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(Updated 5/4/01)

Postponement causes committee resignations

FOOT AND Mouth disease claimed another casualty in the show scene last week with the last-minute postponement of the Newtownards & District Canine Club’s Open Show, due to have taken place at Lagan Valley Leisure Plex, Lisburn, Co.Antrim last Saturday.

The decision to call off the show was taken late on the Wednesday evening preceding the show and caused eight of the Committee to resign in protest, including the Club Secretary and President.

Iris Cummings, the Newtownards & District Secretary since 1984 told OUR DOGS the sequence of events leading up to the crucial postponement vote.

“The schedules for this show were out before Foot and Mouth started. At our usual monthly meeting on March 6th, a discussion took place as to whether the show should continue or not,” says Mrs Cummings. At this stage I had spoken to the Kennel Club, MAFF, the local Environmental Health Department and the Leisure Centre. None of them advised us to call off the show.”

Final decision

The Committee agreed that Mrs Cummings, her husband as Assistant Show Manager, Mr Ernie Patterson, Show Manager, Mrs J Wright, Treasurer and Mr E Smyth, Chairman should take a final decision on whether to go ahead or postpone on March 13th, which would still allow time for the catalogues to be printed.

“As there was only one outbreak in Ireland, in South Armagh, we decided to go ahead with the show, which had attracted over 380 dogs, all from Northern Ireland,” adds Mrs Cummings. “We had two judges due to fly in on the Friday, all other judges were local. On the Tuesday before the show, March 20th, Mr Patterson the Show Manager came to my home and we went over the order of judging and so on, and decided to carpet an area with disinfectant at the gate for cars to drive over as a precaution against foot and mouth. All arrangements were in hand.”

In the early evening of Wednesday, March 21st, Mrs Cummings received a telephone call from Mr Patterson who said that he spoken with one of the club’s Vice Presidents, Mr William Bickerstaff that the show should be called off, as there was, by this time, a suspected outbreak of foot and mouth in Co.Louth, Eire.

Mr Patterson expressed the view that there should be a telephone vote of all office bearers on the Committee, and duly undertook this task.

The vote was 14 to 8 in favour of postponement with one abstention. Mrs Cummings felt that she had put in far too much work for the show and that it was too short notice to postpone, so she tendered her immediate resignation. She was followed in this course of action by President Mr Tom Agnew, Mr Smyth, the Chairman, and five others. She also faxed the Kennel Club in London that she had resigned.

“I know that not all of the exhibitors were able to be contacted about the postponement, and a number of them turned up at the venue, only to be turned away,” says Mrs Cummings, two days’ notice of cancellation is insufficient time for both the Secretary and exhibitors, hence my decision to resign. I should also add that on the same day, there was an obedience show taking place less than two miles away, whilst an International football match took place 7 miles away at Windsor park, Belfast, with a crowd of 14,000. No problems there, it seems.”


A rumour has since circulated that pressure was brought to bear on the Club to postpone from another source. Last Saturday’s show was the last to be staged by the Club under the auspices of the Kennel Club. An application had been made to the Irish Kennel Club for affiliation and, therefore, future show licences. The IKC has cancelled all dog shows in Ireland for the foreseeable future due to foot and mouth. The rumour seems to be that it was made clear to Newtownards officials that if the show went ahead then their application for affiliation to the IKC would not be looked upon favourably.

Mrs Rita McCarrybeattie, PRO for the IKC rebutted this rumour. “I am certain that no such instruction was given to anybody in the Newtownards and District Canine Club,” she said. “It is not our business to interfere in the activities of a club affiliated to another Kennel Club.”

Newtownards Vice President William Bickersatff, now the senior member of the remaining committee members of the Club politely declined to comment until such time as there had been a committee meting later this week. A press release on the matter would be released if this were the wish of the committee to comment further.