Sinn Féin has been forced to defend its stance on hunting, after it opposed a Bill that would have banned the practice in Northern Ireland.
The party has come under repeated criticism in the last 24 hours and has been asked to clarify whether its position in consistent in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
A proposed Bill to ban hunting with dogs in Northern Ireland was defeated on Monday in the Stormont Assembly.
The region remains the only part of the UK where hunting wild mammals with dogs is still permitted.
Thirty-eight MLAs voted for the bill on Monday, while 45 voted against.
Sinn Féin opposition to the bill came under scrutiny on Tuesday.
In a statement, Sinn Féin agriculture spokesperson Declan McAleer said that his party “opposes the unnecessary infliction of cruelty to animals”.
“Our party position – north and south – is that regulation, not a ban, is the best approach.
Sinn Fein siding with the majority of the DUP & Jim Allister in supporting the continuation of a barbaric bloodsport that should be banned already is shocking but unsurprising. Sinn Fein needs to get their act together on fox hunting in Ireland and tell people where they stand. pic.twitter.com/Xb16r23KHQ
— Colum Eastwood (@columeastwood) December 7, 2021
“However Sinn Féin believes the Private Members Bill was unworkable, flawed and rushed and in the time we have left in this mandate amending it sufficiently was not possible.
“We have no doubt this issue will be revisited in the next mandate when time can be set aside to examine the issue in the round.”
Sinn Féin last week put forward a bill that would outlaw the exploration and extraction of petroleum by fracking.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood posted a video on Twitter on Tuesday evening, in which he described the Sinn Féin stance as “disappointing”.
“It’s really bemusing, given the fact that Sinn Féin in the South say that they want to ban fox hunting but not in the North. There’s a pattern here developing of Sinn Féin having one position in the south and one position in the north.
“But people can see right through it,” Mr Eastwood said.
“Sinn Féin need to get their act together and have one position across this island and that position has to be to urgently ban this barbaric bloodsport.”
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long also questioned the party’s decision to oppose the Bill.
In a tweet on Tuesday, she said: “The more they try to explain, the more incomprehensible SF’s decision becomes.”
But that's not the policy north and south? At least not according to the party president @MaryLouMcDonald anyway.
The more they try to explain, the more incomprehensible SF's decision becomes...#HuntingBan https://t.co/An8Dxa2FgO pic.twitter.com/xGrA04B7PR
— Naomi Long MLA (@naomi_long) December 7, 2021
Hunting with dogs has been banned in England, Scotland, and Wales since the early 2000s.
The Bill gained significant support during a public consultation with nearly 80% of the 18,000 respondents in favour of a ban.
Northern Ireland animal welfare charity USPCA, said it was disappointed with the vote on Monday.
Chief executive Brendan Mullan said the result was “contrary to the views of the public”.
Gary McCartney, director of Countryside Alliance Ireland, welcomed the result.
“We have been clear from the start that today’s bill was anti-rural and dangerous,” he said.