First-time applicants for deer hunting licences may have to undergo appropriate training and a certification process in the future, according to the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan.

Minister Madigan confirmed that the measures are being considered in a response to a recent parliamentary question from Fianna Fail’s spokesperson on agriculture Charlie McConalogue.

These measures will commence from a date which will be determined in due course; but, certainly no later than 2020, the minister added.

Commenting on the issue, she said: “My department grants some 5,000 licences annually to hunt deer during the open season, which is the period during which deer can be legally shot under licence.

The open season for deer operates generally from September 1 to February 28, depending on the species and gender of deer.

“In March 2015, my department – along with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine – published the report ‘Deer Management in Ireland – A Framework for Action’, which includes policy recommendations relating to deer conservation and management that could be pursued by both departments and stakeholders.

“An Irish Deer Management Forum was established to implement the various actions listed in the report.”

The forum itself comprises of representatives from the main stakeholder areas, including: landowners; forestry; hunting and conservation organisations; as well as representatives from both departments, Minister Madigan explained.

“The forum has issued a number of recommendations, including a recommendation that mandatory certification of deer hunters should be introduced on a phased basis over a five-year period from January 1, 2018, for existing licensed deer hunters and that new deer hunters should have the required certification from January 1, 2018.

I acknowledge the importance of ensuring that deer hunting is carried out in a safe manner.

In that context, the department is considering how best to implement the recommendations of the group, while keeping a range of factors in mind, the minister added.

These factors include the fact that there are plenty of hunters with many years of experience, knowledge and expertise.

The need to ensure that the most appropriate training and certification process would ultimately be implemented having regard for the most up-to-date safety, conservation and hunting considerations – as well as taking account of both local and international best practice – would have to be considered, the minister explained.

No plans to ban fox hunting

Meanwhile, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, recently confirmed that there are no plans to ban fox hunting in response to a parliamentary question from Fine Gael TD Roisin Shortall.

The Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 requires people to ensure that animals being hunted are not subject to unnecessary suffering and specifically prohibits the hunting of animals which have been released in an injured, mutilated or exhausted condition, Minister Creed said.

Voluntary codes of practice have been established by The Hunting Association of Ireland, which detail the conduct to be adhered to in respect of the hunting of foxes and the treatment of the animal during the hunt.

“The code prohibits the hunting of foxes where the animal is injured and advocates the humane disposal of a fox when captured. The code also takes into account local concerns and the concerns of the landowner(s) on which hunting takes place.

“While I have no plans to ban fox hunting, I have – however – recently asked officials of my department to engage with the hunting association to determine whether the existing code needs updating,” he said.