Leading National Hunt jockey and amateur whipper-in of the Ward Union hunt Paul Carberry has appealed to Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Brian Cowen not to ban staghunting.

Bluntly, he warned Mr Cowen: “Rural Ireland is fed up of the Green Party holding you and the country to ransom. If the Ward Union is banned, your rural members of parliament will pay at the next election.”

Legislation to outlaw hunting deer with hounds is expected to come before the Irish parliament early next year, at the insistence of the Green Party, a minority partner with Mr Cowen’s Fianna Fail in the coalition government (news, 29 October).

But in his letter to Mr Cowen (printed in the Irish Sunday Independent last week), Paul Carberry warned a ban would “let down the 300,000 people involved in hunting in Ireland”.

Mr Carberry, a winner of the Grand National with Bobbyjo in 1999, says riding with Ireland’s only staghunt is “a vital part” of his preparation for Cheltenham and Aintree, and the jockeys in his family feel the same.

He tells Mr Cowen, in his letter: “My brother, Philip, sister, Nina, and myself are all very upset at your support for John Gormley [Green Party leader and environment minister] on his plan to end staghunting.”

And he highlights the employment and conservation work the hunt provides.

Ward Union secretary Ronan Griffin said: “There are so many questions Mr Gormley has not answered about what would happen if he bans the Wards.

“What about our deer? They are a private herd and Ireland’s only pure-bred red deer. What would we do with our hounds, our four employees, the former huntsman’s widow who lives at the kennels?

“We are the only knackery in the area so that will be a strain on the farmers, not to mention the farriers and feed merchants.”

He said the Ward Union ploughs €1.5million into the rural economy annually.

As H&H went to press on Monday (14 December), 1,000 people were due to attend a rally in Trim, Co Meath, that night, the start of a campaign to save the Ward Union.

James Phelan of the Hunting Association of Ireland (HAI) said: “The feeling is very united among all the groups in the HAI.

“We need to fight together as the banning of the Wards is just the beginning and we must not let it become a ban on all hunting.”

He said the HAI would meet on Wednesday to plan the way forward following the rally.

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (17 December, ’09)