1986_32.html), dogs must be kept "under effectual control" so if hunt hounds come on to property where they do not have permission to be, this would be an offence and the Gardai should be notified. (If possible, take photos or video footage to prove it took place). If trespass occurs by members of the hunt, the Gardai should be notified as well.
Sometimes hunts will say something like "we go where the dogs go" or "we didn't know we weren't allowed to enter your property" but this is not acceptable. If they didn't receive permission to enter the property, they should not be there.
Farmers affected by hunt trespass may wish to contact the Farmers Against Foxhunting and Trespass organisation which offers advice to landowners. Their chairman, Philip Lynch, can be reached at 056-7725309.
Please also see the Irish Council Against Blood Sports information leaflet, Troubled by the Hunt.
Irish Independent report
Fox hunt turned farm outing into 'a day of terror'
A mother told yesterday how a fox hunt turned a visit to a farm for her children into a day of terror.
The four children, all aged under 10, had only finished lunch at the farm in Milford, Co Cork where their great aunt was living when the galloping pack of hunt members, horses and hounds burst unannounced into the quiet farmyard. Margo O'Keeffe said she watched in horror as members of the Duhallow Hunt came around the blind side of a barn within three yards of where her daughter had been playing a short time earlier.
The mother of four told how her son Muiris (6) screamed with terror at the sight of the horses. "They were not trotting she said, they rattled through at a desperate speed," she said.
Mrs O'Keeffe told RTE's Liveline radio programme that at one stage her eldest daughter Cliodhna (9) was so close to the hunt that she was spattered with muck from horses' hooves.
"My son Muiris was hysterical. I wanted to protect my children and started roaring at them to get out of there," she said.
Pat Fleming of the Duhallow Hunt said in previous years they had been allowed onto the farm's land by its late owner Maurice O'Connor.
But Mr O'Connor's sister Mary, whom Mrs O'Keeffe was visiting yesterday, said that permission should have been sought before the hunt came into a yard where children were playing.
At one stage to protect the children and divert the oncoming hunt pack of horses from coming closer to the farmhouse, Mrs O'Keeffe's aunt tossed a stone to ward them off.
She said although she tossed the stone, rather than aim it at a horse, one young member of the hunt said "if that f***ing stone hits my horse, I'll f***ing put that stone through your f***ing window."
Mrs O'Keeffe and her aunt last night told the Irish Independent their concern had not been so much about damage caused to farmland, as the threat posed to their children's safety.
Mr Fleming said: "We came into the yard. We didn't expect that that lady and her children would be there.
"We made a mistake. I put both my hands up and we apologise," he added.