Politicians descend en masse on ploughing championships
Ministers are canvassing for a Yes vote in the Seanad referendum at Stradbally site
IFA President John Bryan and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton at the National Ploughing Championships at Ratheniska, Stradbally, Co Laois, today. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
It’s day two of the National Ploughing Championships and Government politicians have descended en masse on the site at Ratheniska, Stradbally, Co Laois to push for a yes vote in the upcoming referendum on abolishing the Seanad.
The second day of the three-day event is usually the busiest but yesterday surpassed first-day records with a bumper crowd of 81,000 – almost 30,000 more than last year.
The National Ploughing Association expects the event to attract some 200,000 people before championships end tomorrow evening.
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney predicted that this would be the busiest and best ever championships, when he visited the site early this morning.
He is canvassing for a Yes vote in the Seanad referendum with Richard Bruton, Fine Gael’s director of elections in the referendum.
Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton is also meeting farmers at the event while former Fine Gael minister for Europe Lucinda Creighton visited RTE’s stand and told broadcaster Sean O’Rourke that she would be advocating a No vote in the referendum.
Earlier Mr Coveney launched a new initiative to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in rural Ireland.
Macra na Feirme and the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) have produced a booklet highlighting the community and support for LGBT people living in rural areas.
Glen director Brian Sheehan said this was the first time a gay organisation had attended the National Ploughing Championships. It was “a landmark” moment and showed how Ireland was changing for the better.
Also at the Ploughing, Mr Coveney was asked about the findings of an IFA survey which highlighted that some public bodies did not source Irish produce.
The Defence Forces “has a very poor record in buying Irish” IFA president John Bryan said. He also said “some of the biggest offenders are hospitals whose record on buying Irish is at odds with official HSE policy”.
However Mr Coveney said bodies had to abide by public procurement rules and EU competition law.
“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. 85 per cent of everything we produce has to find a market and a consumer outside Ireland.”