€840,000 funding pledged for country's struggling agri-shows
Over €800,000 has been promised to help the country's agricultural shows which have been struggling to bear the costs in recent years.
With a number of high-profile cancellations, and other shows in difficulty after harsh weather decimated attendances, the Government has pledged to give funding of €7,000 each to 120 shows around the country.
Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring said the €840,00 funding will ensure that the small shows get a greater level of assistance.
"They are a showcase for local communities and for all that is good about rural Ireland," said Mr Ring.
"These shows are only able to continue because of the commitment of local volunteers, and I know that many have encountered financial difficulties in recent years or have lost significant money as a result of the weather."
The funding will be distributed in co-ordination with the Irish Shows Association (ISA), and the 120 shows represent the members of the association in the Republic.
Among the heavy costs that shows have to absorb to run the events are ambulance cover, printing event schedules and catalogues, advertising in local papers and radio, buying rosettes and trophies and then covering the cost of food and expenses for judges.
Michael Hughes, national secretary with the ISA, said it was thrilled to reach this stage as shows "around the country are really struggling for the last number of years".
He said the Department of Agriculture does make a contribution towards the cost of insurance but that was rising. However, there were also difficulties with sponsorship which had "dried up" for many shows with the downturn. Mr Hughes said the weather has "not been kind to shows" in recent years.
"When you get a wet show your gate takings could be down to 20pc of what it should be," said Mr Hughes, who will be stepping down from his role when he turns 75 next year. He pointed out the takings could be a "pittance" when harsh weather stops people attending.
"I'm a long time arguing that shows should have more state funding," he said. Mr Hughes said the level of volunteers for local shows can also be a major problem as few young people are taking up positions within their local shows.
"They'll come in and help out on the day which is great but they are gone again until the next year," he said. "They are not inclined to take up secretary, treasurer jobs and seem to be too busy edging out a living," he said pointing out the levels of pressures many young families are facing.
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