We were consulted on behalf of the Ward Union Hunt Club, established more than 150 years ago, who obtain an annual licence under the 1976 Wildlife Act from the Minister of the Environment. Just before Christmas last the Minister issued a restricted licence.
The licence issued on the 19th December 2007 and contained two conditions which prevented the release of hounds until the deer had been recaptured, thereby preventing the very essence of hunting. The Hunt Club then made an application to the High Court seeking to challenge by way of Judicial Review the lawfulness of such decision.
Mr. Justice Hedigan granted leave to apply to such Judicial Review on the 21st January, 2008. An application was then brought seeking an injunction suspending the relevant conditions in the licence for the remainder of the season. Such application was heard by Mr. Justice O’Neill on the 18th February, 2008 who having heard lengthy arguments from both sides gave reserved judgement on the following day granting the injunction pending the hearing of the action and directed that the matter should be brought on for an early hearing.
This firm instructed Mr. Feichin McDonagh SC and Mr. Paul Anthony McDermott BL. The Defendant was represented by the Chief State Solicitors Office.
Following lengthy negotiations between the parties prior to the hearing the proceedings were settled on the basis that the Minister undertook not to insert the two relevant Conditions in any future Licence to be issued. Further the Minister undertook to deal with future licensing applications in a timely manner so as not to foreshorten the Hunt season. Finally as part of the settlement the State agreed to pay the costs of the action in full.