Dáil Éireann - Volume 603 - 14 June, 2005

Written Answers. - Internet Regulation.

  577. Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if action will be taken against a website (details supplied) which facilitates the shooting of live animals via the Internet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19029/05]

[1820]   Mr. McDowell:The Internet is an international phenomenon. It has no borders and no single organisation controls it. Access is easy, and regulation is difficult in view of the many jurisdictions, differences between legal systems, and variations in societal norms in different countries.

A distinction must also be made between what is illegal and what would be regarded as harmful and undesirable but not necessarily illegal. As a general rule of thumb, in Ireland, as in most jurisdictions, what is deemed to be legal off-line is legal on-line; conversely, what is illegal off-line is also illegal on-line. Difficulties arise when what is illegal in one country is not illegal in another.

With Internet operations, the Internet service provider may not be within the jurisdiction and may be providing a service which may be legal where the service is being hosted, but illegal where the service is being accessed. This is not an unusual phenomenon in Internet services and there are enormous logistical as well as legal difficulties involved in attempting to deal with such situations or in enforcing the law at user level. Attempts to fix liability at Internet service provider level are also fraught with difficulties.

Hunting of wild animals in Ireland, while controlled in some respects, is not illegal. The shooting of vermin, such as foxes, is generally permitted and even exempted wild animals, such as deer, and protected wild birds, is permitted at certain periods during the year where licensed under the Wildlife Act 1976. In the case of the activity referred to by the Deputy, regulation of hunting is a matter for the US authorities in the first instance, and although many people would regard such a website as reprehensible, there is no evidence that the activity is illegal in the United States.