Mud, gloom fail to dampen spirit of ploughing contest


The National Ploughing Championships concluded last night in Ferns where, despite the gloom in farming circles and bad weather, the organisers achieved the target attendance of 150,000.

Mrs Anna-May McHugh, the managing director of the National Ploughing Association, said she would resist any moves to make the event, now the largest of its kind in Europe, a weekend one.

"There would be no site in the country large enough to accommodate a weekend ploughing event like this," she said, expressing her satisfaction with this year's event.

She stated her determination to keep the championships at their current size and run them over the three midweek days.

Her problem has been keeping the event manageable, as it has trebled in size over the last 11 years.

It cost well over £1 million to stage it and, according to Mrs McHugh, the steel trackway which surrounded the trade stand area cost nearly £250,000 to hire.

She said next year's event would be held in north Cork and preparatory work had already started.

The possibility of holding the event at An Grianan in Donegal was being examined as a future option.

Among the many visitors to the site yesterday was the McCarthy Cup, which was paraded by some members of the victorious Offaly hurling team.

Its welcome was surpassed only by Maeve Binchey's, who signed copies of her new book, Tara Road, on the Irish Times stand, and made a grand tour of the site.

Mr Michael Devane, president of the Farm Tractor and Machinery Trade Association, said his members wanted the Government to make flashing beacons compulsory on any piece of farm machinery used on the roads.

He said that such beacons were compulsory on farm vehicles on the Continent but, because of the law here, they had to be removed from vehicles.

They were bringing the matter up with the Department of the Environment because of the involvement of farm machinery in recent horrendous road accidents.

Chief Supt John O'Brien, who is in charge of the Garda Traffic Bureau, confirmed that it was illegal for vehicles other than emergency ones to carry flashing beacons.

However, he welcomed the suggestion from the FTMTA and the decision by the Department of the Environment to look into the matter.

"This is the kind of interaction and suggestion that we welcome," he said.

Mr Devane said that the forecast for the trade in the coming year was encouraging. In the first five months of this year the sale of tractors had increased by 10 per cent.

He said the number of tractor units sold so far this year was 1,200 and the trade hoped that by the end of the year, 2,000 would be sold.

He said that despite the doom and gloom reports, machinery was being sold at the show and there was an air of confidence.

There was a confident prediction too from Mr Philip Halpin, chief operating officer of National Irish Bank. He expected a fall of a half per cent in interest rates within the next two weeks.

The United Farmers' Association yesterday called on the banks, co-operatives and other institutions to match the £10 million fodder relief package announced at the start of the championships by the Minister for Agriculture, Mr Walsh.

For the 12th year in succession the national senior championship was won by Martin Kehoe from Wexford. He also won the test for the national team and will represent Ireland at the world championships in France next year with Eamon Tracey of Carlow.

John Tracey, also from Carlow, was second in the national competition and in third place was Jackie O'Driscoll, Cork.