Ploughs and politics mix in Athy
The sheer volume of traffic to the National Ploughing Championships near Athy this morning strained the special Garda traffic plan to the limit as it has turned out to be one of the largest attendances at the opening day in the history of the event.
Some visitors found it took nearly two hours to get on to the site as an estimated 80,000 came to enjoy Ireland's farming festival being held on a 600 acre site near the Kildare town.
The event was formally opened by President Mary McAleese, who said the championships was a symbol of the vitality and ability of Irish people to work together to make a better future and to enjoy themselves.
She described the giant tented site as a brand new temporary capital of rural Ireland and said it was a visible and inspirational sign of what we are capable of achieving when we pull together.
The championships in recent times has been a magnet for politicians and this year is no different.
With 17 national ploughing competitions and a European competition to be decided, there are 300 ploughmen and women taking part in the championships, which continue until Thursday evening.
At least three Government ministers are due on the grounds this afternoon and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams are also on site.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen is due on Thursday and the Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore will be attending tomorrow.
While the Minister for Agriculture, Brendan Smith, failed to announce the early payment of the Single Farm Payment today, it is confidently expected he will bring the good news of the early payout when he
visits the site tomorrow morning.
The Government was given the full support of the farming community by the Irish Farmers Association today in meeting the the Government’s targets for growth in the agricultural sector.
Its president, John Bryan said if the government gave clear direction and policy supports and schemes were funded, the farming community was ready and willing to meet the government targets.