Ploughing Championship attracted record crowd of 228,000

Event will return to Ratheniska, the ‘crossroads of Ireland’, next year

It was said to be the most successful National Ploughing Championships in history so there was no surprise when it was announced that the event would return to Ratheniska, Co Laois, next year.

The three-day show, held near Stradbally, attracted a record 228,000 visitors since it began on Tuesday morning and cost about €4 million to stage.

Managing director of the National Ploughing Association Anna May McHugh said the event had broken all records. “We knew that we were in the crossroads of Ireland here and we were between two major motorways and that in itself would be an invitation for people to come,” she said.

However, she said she would not like to see the event getting any bigger. “I think we’re at the stage now where we would not like to see it grow bigger. We’d like to have an event that we can manage and once it gets too big you lose sight of that, so it’s important to keep our feet well on the ground, to manage what we have and manage it well,” she said.


Some 57,000 attended the championships yesterday.

Business was brisk
Taoiseach Enda Kenny spent several hours in Ratheniska meeting ploughing competitors and visiting stands yesterday. He said there was a "distinct sense of confidence" among the people who were at the championships and business was very brisk.

Mr Kenny also noted the absence of Seán MacConnell, this paper's former agriculture correspondent who died earlier this month. He said the reports from the journalist always had a particular flavour and his presence at the championships would be missed.

Opportunity to canvass
The event was used as an opportunity to canvass on next week's two referendums with politicians from all parties making appearances over the three days.

It also marked a stepping-up of the presidential campaigns for two farm groups – the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) and the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association (ICSA).

Jer Bergin from Ballacolla, Co Laois, and Eddie Downey from Slane, Co Meath, are running for president of the IFA, while current ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin is being challenged by Leinster vice-president Patrick Kent.

The ICSA election will be held on December 12th while the IFA result will be known on December 17th.

Mr Downey (52) said the championships were “the litmus test” in the campaign. “If you get the message right here ... this election rolls on”.

His rival Jer Bergin (49) lives just 20 miles from the ploughing site and said it had been a very good three days of campaigning.

Alison Healy

Alison Healy

Alison Healy is a contributor to The Irish Times