Maggie always put a smile on people’s faces, says former special adviser
In a week full of political departures, the latest long-standing figure to leave Stormont is not another representative or minister, but a cat.
While most eyes have been focused on Paul Givan’s resignation and a series of Downing Street civil servants who have quit, it has since come to light that Maggie, the last remaining ‘Stormont cat’ has left the estate.
It is understood that Maggie, who is believed to be 17 or 18 years old, has been adopted by a civil servant and is now living in the Craigavon area.
She is said to be happy and content in her new home.
A colony of cats once roamed the Stormont Estate. However, the numbers slowly dwindled, and by 2017 only three remained — Maggie, Ginger and Furby.
The trio, nicknamed the ‘securi-cats’ by former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, made the headlines in 2017 after a number of retired civil servants were banned from caring for the animals.
Despite having looked out for their furry friends for years and feeding them every day, they were denied access after being deemed a “security risk”.
Thanks to this newspaper, however, the group soon secured freedom of access to the cats once again.
In 2019, Ginger and Furbie died just weeks apart, leaving Maggie alone on the estate for the past few years.
As the final Stormont cat finally takes her leave, her departure has been described as the “end of an era.”
Maggie is of a similar age to Larry the cat, who has served as ‘chief mouser’ to the Cabinet Office at 10 Downing Street for the past 11 years.
While she may not share the fame or following of Larry’s (unofficial) social media account, Maggie is highly thought of by those who knew her.
Peter Cardwell, who previously served as a special adviser to the late Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire, said that seeing Maggie as he walked into work always brightened up his day.
He added: “I was a huge fan of the cats. I’m a cat person and I took a real interest in them soon after starting at Stormont House.
“I remember Stormont collapsing in early 2017. At that time, it was a very serious job and there weren’t too many laughs for a while.
“But just seeing the cats and talking about them, they brought a smile to people’s faces.”
“I recall having a conversation with James Brokenshire about the cats which Lord Caine, who had been a special adviser to numerous Northern Ireland Secretaries, was also listening to.
“We were walking along a corridor and he said he had learned more about the cats in the last 30 seconds than he had in all his years at Stormont House.”
It is understood that Maggie’s departure comes as the Northern Ireland Office prepares to move out of Stormont House and into a new location in Belfast city centre.