Backbenchers in the Irish parliament are calling for a free vote on a bill which could ban stag hunting in the Republic.
But the government is resisting the vote, which threatens the passage of the bill when it comes before parliament later this year.
Fianna Fail TDs (Irish MPs) oppose the ban that the Green Party insists on as the price of its continued membership of the coalition government.
Former trade minister John McGuinness, from Kilkenny, said: “This issue requires an open debate and a free vote.”
Mattie McGrath, whose seat is in Tipperary, asked: “Hunting is part of our heritage so why should we get rid of it to satisfy the Greens?”
With the main opposition party, Fine Gael, pledging to fight the legislation, a free vote could put the bill in jeopardy.
But government minister for public works, Martin Mansergh, dismissed the calls, saying Fianna Fail must honour its agreement with the Greens.
The Ward Union — the only hunt that would be affected by this ban — has stepped up its lobbying of government deputies against a ban.
“We still hope to persuade them to think again,” said secretary Ronan Griffin, and the Hunt Association of Ireland has set up a committee to plan campaign strategy.
One suggestion is a mounted protest to the Irish parliament by every hunt, Pony Club, show jumper and point-to-point rider.
This article was first published in Horse & Hound (14 January, ’10)