With record-breaking crowds, occasional sunshine and no rain, the Tullamore Show was marred only by the "shameful" absence of any Government Ministers on Sunday.
The largest one-day agricultural show in Ireland, the Tullamore Show and AIB National Livestock Show has cemented its place as one of the most important events in the agricultural calendar. Organisers said this year's attendance figures were record breaking at the 260-acre Butterfield Estate on the outskirts of Tullamore, Co Offaly.
Over 60,000 visitors soaked up the atmosphere enjoying everything from fashion shows and cookery demonstrations to livestock competitions and farm machinery.
Vice-president of the European Parliament, Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness stressed the importance of farming for Ireland and Europe as she officially opened the show. Ms McGuinness promised to convey the message to Europe that "Ireland is rooted in the soil and how important it is for us".
She said it was important that “those who might have drifted from those roots understand and appreciate the value of agriculture, of farming, of food production, not just for our country but for the European Union”.
However, the message appeared to have been lost on her party colleagues. Although local Fine Gael TD Marcella Corcoran Kennedy was in attendance, there were no Government Ministers at this year’s show.
Sinn Féin spokeswoman on rural affairs Carol Nolan described the absence of a Government Minister as shameful. She noted guests at the event included Chinese ambassador Dr Yue Xiaoyong, Australian ambassador Richard Andrews and Italian ambassador Giovannis Braccesi and economics secretary from the British Embassy, Nicola Awford.
“The fact that the Government Ministers haven’t been here today I think is shameful. I think the Minister for Agriculture definitely should be here because there are huge issues facing farming families,” she said. In particular, Ms Nolan mentioned delays in TAMS and GLAS schemes and cited issues relating to the Fair Deal scheme.
“Today is a celebration of rural life at its very best. The farming community are the backbone of our economy and always have been and I feel that the value of farmers is often underestimated,” added Ms Nolan.
Tullamore Show spokesman Christy Maye described the event as a "shop window for Irish agriculture, probably the best livestock in Ireland if not Europe". For a country seeking to access and expand new markets, Mr Maye said, "It is a great honour for us to have the Chinese ambassador, the Australian ambassador and the Italian ambassador."
Ms McGuinness said, “I hope our excellencies from far and wide will be looking at the quality of our stock here,” as she praised Irish farmers for their hard work. She stressed the importance of maintaining relations with the UK ahead of Brexit. “I would ask our UK partners to think beyond their own borders and to understand that decisions they take will have consequences not just for us as near neighbours and friends, but for Europe and indeed globally,” she said.
"The clock is ticking towards Brexit and by March 2019 the United Kingdom will no longer be members of the European Union but I do believe that it will still be part of a transitional arrangement and I think that is very important for our industry, that we don't have a sudden departure with no structure in place," she said.