Video: National Ploughing Championships begins

Three-day event is the largest show of its type in Europe

President Michael D Higgins opened the 82nd National Ploughing Championships at Ratheniska, outside the Co Laois village.

Tue, Sep 24, 2013, 19:35

All roads are leading to Stradbally today where President Michael D Higgins opened the 82nd National Ploughing Championships at Ratheniska, outside the Co Laois village.

The National Ploughing Association says the three-day event is the largest show of its type in Europe and it expects to attract up to 200,000 people this year. Mr Higgins said attending the championships was one of the highlights of his year as it conjured up a world that reminded him of his formative years living on a small farm in Newmarket on Fergus, Co Clare.

He said the act of ploughing evoked the rich symbolism of renewal and fruitfulness. “As we are facing into the next year with a renewed sense of optimism, I share the hope of everyone here that the sod we are turning over will deliver a bountiful harvest.”

Earlier Mr Higgins visited the ploughing plots and spoke to ploughing competitors before declaring the championships open just after noon. The expected sunshine did not make an appearance this morning but the ground was dry underfoot and most visitors had opted for shoes, instead of wellingtons.

Gardaí were prepared for a crowd of more than 80,000 today and said they were very happy with the traffic management so far. They have advised motorists to avoid using their sat-navs to access the site as the devices will conflict with the recommended traffic routes. The traffic management plan includes six main access routes and all will be clearly signposted. Traffic from Cork should exit at Junction 4 (Urlingford/Johnstown) on the M8. Traffic from Dublin, Leinster and the North should exit at Junction 15 (Cappakeel) on the M7. Traffic from Limerick, Kerry and the South West should exit at Junction 17 (Togher) on the M7 while traffic from other areas should follow the “Ploughing” signs.

This year’s event is being hosted by the family of David and Shirley Carter. They have provided 120 acres, while up to 600 acres is being provided by neighbouring farms.

This year’s championships will host its biggest ever gathering of international visitors, including a group of pig meat buyers from China and BBC radio and television crews.

A new community text alert initiative was launched at the event by An Garda Síochána, the IFA, Muintir na Tíre and Neighbourhood Watch. It will see gardaí work with the organisations to prevent crime.

Speaking at the launch, the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said the emphasis was on preventing crime through active partnerships with communities “and it is with the continued assistance of communities nationwide that we can all continue to combat crime”.

IFA president John Bryan said gardaí would work with the farm organisation’s branch officer structure around the country, to let people know of suspicious activity in an area. Branch officers would also pass on information to gardaí.