Taoiseach 'must defend livestock sector'
Farmers have called on the Taoiseach to show strong political leadership in defending the beef and livestock sector which is the "heartbeat" of rural Ireland.
The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) president Joe Healy said the sector accounts for €6.6bn in overall output with its economic impact felt in every rural parish in the country.
As more than 60,000 descended on the Tullamore and AIB National Livestock Show, where the cream of the country's cattle and sheep were on display, Mr Healy warned there were major challenges facing the Irish beef sector, from Brexit to reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
"It has never been more important that our new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, along with Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, show strong political leadership in defending the sector. Equally, every section of the industry from farmers to factories, and all others involved in the business, must play their part in a united and responsible way to secure a viable future for the sector," said Mr Healy.
Speaking at the opening of the mammoth country show, MEP Mairead McGuinness warned many would see Brexit as the ideal opportunity to make radical changes to the CAP budget, which forms a key part of farmers' income as pressure for funding increases at EU level. The vice president of the European Parliament said a much deeper debate is needed on how to shape the future of farming.
The numbers making a beeline for the Co Offaly showgrounds had come from near and far, with brother and sister Luke and Jesca Vickery from the Carbery Pedigree herd in West Cork leaving at 3am to show their cattle.
"We had no sleep, we were buzzing from the preparation. It is the biggest livestock show and it's a chance to see what the country has to offer," Luke said.
A few hundred yards away, TV chef Edward Hayden was mopping his brow as he got to grips with a fine ewe, except this time it was with a shearing clippers in hand. "That's definitely one off the bucket list," he quipped.