Judge asks Offaly man in court: ‘So, you're fond of chasing birds?’
A man charged with hunting wild ducks from a moving boat was last week asked by a judge: “So, you're fond of chasing birds are you?”
Judge Seamus Hughes made the comments after hearing a case of how Noel Meenaghan, 16 Figille Manor, Clonbullogue, Co Offaly was summonsed with hunting wild birds with a mechanically propelled vehicle at Lough Kinale on September 1, 2018.
The case was brought under Section 36 of the Wildlife Act 1976.
Mr Meenaghan, who represented himself throughout the ten-minute hearing, insisted the boat in which he had been observed, was in fact stationary.
State solicitor Mark Connellan said the case did not relate to new legislation and hailed back to the 1976 Wildlife Act.
It was also pointed out to the court that while it wasn’t an offence to shoot a bird from a boat deemed to be immobile, the opposite applied if it was in transit.
That prompted Judge Hughes to offer up a wry grin from the bench before asking Mr Heenaghan: “So, you're fond of chasing birds, are you?”
The Offaly man stayed silent as Judge Hughes jokingly remarked: “I will have great fun with this case.”
Taking a more serious tone, Judge Hughes appeared to take issue with the decision by Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Minister Josepha Madigan to prosecute Mr Heenaghan.
In doing so, he likened the move to the “silly” debates which have been held in the past over the names placed on certain types of dogs
“Did you know there is no such dog called a golden labrador,” he stated.
“Golden retrievers, yes. You only have yellow labradors because the only dog that can be called golden is a retriever.
“It’s nearly as silly as not being able to follow a duck.”
Focusing his gaze at the prosecution, Judge Hughes added: “You must be scraping the bottom of a barrel.”
At that stage, a wildlife official stood up to say: “We did see a duck being shot out of a telescope.”
Mr Meenaghan, though, maintained throughout the hearing that the boat was not moving.
He said when approached by wildlife representatives, checks were made concerning certain documentation including gun licences, claiming he had been under the impression no further action would be taken.
However, the wildlife official, who was still standing and addressing the judge from the public gallery denied those claims.
“That’s not correct,” she replied.
“I said we will be sending a file up to our manager and there could be a prosecution under Section 36 (of the 1976 Wildlife Act).”
She also insisted Mr Meenaghan had been spotted with another individual with their “guns up and taking a shot.”
Mr Meenaghan rejected the allegation, however as well as further claims that he had been seen 'moving in and around wreath beds'.
“We were parked up, we were not moving in and around the wreath beds,” he responded.
Asked by Judge Hughes how many ducks were shot on the day, Mr Meenaghan said approximately six mallard and three teals.
Again Judge Hughes suggested to Mr Meenaghan he had shot the birds in order to 'put them into the deep freeze for winter'.
Mr Meenaghan played down that approach, however, insisting his visits to the area were in the region of twice a year.
The case was adjourned and is set to return before Longford District Court on May 28 2019.