The pro-hunting lobby heading up the opposition to the Green Party's animal welfare laws has spent €100,000 on its campaign, the Irish Independent reports.
Rural Ireland Says Enough (RISE) denied it had received any money from controversial developers, Mick and John Bailey, who are members of the Ward Union Hunt in County Meath.
Environment Minister John Gormley yesterday blamed RISE for stoking up the opposition to the stag-hunting ban and dog-breeding legislation.
He said he wasn't surprised by the furor as the lobby group was "putting out misleading statements and frightening the living daylights out of people in rural Ireland".
He said: "You have to remember, this is the most important point, the RISE campaign is actually very well funded. They are very powerful individuals, you are talking about the Bailey brothers and other developers. They have invested in the slickest PR campaign; (RISE spokesman Liam) Cahill is on a huge sum of money every day for his services.
"And the only way they could deflect attention away from stag hunting was by widening the debate and by putting out misleading statements and frightening the living daylights out of people in rural Ireland.
"They have succeeded in doing that, unfortunately. They have succeeded in bullying people, to use that term, and bullying, particularly, some of the backbenchers, so it has worked from that point of view, but I hope the truth will prevail."
Cahill, a public relations consultant, rejected the claims. He said RISE had spent about €100,000, which came from small voluntary donations. "There is not a euro put into this campaign by the Bailey brothers," he said. "The minister might say how much he has spent on PR and use of officials' time."
"I always thought John Gormley was a bad loser but he's a bad winner too," he said. "I work in a professional capacity -- for a rate well below what is on my website." Cahill's website says his standard fee is €135 per hour worked, plus VAT, or €950 for a seven-hour day.