Brendan Hegarty: Local Government Reform

Wednesday, 25 May 2016: Brendan Hegarty: Local Government Reform

Brendan Hegarty [left] with Probus President Paul Gallagher
Brendan Hegarty [left] with Probus President Paul Gallagher

Having explained the political make-up of the new Council [16 SF, 8 UUP, 6 SDLP, 5 DUP and 5 Independents] and the composition of the Executive Team, Mr Hegarty provided some interesting statistics. In relation to Northern Ireland as a whole, the district has 20% of the land area, 30% of the forests, 6.2% of the population, 5.6% of the jobs, and 11% of the businesses. FODC has some 7,340 businesses, 83% of which have 5 or fewer employees. More than 13% of the population is age 65 and over, a figure expected to increase to 20% by 2025. Although the merger of the two councils has gone smoothly it has not been without its problems. One in particular relates to the cost of refuse collection and increasingly stringent regulations on how much can go to landfill and how much must be re-cycled. Mr Hegarty then dealt a range of issues relating to the management of a public organisation which employs over 1,000 people and has an annual budget of over £30 m. He spoke about its Constitution, Corporate Plan, Themes and Priorities as well as issues to be addressed over the next three years. After taking questions on Fracking and the Strule Shared Educational Campus, Mr Hegarty was thanked for his talk by Probus member Eamon Cunningham.

Shane Rolston: Game Angling in Omagh

Wednesday, 18 May 2016: Shane Rolston: Game Angling in Omagh

Shane Rolston:  Game Angling in Omagh
Shane Rolston: Game Angling in Omagh

Mr Rolston, a Fishery Officer with the Loughs’ Agency, explained that in Omagh anglers have access to have access to 27 miles of river bank and some of the best fishing in the UK by joining Omagh Angling Association. The agency has an Education Programme which promotes angling as a healthy outdoor sport and leisure activity. He had with him a selection of rods, reels, lures and flies which he used in conjunction with video clips to demonstrate popular methods of fishing for trout and salmon. A licence to fish and permit to trespass are required and management regulations govern when a fish may be taken home for the table and when catches must be released back into the river. Rainbow trout do not breed in Irish waters and are unwelcome in our rivers when they escape from fish farms because they compete with juvenile trout and salmon. “Sustainability” is the watchword of the Loughs’ Agency. This makes room for predators such as otters, herons, kingfishers and cormorants as these indicate a healthy ecosystem. Seals occasionally follow fish up river and recently one was spotted dining on a large salmon in the river Finn. Having taken many questions Mr Rolston was thanked for a fascinating talk by club member, Kenneth Collins, himself a keen angler.

Dr Ian Humphries: Keeping Northern Ireland Beautiful

Wednesday, 11 May 2016: Dr Ian Humphries: Keeping Northern Ireland Beautiful

Dr Ian Humphries:  Keeping Northern Ireland Beautiful
Dr Ian Humphries: Keeping Northern Ireland Beautiful

Dr Hunphries began by stating that the only way to keep Northern Ireland beautiful was to inspire people to create greener and more sustainable communities. Considerable progress had been made through a variety of programmes, including Eco-Schools, Blue Flag Beaches and Green Flag Awards for institutions that had demonstrated commitment to waste reduction. He set this against a background of global warming, world population growth and declining biodiversity. In Northern Ireland over £40,000 was spent in 2015 picking up litter. In April each year teams of volunteers collect litter from selected beauty spots with over 20,000 items being recovered from some popular beaches. A change in attitudes is clearly required which is why the Eco-schools Project is so important; children are keen to engage and learn a lot by participating in the programmes encouraged by “Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful” campaign. Getting the message to a wider audience is more challenging and useful ideas have come from a public education programme in the USA called “Don’t Mess with Texas” However the slogan “Don’t Rubbish Northern Ireland” regrettably never caught on and has been replaced by “Live Her Love Here”. Dr Humphries concluded by saying that most people are now aware of the issues, and things are improving. Following a lively question and answer session he was thanked for his talk by club member Oliver Loughran.

Janice Porter: “It’s a Dog’s Life”

Wednesday, 4 May 2016: Janice Porter: “It’s a Dog’s Life”

Janice with Club Member, retired Veterinary Surgeon, Pat McParland
Janice with Club Member, retired Veterinary Surgeon, Pat McParland

Set up in 1997 Grovehill Animal Trust aims to rescue and re-home unwanted or abandoned animals in Omagh and surrounding areas. To date it has saved some 11,000 animals. The trust is a registered charity with operating costs of £8,000 to £10,000 per month, all of which depends on fund-raising by volunteers. While Grovehill does accept stray dogs and cats, Janice explained that most of their animals are brought in by pet owners no longer in a position to care for their pets and keen for a new home for their cat or dog. All animals are given a veterinary health check on arrival and any illnesses or conditions treated immediately. All undergo a comprehensive re-homing process in which the suitability of both animal and owner are assessed to ensure that both will be happy together. Janice illustrated the work which she and her team do by talking about the distressing condition in which some animals arrived and showing photos of happy healthy dogs and cats awaiting a new home. The trust works closely with the wider community to raise awareness of animal welfare issues and enjoys a good working relationship with the District Council dog wardens and animal welfare officers.