Country sports organisations meet Environment Minister

Sunnyland Beagles wreath laying group - November 2015
Sunnyland Beagles wreath laying group - November 2015

Representatives from Northern Ireland’s two main countryside organisations, Countryside Alliance Ireland (CAI) and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) met with NI Environment Minister Mark H Durkan on 19 January at Stormont.

The meeting follows the Minister’s controversial decision not to introduce the draft Snares (Northern Ireland) Order to the NI Assembly in the latter part of 2015. 

SBHC Masters at Centenary Dinner

SBHC Masters at Centenary Dinner

The draft Order had been produced by Department officials working in partnership with CAI, BASC and other stakeholders back in May 2013.

Speaking after the meeting BASC NI director Tommy Mayne said: “BASC is grateful for the opportunity to meet with the minister and his officials to discuss his decision. We briefed the Minister on the importance and effectiveness of snares, which are a valuable countryside management tool, used by farmers, gamekeepers and land managers to prevent predation by foxes. We also highlighted the fact that a snare is a restraining device, its purpose being to ‘hold’ the fox to allow humane dispatch.”

Those opposed to the use of snares, have publicly stated that snares cause horrific injuries to thousands of animals each year in Northern Ireland.

However BASC has been in contact with both the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and neither can produce any evidence to support such a claim. Given the lack of evidence, we highlighted the fact that any attempt to further regulate the use of snares in NI would be contrary to the principles of better regulation.

Meeting with Environment Minister - Robert Crofts, Ashley Graham, Mark H Durkan (Environment Minister)  and Tommy Mayne

Meeting with Environment Minister - Robert Crofts, Ashley Graham, Mark H Durkan (Environment Minister) and Tommy Mayne

Speaking after the meeting Ashley Graham of Countryside Alliance Ireland said: “CAI was delighted to meet with the Minister and his officials and to reiterate the need for the use of snares in the countryside. Having worked together with BASC NI and the Department officials for a number of years on the Snares Order, we hope common sense will prevail and we urge the minister to introduce it as soon as possible.”

Robert Crofts, a professional gamekeeper and BASC NI Committee Member was also in attendance at the meeting and he gave a first-hand practical perspective on the use of snares.

NI Firearms Licence Increases

PSNI FEB has asked us to inform our members about the increase to the existing fees which comes into effect from 22 February 2016.

Major Burgoyne

Major Burgoyne

This will minimise inconvenience to those who inadvertently submit applications with the incorrect fee, causing applications to be rejected and returned. It will also reduce the administrative burden on FEB in rejecting such applications.

To clarify – further grants for certificates expiring on or after 22 February will be required to pay the new fee. Therefore, there is no benefit to be had by certificate holders submitting ‘early re-grants’ – the fee due will be based on the expiry date of the current FAC.

In respect of other applications (grants/variations) the fee due will be based on date of receipt of the application at FEB ie prior to 22 February £50/£26 and after 22 February £98/30. To view the new fees table visit the PSNI website.

Sunnyland Beagles Celebrate Centenary

Autumn 2015 saw the Centenary of the founding of the Sunnyland Beagles by Major G. A. Burgoyne of the Royal Irish Rifles, who was recuperating from war injuries at the Sunnylands Camp near Carrickfergus in autumn 1915 and, as a keen hunting man, recognised the benefits of fitness and field craft presented by following a pack of hounds.

In 1916 Burgoyne returned to the Western Front, and his hounds were sold, the bulk of the pack transferring to Holywood where they were hunted by firstly William Grainger, and later his nephew, Terence.

Despite having to disband at the outbreak of the Second World War, Terence Grainger reformed the pack in the late 1950s, using descendants of his original hounds.

The pack, kennelled back in County Antrim since 1992, continues hunting to the present day and has enjoyed remarkable continuity, having had only a total of nine Masters through its 100 years, of whom four Joint Masters are currently in office.

The hunt marked its important anniversary in two ways. A celebratory dinner, held in October, enabled many former and present members of the hunt club, together with guests from other packs, to remember happy days across the seasons and to toast the future of the pack.

Then, on 11th November, in a more contemplative atmosphere, a poppy wreath was laid at the County Antrim War Memorial (the Knockagh Monument) to remember Major Burgoyne and those men of the Royal Irish Rifles who had hunted with the Sunnylands Hounds in their first season. From this Memorial the panoramic view encompasses five out of the six sites at which the Sunnyland hounds have been kennelled through their 100 year history.