Alliance Leader David Ford has welcomed the decision of the Environment Minister to refuse a licence to Dungannon Coursing Club, after it was strongly criticised by the club and Countryside Alliance.
David Ford said: “The decision taken by Angela Smith is entirely in line with the law as it applies in Northern Ireland. As a result of the amendment that I proposed to the Game Preservation Bill, she would have acted unlawfully to grant a licence unless she was satisfied that the capture of hares for coursing would not endanger the species anywhere in Northern Ireland.
“It is clear that hares are at risk throughout Northern Ireland. There is plenty of evidence that this is the case.
“While it is generally accepted that most of the risk to hares comes from environmental factors, there is no justification for hare coursing at all.
“When I proposed my amendment in 2002, the then Minister said that it would be impossible to capture hares if it was passed. The Assembly, having heard his words, supported my views by 46 votes to 16. Last year, another Ulster Unionist Minister did not take account of this: I am glad that Angela Smith has taken account of the law.
“I also welcome the news that the Minister is consulting on the idea of a special protection order for hares. There is ample evidence that hares are in serious decline in Northern Ireland and action to increase protection is urgently required.”