Darragh O'Brien forced to clarify he didn't sign off on pilot scheme to shoot seals

Darragh O'Brien forced to clarify he didn't sign off on pilot scheme to shoot seals

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien took to social media saying: 'I would not sign off on any pilot scheme which would involve fishermen shooting seals from a boat.' File picture: Dan Linehan

The minister for housing has been forced to clarify after a response to a parliamentary question, written in his name, said the Government was “examining the potential for a pilot scheme” which would see seals shot with high-powered rifles from boats.

The story, which ran in Monday’s Irish Examiner, quoted Darragh O’Brien’s response to Independent TD Michael Healy Rae-that the scheme would “determine its efficacy in protecting fishermen’s catches”.

The schemes, which “involved shooting seals, including from boats,” were being examined despite “concerns about this approach to seal management, given the potential safety concerns arising from using high-powered rifles on moving platforms.” 

The story caused outrage from environmental and animal welfare groups.

Darragh O’Brien took to social media on Monday saying: “I would not sign off on any pilot scheme which would involve fishermen shooting seals from a boat.” 

A spokesperson for the minister said that the department had “received hundreds and hundreds of contacts” about the issue on Monday and although the response came from the department, Mr O’Brien would not have signed off on such a pilot.

“The PQ came from this department,” the spokesperson said.

“We listen intensely to all concerns and I’m sure the department have to take concerns on board of everyone including fishermen.

“We’ve never been involved in terms of possible solutions, it’s not crossed our desk.

If a pilot was proposed (for shooting seals) it wouldn’t be sanctioned or his (O’Brien’s) thinking would be something that would involve shooting. That exact example isn’t an option for him.

“The PQ should be clarified and clarified better.” 

The spokesperson was asked repeatedly if the minister had read the response which was issued in his name, but did not answer definitively.

“We receive 90-100 parliamentary questions per day sent for response, but at the end of the day the buck stops with minister,” they said.

“That would never have got sign off and such a pilot scheme never got to his desk.

“If other options come forward it will be for him to consider.”

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