Monday 3 August 2015

Virginia's pioneers show the way

Cavan town gets ready for grand opening of its modern Agricultural Society complex

Published 23/07/2014 | 02:30

A view of the new Show Grounds in Virginia, Co Cavan, as seen from the new show centre with (from left) Sean Farrelly (Virginia Show Society President) Eamon O`Connell (Chairman Virginia Show Centre) Kathleen Duffy (Treasurer Virginia Show Centre)  Duffy and Yvonne Kilkenny (Press Officers)
A view of the new Show Grounds in Virginia, Co Cavan, as seen from the new show centre with (from left) Sean Farrelly (Virginia Show Society President) Eamon O`Connell (Chairman Virginia Show Centre) Kathleen Duffy (Treasurer Virginia Show Centre) Duffy and Yvonne Kilkenny (Press Officers)
Ben Cooney from Ballymachugh, Cavan, at last year's Virginia Show.
Matt Tynan, of Glanbia's Virginia plant, Minister of State Tom Hayes, and Diageo's Colin O'Brien at the launch of last year's Baileys Cow competition at the Virginia Show.

The finishing touches are being put to Virginia Agricultural Society's new headquarters and arena which is scheduled to open early in September.

The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, has been invited to cut the ribbon at the venue which has been redeveloped after eight years of lobbying and fundraising.

The complex has been financed by the Cavan-Monaghan LEADER company to the tune of €500,000. Matching funds were raised by the Virginia Society's 200 strong membership - mainly local farmers and business interests.

The new facilities will be given a preview at next month's 73rd annual Virginia Show which will feature the prestigious Diageo Bailey Cow championship on Wednesday, August 20.

It has been a long road for the Society which first mooted plans to build a new HQ back in 2006 when it engaged MCA Consulting to carry out a feasibility study on building a centre which could accommodate the annual show and also provide a social and community centre for the lakeside Cavan town.

A business plan soon followed and in 2008 the Society applied to Cavan-Monaghan LEADER company for funding.

LEADER backed the idea and endorsed the Virginia Society's proposal to raise matching funds for the one million euro project. Local architect, Gavan Hanley of and Tate, was commissioned to design the facilities.

The project would not have proceeded without the significant aid provided by the Cavan- Monaghan LEADER co mpany.

"Nothing would have happened without LEADER. Just nothing', the Society's PRO Kathleen Duffy told the Farming Independent.

''We presented them with the idea, produced the feasibility study and business plan and quickly received LEADER backing'' she said.

With LEADER support secure, the Society then embarked on the task of raising another €500, 000 and every money tree within reach of any member of the Virginia Society was shaken- vigorously.

""We had the money from our annual show and some investment income and we then received backing from our show sponsors - agri companies like Glanbia and Lakelands," says Kathleen Duffy.

"Then we secured over €100,000 in bridging and term loan finance from 'Clann Credo', the social investment agency - at very keen rates, I should emphasise."

Finance

By 2010 the finance was in place and the project was ready to go, but there were bureaucratic delays in both Brussels and Dublin before a local building firm Crossdoney Construction could finally commence work at the end of 2012.

So what have Virginia Agricultural Society got for their €1milion?

For a start, there's a state of the art indoor complex with a 41m by 24m indoor arena which can cater for the annual Virginia and also double as a sports, entertainment and exhibition centre.

There also a conference space and a computer area, a farm shop, a museum to showcase the region's agricultural heritage and a fully equipped kitchen and dining area.

Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness recently launched the forthcoming Virginia show and she complimented the Virginia committee for their 'can do attitude' and their ability to 'rev things up' .

If anything MEP McGuinness was understating the committee's achievement as you can see for yourself at the Virginia Show on August 20.

Best virginians: The companies that keep the show on the road

The success of the Virginia Show has been underpinned by the enduring relationship between the Society's membership and local agri-businesses like Glanbia, Lakelands, Carnaross Marts and Liffey Meats.

Glanbia, in particular, has a long association with Virginia having been the lead sponsor of the show for over 30 years: "The Virginia show committee has always been very entrepreneurial and committed to the development of agriculture in the region," said Glanbia spokeswoman Laura Curtin.

'The competition is widely acknowledged as Ireland's most prestigious dairy livestock event attracting the super elite of the Holstein friesian breed and therefore this sponsorship is very important to the company," she added.

Glanbia sponsors prizes at the show to the tune of €10,000 and Glanbia Virginia plant manager Matt Tynan is also a huge supporter of the show.

"The Baileys Champion Cow competition is the highlight of the agriculture show calendar. The competition has consistently attracted and delivered the highest calibre of dairy cows," he said.

Glanbia's Virginia plant processes 9 million litres of milk per week and produces 55 tonnes of milk powers annually on a 52 weeks a year work cycle. The plant employs over 70 people rising to 100 as demand requires.

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