Only a matter of months ago Wales confirmed they are now an all-scanning nation. Just days ago Scotland confirmed also! You can imagine how shocked but thrilled we were to get the confirmation that Northern Ireland has now followed suit so soon after!
As our supporters know, we have treated all corners of the UK as priority when it comes to the scanning of cats by local councils. No 1 petition could cover all 4 countries so we began campaigning in each nation with exactly the same clout.
Northern Ireland has always been tough, and that is down to the current situation at Stormont which is sadly still ongoing. However, it didn't stop us trying.
After speaking to the Ulster Unionist Party, the only party in NI to have an Animal Welfare Manifesto, it was agreed that reportable RTAs would be considered for the next manifesto. MEPs did confess they wanted to take it to a debate but the current climate won't allow it.
We began campaigning to local councils, of which 4 did not have any scanning procedure in place. We worked with Newry, Mourne & Down, Derry & Strabane and Causeway Coast & Glens. Each had some resistance, some more than others. When 2 of them confirmed they will be putting a procedure in place, we turned again to Causeway Coast and Glens to ask will they be introducing something as well. Eventually, a Bill was put forward on our behalf, to which waste management agreed to get something put in place. The only council left was Armagh, Banbridge & Craigavon who had never really had much time for us.
With just 1 council left to get a procedure in place in NI, we turned to the press in hope it would pile the pressure on them....
BBC Radio Ulster agreed to run a program on the issue and ourselves and Armagh waste staff were invited to be interviewed. Armagh stated their firm position of having no intentions of implementing a procedure....
Not long after, we got numerous messages from residents pleading we get them scanning and not to give up. Armagh had made things pretty clear and we did feel defeated in honesty. However, we spoke to some councillors after the show who were not aware of the current situation, and did promise to look more in to it although that was slow going. It seemed no amount of pressure was making them budge. We don't have a magic wand nor can we force anyone to do anything, but when people plead on messages or phone up crying, we have to somehow find that invisible notch to crank it up to because we know their pain all too well.
We contacted Julie Flaherty, Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, to remind her that the only council left in Northern Ireland to not have any procedure at all in place was hers. We expressed how the only council left in NI was UUP ran...the only political party in NI with animal welfare on their manifesto. This seemed to stir the pot....
Fast forward 3 months, and we have just had the long awaited confirmation all NI councils have a procedure in place.
As with Wales, and Scotland, this isn't the end of the story. Now we plan to work to get a 'best practice' piece out in Northern Ireland also. We are working with Ministers and Government departments currently to get a best practice document sent out to all councils, plus we are working with other scanning groups around the UK in places where we know improvements are desperately needed and this work is currently taking place. We know there are flaws in some councils systems, and we are working to identify these and try and make a difference. All is explained in our recent blog: https://www.catsmatter.org/single-post/2019/03/02/CatsMatter-and-Local-Councils