Birr game and country fair attracts 30,000


THE LARGEST gathering of Irish field sports enthusiasts since recent protests over hunting legislation was held on the Taoiseach’s doorstep in Birr, Co Offaly, at the weekend.

An estimated 30,000 people attended the fourth annual Irish Game and Country Fair at Birr Castle where experts in shooting, fishing, equine and canine sports and falconry gathered to socialise and showcase their wares.

“For our guys it is, first of all, almost a kind of pilgrimage,” said National Association of Regional Game Councils director Des Crofton.

The game fair is a highlight in the annual calendar for the 28,000 members of the association. “It is very symbolic, it represents their way of life and everything they are passionate about,” he added.

The fair is supported by Ireland’s main hunting, shooting, fishing and countryside organisations, including IFA Countryside, the Hunting Association of Ireland, Countryside Alliance Ireland, the Fisheries Boards, The Grey Partridge Project and the Deer Societies.

The recent tightening of gun laws and the introduction of new hunting and breeding legislation has led to a strengthening of organisations such as the game councils.

In 2007, the then Tánaiste, Brian Cowen officially opened Birr’s first Game and Country Fair. “I’m not sure what kind of reception he would get here today. To put it mildly, a lot cooler than he would have gotten,” said Mr Crofton.

The director of communications at the fair, Philip Lawton, said record numbers had turned out for the show. With 280 trade stands, the event is the largest gathering of shooting and fishing experts in the Republic. All accommodation in Birr and Roscrea had been booked out as a result of the fair, he said.

Mr Lawton described the fair as family orientated, attracting a cross-section of society.

“There’s a great crowd coming through and there is a great rural-urban divide. We have the biggest clay-shoot prize fund of any clay shoot in the country this year, €14,000. There are guys over for that competition from Scotland and England.”

Other attractions included a medieval village featuring crafts, medieval cooking and woodland craft. Serious competitors enjoyed canine, casting and shooting competitions while the crowd were kept enthralled by displays in horsemanship and falconry.

Offaly County Council chairman, Cllr Barry Cowen, welcomed the success of the event. “I want to congratulate them on the achievement of its growth and we look forward to its continued success,” he said.