Residents of Rathdrum are to send a clear message to Bray Hunt - they are not welcome in their town any more. While the local development association has no problem with the hunt taking place, as no live foxes are chased, they are demanding that participants stop parking on their green areas and blocking up gateways and paths with their jeeps.
Local people are outraged at the 'trail of destruction' which is left in the wake of the hunt every time it visits Rathdrum. They maintain they are never informed that the hunt is coming and don't know who to complain to when they have a problem with it.
Rathdrum Development Association decided at a recent meeting that they were not going to accept it any more and are to make a complaint to Bray Hunt informing them they are not welcome.
The move has surprised Bray Hunt, who say that if anyone has been offended they can only apologise. They say someone cleans up after them each time and over the years they have donated money to local charities.
The issue came to a head following the latest hunt which took place just before Christmas. Participants parked on the Fairgreen and along Gilbert's Row blocking traffic. Horse manure and straw was left behind when they went home, angry residents said.
The January meeting of the RDA resolved to locate members of the hunt's committee and write to them detailing their problems.
Chairman of the RDA, Jimmy Olohan, said that the general consensus of the meeting was that the hunt should be told that members were not welcome in Rathdrum any more.
Mr Olohan said that there were now a lot more houses in the Gilbert's Row and Fairgreen areas that there were when the hunt first started coming to Rathdrum and the people of that area were annoyed.
He felt they needed a large yard to park in a location out of the town centre. 'We don't mind them hunting here. They're not hunting a live fox but it's the way they park in that area and the mess they leave behind them that we mind,' he stated.
Some local people maintained that Bray Hunt had promised a donation to the local Special Olympics organisation, however, they accept that the hunt did sponsor a rider with disabilities nationally.
Local county councillor and vice chairman of the RDA, Jimmy O'Shaughnessy, said the participants arrive in Rathdrum and park their jeeps and trailers everywhere, including on green areas. 'They park all over the place and leave a trail of destruction behind them,' he stated.
'I wouldn't accept the way they left the place and last year it was worse. We don't know who's in charge so we don't know who to complain to,' he said.
Rathdrum Tourist Office supervisor, May Byrne, was in the RDA Hall when the hunt arrived. 'They came in unannounced. One man drove his jeep onto the grass. We will tolerate people parking in the town but not on the grass because we have to keep the grass,' she commented.
Local resident, Valery Willers, had a close shave while walking her dogs with a neighbour. Between them they had six dogs and had to dash for safety as a hunt outrider warned them that the hounds would attack their dogs if they did not get off the road.
'This is the second year this has happened to me,' she recalled. 'They told us to get off the road now as if we had no right to be there.'
The chairman of Bray Hunt, John Fitzpatrick, said that his organisation sponsored a disabled athlete in the 2003 Special Olympics. He pointed out that they also contribute funds to St. Colman's Hospital in Rathdrum and to Newcastle Hospital.
He said that as far as he knew, people returned to the area to clean up after the hunt the next day.
Hunt secretary, Mary Gallagher, said that the person who organised the hunt went back to sweep up afterwards. She said that they also insisted that people did not park or drive over green areas.
'If anyone has been offended, we can only apologise,' she commented.