Stormont-ban Edna back feeding cats thanks to Tele
An east Belfast pensioner who was banned from feeding a trio of cats at Stormont House after being deemed a "security risk" has secured freedom of access, thanks to the Belfast Telegraph.
Last week, we revealed how 76-year-old Edna Watters and her friends Carol and Ron Edmondson had been denied access to feed Ginger, Furby and Maggie, dubbed 'The Stormont Three', amid security concerns due to the ongoing 'paw-litical' talks.
Despite having cared for their furry friends for years, come rain, hail or shine, the retired civil servants were denied access to the moggies.
The ban led to a public outcry and the launch of two petitions objecting to heavy-handedness by 'securocats'.
The Belfast Telegraph took the fight to the highest levels of government, with Secretary of State James Brokenshire being grilled on why the pensioners were being denied entry.
On Thursday, it appeared that Edna and her friends had secured victory after temporary access was granted.
However, Edna has now revealed that she and her friends were prevented from feeding the cats over the weekend, and that permanent access was only secured yesterday following a meeting with Stormont security.
"They put forward health and safety arguments again and then they said that with events on at the weekends I would have to walk up the hill to feed the cats", Edna continued.
"I asked how they expected a 76-year-old woman with arthritic knees to walk up that hill in two foot of snow when all the security guys have to do is to search my car?
"They then went away to speak to senior people and it was resolved. They wouldn't give me written permission, but we are going to be allowed in to feed the cats on Saturdays and Sundays."
Edna says she is "delighted" that she will be allowed to continue to safeguard her favourite felines, and presented the Belfast Telegraph with a letter of thanks.
"It's a whole burden that has been lifted off me," she said. "This isn't the first time we have had this problem; it has been ongoing for 25 years, but now I've been assured that there will be no future problems.
"We call the cats our wee babes; Furby is about 23, Maggie is about 12 and Ginger would be about 10. Now we are confident that they can enjoy the rest of their lives in happiness and they will be well-fed. I just want to get on and look after the babes without any more hassle."
Determined Edna paid a heartfelt tribute to everyone who has supported her campaign.
"The support has been absolutely wonderful, we have had support online from Belfast to Vietnam and I really want to thank everyone who came on board, including the Belfast Telegraph for bringing our plight to the attention of the public," she continued. "We didn't expect such a level of support, from politicians to charities. Everybody has been totally positive."
The moggies also received high-profile assistance from former First Minister Arlene Foster.
"Arlene was taking a break from the talks one day and she came out and I told her about the cats and she gave me a contact, so that's how it started," Edna revealed.
"Without her help this wouldn't have got off the ground. I would like to thank her and the other MLAs who supported us as well as the animal charities, people who signed the petitions, Stormont House staff, estate staff and security staff."
A Department of Finance spokesperson said: "Arrangements have been made that will allow the three people to access the area and continue to feed the cats."