High Court to hear Irish Coursing Club injunction next week

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Court Reporter

High Court to hear Irish Coursing Club injunction next week

The High Court will hear an application brought by Irish Coursing Club for an injunction allowing its activities to re-commence early next week.

The ICC is seeking the injunction, as part of judicial review proceedings it has brought against the Ministers for Health and Housing, Local Government and Heritage, because the annual coursing season is limited, and is due to finish at the end of February.

The Ministers are opposing both the proceedings and the injunction, which if granted would allow coursing events to take place, subject to various covid-19 measures being in place. 

When the matter briefly mentioned before Mr Justice Charles Meenan on Thursday the court said that the one-day application has been assigned to a judge and could be heard on Tuesday of next week.

Earlier this month the Irish Coursing Club (ICC), which regulates hare coursing in Ireland, launched a legal challenge against the state's failure to include it in a list of activities allowed to operate during the current Covid-19 restrictions.

The ICC, represented by Martin Hayden SC and Eoin O'Shea Bl, claims coursing events had been allowed take place during the run up to Christmas, due to its inclusion on a government approved list of permitted sports.

Mr Hayden said that because the season is ending in a few weeks' time, it was vital for his membership that the application for an injunction, which would remain in place until the full action had been determined, be heard as soon as possible.

In its action the ICC claims when the government announced its latest round of restrictions last month, coursing was delisted as a permitted sport.

The ICC says while its activities were de-listed other similar sports, including its sister sport greyhound racing, horse racing and other equine activities, were allowed by the government to proceed.

No reasons were given to it for its delisting, the ICC also claims.

As a result the ICC has brought an action where it seeks various declarations and orders including one setting aside the Minister for Health's decision to delist the ICC and its sporting activities set out in statutory instrument under the 1947 Health Act.

It also wants an order reinstating the ICC and coursing to the list of sports permitted to operate. It further seeks an injunction allowing it to resume its activities pending the outcome of its full judicial review proceedings.  

The ICC says its exclusion from the list of permitted sports is flawed, irrational and unreasonable on grounds that the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly decided to delist coursing without consulting either the Departments of Agriculture and Housing, Local Government and Heritage. 

Those departments are responsible for coursing, the ICC claims. It also alleges that the decision to delist it is tainted by a perception of bias because Minister Donnelly had in 2015 voted in favour of legislation banning coursing.

The ICC also alleges that in advance of the delisting decision Minister Donnelly had consulted with Green Party Ministers Eamon Ryan and Catherine Martin, who are also want coursing prohibited.