Ploughing championship attracts record crowd of over 90,000

Increase in numbers attributed to central location in Co Laois and good weather

Bernie MacCarthy from  Kilbeggan, WestMeath, competing in the Farmerette Conventional Plough Class, at the National Ploughing Championships, at Ratheniska, Stradbally, Co. Laois. Photograph: Eric Luke

Bernie MacCarthy from Kilbeggan, WestMeath, competing in the Farmerette Conventional Plough Class, at the National Ploughing Championships, at Ratheniska, Stradbally, Co. Laois. Photograph: Eric Luke

Thu, Sep 26, 2013, 01:03

The National Ploughing Championships drew its largest ever crowd on a single day yesterday, with well over 90,000 people going through the turnstiles at Ratheniska, Stradbally, Co Laois.

This followed on a first-day record of 81,000 visitors on Tuesday – almost 30,000 more than the same day last year.

The National Ploughing Association had hoped to attract some 200,000 people to the event before the championships end today but that target will be comfortably exceeded.

National Ploughing Association spokeswoman Anna Marie McHugh said the crowds were up to four deep around the ploughing plots, something “which we’ve never seen before”.

High attendance
Her mother, NPA managing director Anna May McHugh, said every marquee was thronged and there was an extraordinarily high attendance by Ministers, TDs and MEPs. Former president Mary McAleese was also spotted among the crowds, while Taoiseach Enda Kenny will attend the event today.

Ms McHugh attributed the increase in numbers to the central location, the good weather and the preparation.

Meanwhile, the Irish Farmers’ Association criticised State bodies for their lack of commitment to buying Irish produce. The IFA surveyed 165 public bodies about their public procurement and found that 61 per cent of bodies said they bought some chicken and pork products outside the Republic.

IFA president John Bryan said the Defence Forces had “a very poor record” of buying Irish produce. “One third of its beef is sourced outside the Republic and none of its bacon is sourced here.”

He also criticised the HSE, saying the record of some Irish hospitals on buying Irish “is at odds with official HSE policy”.

Procurement
However, both the Defence Forces and the HSE said they were obliged to carry out the procurement of food products in an open and transparent manner in line with national and EU public procurement legislation.

This was echoed by Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney. “We can’t require caterers to source all of their food in Ireland, ” he said. “Let’s not forget that Ireland is a big exporter of food too and if other countries took the view that they would only consume home-based product, we would have no food and drink sector. Eighty-five per cent of everything we produce has to find a market and a consumer outside Ireland.”

Mr Coveney also said he was hoping food and drink exports would reach €10 billion this year, up from €9.2 billion last year. He said he was now consulting with farm bodies on the finer details of how the new Common Agricultural Policy reforms would be applied in Ireland.