Gritty farmers plough through downpour
Published 26/09/2012 | 05:00
PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has praised farmers as "real people producing real things" rather than members of the "speculative economy".
Speaking at the opening of the Ploughing Championships, which attracted 52,000 visitors to New Ross, Co Wexford yesterday, he said the event had represented "the rich tapestry of rural life" since 1931.
The President continued: "It is a great celebration of those who were not really affected by the speculative economy, upon which the chapter is now closed.
"And they are people who are producing real things with real work and producing a huge proportion of our exports."
The President said he had spent his formative years on a small farm in Co Clare, almost prior to milking machines and certainly before much of the technology that could be seen at this year's event.
The application of science and technology could be most readily seen in farming where it was applied to breeding and machinery, he said.
The Ploughing Championships were a major success story in promoting Irish agriculture, which had moved far from the days when Irish food was sold into the cheapest markets.
"Our Irish agricultural products are in the best places, in the best shops in the countries of the world because people have adapted and have valued excellence," the President said.
Persistent rain and traffic tailbacks put a dampener on the opening day of the three-day event, which nevertheless attracted around 52,000 people. However, this was significantly down on last year's record opening day attendance of 71,000.
Tailbacks of up to 12km -- particularly for traffic coming from the Waterford direction -- meant that some visitors faced lengthy delays getting to the site at Heathpark, a few miles outside New Ross.
National Ploughing Association spokesperson Anna Marie McHugh said: "We had torrential rain all morning and still people were coming in their thousands."
The weather outlook, she said, was set to improve for the remainder of the event.
She again urged people to follow recommended routes from Dublin and the midlands to avoid congestion.
Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was among those attending the ploughing yesterday.
He said that while the event was a showcase for everything rural Ireland had to offer, communities in the countryside had been hit by a plethora of cuts, causing unemployment and emigration to surge.
Public Enterprise Minister and local TD Brendan Howlin also attended to launch the Good Food Ireland experience, which involves cookery demonstrations and food tastings.