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The Green Party’s plan to ban hunting with dogs in Northern Ireland should not be taken seriously but underlines their animosity towards rural pursuits, pro-hunting groups have said.

Green Party Northern Ireland launched a consultation on 31 March, asking for views from the public, politicians and welfare and hunting organisations on a bill to institute similar legislation to the Hunting Act 2004 in the region.

The party’s only Assembly member Brian Wilson said: “Legislation banning the hunting of wild mammals with dogs already exists in England and Wales, and Scotland, so this bill, which I hope to introduce to the Assembly before recess, will bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK and end fox and stag hunting and hare coursing.”

Tim Bonner of the Countryside Alliance said the issue is not “a serious consideration”.

“There is no political capital behind this attempt,” he told H&H. “We are confident it’s the last issue Stormont wants to get involved in.”

But Liam Cahill of Rural Ireland Says Enough (RISE!) — the campaign for Irish hunting — says it reflects the Greens’ true colours.

“This shows the duplicity and hypocrisy of what the Green Party is saying in the Republic — that the only type of hunting they want to ban is stag hunting by the Ward Union,” he said.

The cabinet of the Irish government approved the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2010 which would ban stag hunting on 31 March — the first step towards it becoming law.
The bill will be published before 20 April and then the government will attempt pass it through parliament.

But opposition party Fine Gael has said it will vote against the bill and some Fianna Fáil backbenchers are opposed to their coalition partners’ animal welfare agenda.

RISE! is continuing to lobby politicians and plans a day of solidarity with Ireland’s only stag hunt — the Ward Union — at the Punchestown National Hunt Festival on 20 April.