Number of legal silencers for firearms up 20% in two years

The following article appeared in the Irish Times Online on Monday 10th May 2021

There are over 15,000 legal silencers for firearms in private hands in the State, according to newly-released figures, a 21 per cent increase in two years.

Silencers, which are sometimes known as “moderators”, are devices fitted to firearms to reduce the noise they make. In some instances they are also used to reduce recoil.

In Ireland they are typically used by farmers and vermin-control workers, and are becoming increasingly popular for the hunting of rabbits, deer and foxes.

Despite strict rules on their ownership there currently are 15,723 active licenses for silencers in Ireland, according to figures released to Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin Bay South Jim O’Callaghan.

In 2019 that figure was 12,953, meaning silencer ownership has increased by 21 per cent in two years. This is against a background of a broad decline in the number of licenses being issued for firearms.

Silencers are defined in law as “any devices fitted or capable of being fitted to firearms for the purpose of moderating or reducing the sound made on their discharge ”.

Anyone wishing to obtain a silencer must apply to their local chief superintendent and show they have good reason for owning one. Legally the devices are regarded as a restricted firearm in their own right, and illegal ownership is a serious criminal offence.

Illegal handgun silencers are sometimes used by criminal gangs in assassinations, including in several murders or planned murders during the Hutch-Kinahan feud.

There were 45 illegal silencers seized by gardaí between 2013 and 2017, according to the most recent figures available.

Licenses for silencers are most commonly granted for small calibre rimfire rifles used for hunting rabbits and other small animals regarded as pests to farmers. “This allows the shooter to shoot other animals who are not alarmed by the low report of the rifle,” a Garda guidance document states.

However, gardaí are discouraged from issuing licenses for less numerous and less social animals such as foxes.

The use of silencers for deer-hunting has become popular in recent years. Their use means a herd is less likely to flee if the hunter misses their first shot.

However, gardaí are advised they must take into consideration the safety implications of a silencer in areas where other people, such as walkers, foresters and farmers, may not be aware a firearm is being used.

According to the Garda guidance, shooters are also increasingly using silencers for target practice to reduce noise pollution. However, as ear protectors can be worn on firing ranges, “it is necessary to weigh the disadvantages of the use of a silencer against this benefit,” the document states.

“Ultimately it is a matter for the issuing person to satisfy him/herself that each applicant has demonstrated ‘good reason’ when seeking an authorisation for a silencer for their firearm.”

There are roughly 190,000 legally-held firearms in Ireland. This is down significantly from a decade ago when there were about 220,000.

Conor Gallagher, Irish Times.



Following on issues of delay in the processing of Deer Hunting Licence Application for the 2020-2021 Season, The Wildlife Licensing Unit of National Parks & Wildlife Service has issued a plea for assistance from stakeholders, to avoid delays arising again in relation to DHLs for the season 2021-2022.

Some applicants have sent in duplicate or multiple licence applications, giving rise to difficulties in processing those applications.

WLU have asked that applicants:

1: Double check that the application is completed in full with no errors before emailing or posting it in to NPWS, sending in two or three versions of an application can lead to the application being issued on foot of the first application received or it being returned to you for amendment when you have already sent in another version.

2: Don’t send the application by post and by email, please choose one method.

3: Don’t send the application in by email more than once. Applicants will receive an automated acknowledgement email, if applicants don’t receive this email they should check other folders first to make sure it didn’t go in there such as spam, promotions etc. Sending in any application four or five times by email is causing confusion, delaying the processing and it may result in errors.








SMARTDEER is a research project developed by Laboratory of Wildlife Ecology and Behaviour at University College Dublin and funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine. Its objective is to lead the first nationally-coordinated initiative for deer monitoring in Ireland by collecting and analysing empirical data across the country that will help landowners and deer managers to make evidence-based decisions in relation to control and management of wild deer. The project is led by Simone Ciuti, UCD assistant professor of Wildlife Biology at UCD.

The starting point for the project is the fact that neither the up-to-date precise distribution nor the population density of the four species of deer is currently known, and no national coordination in the collection of deer data exists. Meanwhile, recent advances with technologies such as smartphone applications or digital deer mapping surveys have not been implemented for Irish deer so far, and the project aims at filling these gaps by introducing tools that will allow national deer monitoring in real time. The survey is intended to produce up-to-date knowledge of deer distribution across Ireland using expert stakeholder and community-based knowledge. The survey aims to fill data gaps from the last five years (2015-2020) by conducting a baseline survey. Once this baseline data has been collected, the survey will be run annually to track changes in deer distribution in real-time.

There are two elements to the project.

The first is a national survey to which anyone can contribute, by recording sightings of wild deer wherever and whenever they may occur. Participants in the survey first provide some basis information and then record sightings on a real-time map, saving information as they along and remitting the completed survey to a central databank of returns. All information provided is protected by General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

The second element is the smartphone application, SmartDeer, developed for stakeholders to conduct systematic surveys for deer while outdoors and at home., including a record of deer seen or shot.

The smartphone application is currently collecting deer presence and deer density data, culling returns and random sightings among the others. This is an efficient way to guarantee that deer data are collected throughout Ireland into the future.

The app is available on Google Play and App Store under the name SmartDeer.

For detailed information on the project, click here.

(Resources available include Smartphone application & web survey tutorials, Utube video presenting the project to the broader audience, a Powerpoint presentation that is currently delivered to stakeholders and a short paper with details on the SmartDeer project)

To participate in the survey, click here.

To download the SmartDeer phone app, click here (smartphone) or here (iphone).


The British Deer Society have recently updated the BDS Deer app for iPhones and Android ‘phones, which now includes the addition of What3Words for location tagging and an interesting option for logging locations for tagging of deer sightings (UK only). Users of the app can report deer sightings, road casualties, harvest data and more. The app carries an amount of useful information across jurisdictions including deer species, identification and treatment of ticks and Lyme disease, a deer tracking trail record, location-based sunrise and sunset times, and more besides.

To download the BDS Deer App, click here.

For information on What3Words and to download, click here.

Minister Noonan opens applications for the 2021/2022 Deer Hunting Season and welcomes hunters back to the countryside to support sustainable deer management







The following statement has today 15th March 2021 been published by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage

“The National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has announced that application forms and guidance notes for the 2021/2022 Deer Hunting Season are now available on the NPWS Website .

The NPWS is striving to ensure that all applications are dealt with in a timely manner and has put in place measures to ensure the least amount of disruption, despite the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions. Applications can now be emailed or posted using the appropriate application form and, similar to last season, there will be no requirement for a landowner’s signature but landowner details must be provided on the application form.

Commenting on the need for a smoother application process and welcoming hunters back to the countryside, Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan, T.D., said:

“Last year was extremely challenging in terms of the administration of deer hunting licences due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, we have made changes to ensure a smoother process and are confident that we will be able to deal with the demand the 2021/2022 season will bring. We’ve all had our movement curtailed due to the pandemic and hunting activity last season was greatly reduced. As restrictions ease, I’d like to welcome hunters back to the countryside and encourage anyone with an interest in hunting to engage with the relevant groups. Deer populations are abundant across much of the country, and in some places can cause extensive damage to habitats, native woodlands, commercial timber forests and arable crops. For many years, I’ve been a committed vegetarian and animal rights activist. However, I also believe that responsible hunting, with the correct training, oversight, equipment and – of course – licence can reduce pressures on biodiversity and have an overall positive impact on nature by helping to manage deer populations at a sustainable level, in the absence of predators.”

Minister Noonan also reaffirmed his commitment to introducing mandatory certification training for first-time hunters:

“My Department is committed to introducing mandatory certification training for first-time hunters. It had been intended to introduce it for the 2021/22 season but unfortunately, this project, like so many others across all sectors of society, has had to be deferred due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Much work has gone on behind the scenes to put the foundations in place for this project and this requirement will be introduced once it is viable and safe to do so for all concerned, and my Department will make sure it is delivered to the highest standard possible.”    

Under the Wildlife Acts, annual licences are required to hunt deer during the Open Season, which is the period during which deer can be legally shot. The Open Season for deer operates generally from 1 September in a given year to 28 February the following year, depending on the species and gender of deer. About 5,500 deer hunting licences are issued each season, of which in the region of 1,000 are first-time applicants”.






Applications for Deer Hunting Licences for the 2021/2022 season, under Section 29 (1) of the Wildlife Act 1976 to 2018, are now available on the National Parks & Wildlife Service website. Application for the DHL can be made online.

Click here for a link to the NPWS website.

The following documents including full instructions can now be accessed:

  • Email Application Form
  • Manual Application form
  • Guidance Note
  • Wild Deer Open Season Dates






The Wildlife Licencing Unit of National Parks & Wildlife Service, Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, has today announced that mandatory certification for first-time applicants for the Deer Hunting Licence (DHL) has been postponed and is now set for the Season 2022-2023 and not for 2021-2022 as previously announced.

The reason given was “the ongoing impacts of the Covid 19 pandemic”. No further explanation has been provided.

This can be seen as a major setback to any question of mandatory certification, and raises a  question mark over official commitment to safe, efficient and humane management of wild deer by competent and certified licensed hunters.

Deer Alliance HCAP has campaigned for training, assessment and certification since establishment in 2003, in partnership and with the support of all relevant stakeholders including NPWS, Coillte, Forest Service and different deer organisations.

Deer Alliance HCAP remains committed to the principle of the safe, efficient and humane management of wild deer by competent and certified licensed hunters, through training, assessment and certification of committed hunters, despite this setback.





National Parks & Wildlife Service have confirmed that Deer Hunting Licence (DHL) application forms will NOT be posted out individually to existing licence holders this year, as would be usual. Instead, application forms will shortly be available to download from the NPWS website.

NPWS have also confirmed that individual landowner permissions will NOT be required this year.

These changes arise from the impact of Covid 19 on the operation of the NPWS Wildlife Licensng Unit.

First-time applicants for the DHL will still be required to provide evidence of landowner permission, as well as evidence of HCAP certification or equivalent.

See NPWS statement here.

See also NPWS statement on mandatory certification for first-time DHL applicants, published on 13th March 2020 here.








The Irish Deer Commission has reported on its recent discussions with Coillte Teoranta, at which Coillte advised on processes now in place in relation to disruption of hunting activities on Coillte forest property as a result of Covid travel and other restrictions.

In what must be seen as a major concession on the part of Coillte, both deer hunting and bird shooting licence holders will benefit from financial relief where they had paid in full or in part for licences held from Coillte for the Season 2020-2021.

The following concessions will apply:

Recreational hunters – not allowed to cross county boundary or limited by 5 km travel restriction: if the 2020-2021 licence fee was paid in 2020, licensees will benefit from no charge for the 2021-2022 season. If the 2020-2021 licence fee was not paid, licensees will pay for the 2021-2022 season in full. This is regardless of whether hunting was limited or restricted at different levels of lockdown.

Licences expiring at end of 2020-2021 season: if Season 2020-2021 was paid in full, licensees will enjoy a one-year extension to the licence for the 2021-2022 season free of charge. If the licensee doe not want an extension to the licence in question, the area will be put up for tender and the outgoing licensee, who paid but could not shoot, will receive a credit on any other tender offer on which they are successful. It would appear that no cash rebates will be made.

Licences expiring at end of 2020-2021 season but not paid: if 2020-2021 was not paid for, the licensee will receive a one-year extension but with no discount. The licence fee must be paid, otherwise the licence will be put up for tender in 2021.

Licensees hunting on licensed areas with Section 42 DHLs: no concessions will be made as such licensees and permit holders could shoot without breach of Covid regulations.

Separate arrangements are in place for holders of commercial licences.
It is assumed that individual licence holders will be communicated with by Coillte.








Coillte Teoranta have indicated that a roll-out of HAMS to all Coillte Licensees and Permit Holders will begin in March 2021, for implementation during the Season 2021-2022 and beyond.

While primarily aimed at management of hunting on large estates offering commercial shooting, there are crossover benefits for the individual hunter. HAMS collects data from hunters to assist in the management of shooting and thus has implications for licensees and permit holders on Coillte forest property. HAMS operates through a ‘phone app, to be downloaded by the user.

Find more information on HAMS HERE.