Passion will help put us back on map, says McAleese
AS new figures showed a surge in Irish food and drink exports, President Mary McAleese said the Ploughing Championships showed what the country was capable of achieving.
Opening the three-day event in Athy, Co Kildare, yesterday, President McAleese told the record opening-day crowd of 66,000 people that by their presence they were "creating an inspirational sign" of what the country could achieve.
"There is a big statement in this place about the faith and pride we have in ourselves and the hopes we have of putting our country back on the map of economic progress and prosperity.
"We will do it between us and we will do it for our children. Please God we'll see the evidence of that very soon because the passion is there and the pride is there," she said.
President McAleese praised the massive community effort to transform a working farm into a temporary city complete with traffic management, entertainment, restaurants, exhibits, competitions, information points and meeting places.
"Despite the tough economic climate, you have brought to these fields not just a brand-new temporary capital of rural Ireland, but a visible and inspirational sign of what we are capable of achieving when we pull together."
The National Ploughing Association said yesterday's 66,000-strong attendance was a record for a first day, up 20,000 on last year's opening day at the same location, a fact it attributed to the good weather.
With heavy rain forecast for today and the ground already quite heavy around the site, it looked likely many visitors chose to attend yesterday while it was still dry.