FERMANAGH & South Tyrone MLA Lord Morrow has been elected Chairman of the newly formed All Party Group on Country Sports.
He said, “As a keen follower and participant of shooting and fishing, both of which I been involved in since a teenager, I was honoured to be chosen to chair this Assembly all-party group.
“Along with the British Association of Country Sports (BASC), who are providing secretariat services and advice, the cross-party group’s aims are to promote and foster field sports of the rural community and make them appealing and accessible for all.
“One of the priorities will be to press for enhanced service in the area of Firearms Licences and the decline of field sports suppliers. Obtaining licences and in some cases renewals, is taking too long and this needs to be addressed. This requires a dedicated team within the PSNI who understand the shooting calendar and enthusiast, whilst obviously taking on board the health and safety aspects. The delay is affecting those who wish to shoot as well as those who supply shooting equipment, many of whom are simply unable to sustain their businesses.
“In an era when everything seems to rotate around computers and therefore indoor pastimes, I feel any initiative which gets people, particularly young people, outdoors and engaged in disciplined individual and team activity is to be welcomed.
“The All Party Group is an exciting development, and I am very much looking forward to my tenure as Chairman, and working collectively with all on board.”
The group will provide a forum for politicians to discuss issues affecting country sports and the contribution they make to conservation, rural life, tourism and the economy.
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation in Northern Ireland (BASC NI) will provide the secretariat for the group which will be under the chairmanship of Lord Morrow (DUP). The group has been established in order to “Develop, foster, promote and protect country sports and conservation activities across Northern Ireland, recognising the social, economic and cross-community benefits”.
Tommy Mayne, director of BASC NI said: “It was clear from the outset that there is significant interest in the all-party group. More than twenty elected members agreed to join before the inaugural meeting. This first meeting provided an opportunity for BASC to highlight the value of country sports to the economy and the potential for growing tourism in the sector. We also looked at firearms licensing and the potential for a recreational deerstalking scheme to help with deer management on Forest Service Woodland.
Lord Morrow (DUP) was elected as chairperson of the group. Danny Kinahan (UUP) was elected vice chairperson. Francie Molloy (SF) was elected secretary and Patsy McGlone (SDLP) nominated as treasurer. Members of the group accepted an invitation from Paul Givan, MLA for Lagan Valley, to attend the National Country Sports Fair in Moira on the 25th and 26th of May.