Hunting is still off the diaries of members of Ireland’s Ward Union Staghunt. The opening meet would normally have taken place last week but the pack is still waiting to learn if environment minister John Gormley will grant them a licence. In September the minister threatened to refuse their licence to hunt carted stag for this season, but he gave them the opportunity to answer his concerns before a final decision.

“We received a letter of enquiry from the minister of the environment and replied to that on 1 October,” said hunt secretary Declan Brooks. “And last Monday [15 October] they wrote again seeking further clarifications on three points.” Mr Brooks said the new information was forwarded to the Department of the Environment last Thursday and added that they hoped for a speedy reply from the minister because each meet postponed costs the hunt money.

The three issues to be clarified were to do with the number of fatalities to carted stags over the past three years [three], the size of mounted field and the number of car and foot followers.

“The minister is concerned that we are breaking the terms of our licence and our own code of practice by having had three deaths of stags in three seasons,” said Mr Brooks, “but these were absolute exceptions to the norm. “Over the three years we have held 120 stag hunts, hunting in excess of 120 stags and have had three inadvertent deaths.”

Mr Brooks says they have also moved to put the minister’s mind at rest over the number of mounted followers by limiting the field to 50, plus hunt staff. The final concern was about car followers causing an inconvenience to other road users and Mr Brooks said the hunt would provide off-road parking and stewards.

“We are the last carted stag hunt operating in the world and the ironic thing is that we can go fox hunting without any restriction,” he said.