Northern Ireland

Stormont a cold house for goats

Maya Dunthorpe and her goat Stan (picture by Mark Marlow)
Image caption Maya Dunthorpe brings her goat in from the cold in the evening to watch television

A woman who was walking her pet goat on the grounds of Stormont has said she was escorted off the premises by security staff.

While it must be a huge task to keep the grass short in the rolling countryside which surrounds Northern Ireland's seat of government, it seems security staff did not want any help from Maya Dunthorpe's unusual pet.

She says she has been taking the goat for walks at Stormont for the past four months and "in the past, some of the security guards have even stopped to talk to Stan".

This time around, she says, it was a different matter.

"Park rangers pulled up in their van with the lights flashing and ordered us out of the place.

"They told us we couldn't bring him back because if he attacked someone or caused an accident, there'd be no insurance.

"They followed us to make sure we left."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Finance and Personnel, which manages the Stormont Estate, said the rules were clear.

"Under the Stormont Regulations and Government Property Act 1933, no animals other than dogs are permitted within the Stormont Estate," she said.

"These rules and regulations are displayed on all notice boards at the public entrances to the Stormont Estate."

However, Ms Dunthorpe feels she was treated harshly.

"They were dead cheeky about it: if they'd said, 'sorry you can't go in there, that's the rules,' I wouldn't have minded, but they were saying 'is that goat insured, is that dog licensed?'

"It just seems really stupid because he's not doing anybody any harm - he's a friendly big thing and he's on a lead.

"He's a bit nervous around strangers but when people come up to talk to him, he gets used to it."

She says she first got her goat to clear her "big mad overgrown garden with lots of brambles" but Stan has become more than just a garden helper.

"He's normally kept in the back garden but he comes in for a few hours every evening to watch the soaps and have a wee cuddle," she says.

"He's good friends with the dog."

And she says he knows better than to chew the sofa.

"He knows not to do that if you say no. If you tell him to lie down, he will - he's halfway to being trained."

It seems that from now on, Stan will have to get his exercise elsewhere.

"Usually I just take him and the dog down to the garage about half a mile away in the evenings," says Maya.

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