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"Mockery of democracy": Columnist condemns Dail rejection of coursing bill
10 July 2016

Sunday Independent columnist, Fiona O'Connell, has condemned as a "mockery of democracy" the rejection by 114 TDs of a bill which sought to ban hare coursing. The politicians voted against the bill despite a majority of Irish citizens favouring a ban on the cruel bloodsport.

Muzzling majority to make money from misery
Sunday Independent 10th July 2016
by Fiona O'Connell

Whether it's fact or fiction, a good story means you may have your hunches about how things will turn out - but you don't know for sure. That's what keeps you reading.

Life isn't so different. Like the time as a child when I was on a country walk with my family and I was trailing behind. I wandered into a semi-circle of hedges, maybe because I was upset about something.

There I was, crying my little head off, when suddenly I heard a rustling sound. I turned and saw a hare pop its head up out of the hedges, his long ears pointing. He looked at me, as if to ask: "What the heck is all the hullabaloo about?" The sight of that beautiful creature certainly stopped my tears in their tracks.

I have never forgotten that hare that heard me cry. But sadly, I've heard far too many of them crying since then, in footage taken at hare coursing centres around this country - which remains one of only three in the western world that allows this blood sport.

And along with the ongoing loss of habitat, their suffering is set to continue. Until one day, this iconic animal that is the stuff of Irish legend - Oisin promised never to harm a hare - will be silenced forever.

For the blocking of a ban on hare coursing last month by not just our Government - but all our major political parties - was a disgrace to democracy. And it revealed just how powerful are the minority who muzzled any other possible outcome. They wage a war on our wildlife not only in pursuit of a perverse pleasure - but more importantly, because of the profits from the gambling and corporate sponsorship that comes with it.

No wonder the coursing clique kept quiet during the brief furore. Because they knew a ban was never going to happen. And they were right. By imposing the party whip (appropriately enough) our so-called public representatives ensured this blood sport won the day. Maureen O'Sullivan could have performed somersaults, instead of wasting her breath debating the issue to a near empty Dail. For the die was cast.

Some of the arguments against a ban would have been laughable, if vulnerable hares weren't at stake. Like the gem from the minister who issues the licence to trap, cage and torment these solitary creatures that it "would drive coursing underground".

So why ban anything? Other politicians claimed "the highest animal welfare standards are in place". Really? What about the relentless reports of deaths and injuries?

It's been over 20 years since the last attempt to ban hare coursing was similarly blocked. Since then, Ireland has moved on, to the extent that we now have gay marriage. Are happy hares just too radical for us?

But the majority in this country who want a ban on this barbaric blood sport don't have to accept this mockery of democracy. If they contacted their TDs demanding a genuine vote on the issue, I wonder what would happen?

We'd have to wait and see how life turns out.

Read Fiona O'Connell's "Lay of the Land" column every Sunday in the Sunday Independent.

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