Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s All Party Group on Country Sports recently visited one of Northern Ireland’s leading game shoots at the Baronscourt Estate in County Tyrone.
The visit was arranged by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC NI) and the estate.
MLAs were given a tour of the estate and its Approved Game Handling Establishment (AGHE) before trying their hand at clay target shooting.
They were then given an insight into BASC’s Taste of Game campaign before being served a game lunch featuring pheasant and venison.
The Group included Patsy McGlone (SDLP) Vice Chair of the All-Party Group; Paul Givan (DUP) Justice Committee Chair; Edwin Poots (DUP), member of the Justice Committee; Tom Elliot (UUP) Justice Committee member and Jonathan Craig (DUP), Chair of the NI Policing Board Performance Committee.
The group discussed significant issues affecting lawful shooting and firearms ownership in NI. These included the economic, conservation and social contribution which shooting makes; access to supervised shooting and tuition for young people and proposals to increase firearms licensing fees.
Also on the agenda was the need to review the requirement for people travelling from GB to shoot in NI to apply for a PSNI certificate of approval six weeks before their travel date, which can damage tourism opportunities.
The group also discussed the significant impact that the implementation of an EU firearms directive could have on registered firearms dealers in NI.
The MLAs were also told about a recently-launched deer stalking scheme for BASC members at Baronscourt. This helps the estate to manage its wild deer population and provides shooting opportunities to BASC members.
Speaking during the visit, Patsy McGlone MLA, Vice Chair of the All Party Group, said: “This has been a very useful opportunity for the group to enhance their understanding of game shooting in NI and hear more about the issues of concern to firearms owners, registered dealers and providers of high-quality shooting opportunities. Importantly, we also heard about the many conservation benefits that shooting brings and the £28 million pounds which the sport contributes to the NI economy annually.”
Tom Elliot MLA said: “This was a great opportunity for MLAs to get out of Stormont and to see how a game shoot works in practice. It was also good to see the estate’s Approved Game Handling Establishment and the care with which game is handled and processed. We were pleasantly surprised to hear that some of the game shot on the estate is on sale at Fortnum and Mason’s in London.”
Tommy Mayne, BASC NI director said: “It is important that politicians are given the chance to learn first-hand about the different aspects of shooting in NI. BASC would like to thank everyone at the Baronscourt Estate who helped to provide this opportunity.”
The Duke of Abercorn KG, who hosted the event, said: “We were pleased to welcome members of the All Party Group to Baronscourt. We hope the visit provided MLAs with an invaluable insight into the daily operations and challenges involved in modern estate management.”
“It is important that our political representatives have a good understanding of the practical aspects of shooting sports and I am grateful to BASC NI for working with us to provide that opportunity, something we sincerely hope will become an annual event.”
Pictured is Matt Stuart (Baronscourt Estate Manager), Edwin Poots, Paul Givan, Jonathan Craig, Stephen Pollock (Head Gamekeeper), Tom Elliot (Justice Committee) Tommy Mayne and Patsy McGlone.
Thumbnail shows: Paul Givan (Justice Committee Chair) Edwin Poots (Justice Committee) His Grace the Duke of Abercorn, Patsy McGlone (Justice Committee and Vice Chair of the APG; Johnathan Craig, (Chair of the NI Policing Board’s Performance Committee)