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Men intended to make a stew out of wild Irish hares

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FIVE men who were in possession of three protected Wild Irish Mountain Hare’s intended to make a stew out of them, their solicitor told a court.
The defendants - Eric Ward of 46 Clareville, Claremorris; James Reilly of 94 Cois na hAbhainn, Tuam; Eoin Ward of 143 Woodfield, Tuam; Martin Ward of 45 Gilmartin Road, Tuam and Patrick Sweeney of 35 Woodfield, Tuam - all pleaded guilty to the single possession of a Wild Irish Mountain Hare which is a protected species, at Kilquire Lower near Kilmaine on January 18, 2018.
John Higgins, a Conservation Officer with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, told Judge Deirdre Gearty at last week’s sitting of Castlebar District Court that on the date in question, he observed the defendants in a Volkswagen Polo car and asked for garda assistance to stop it.
The car was driven by James Reilly and when it was inspected, three dead hares were found  on the floor behind the passenger seat. They were later confirmed to be Wild Irish Mountain Hare.
There were also dogs in the boot of the car and Mr Higgins said evidence showed that the three hares were killed by dogs. He said the Wild Irish Mountain Hare is a protected species and the men did not have a licence to hunt.
When asked why the men had the dogs, Ms Cathy McDarby, solicitor for the defendants, said that they were hunting but they did not know the hare was a protected species. She said they had hunted rabbits in the past and the animals would be used for food and stews. The court was told they did not have any previous convictions for this type of offence and they were fully co-operative.
Judge Gearty agreed to impose the Probation Act if the men agreed to each pay €200 to the ISPCA.