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'If there's any risk, then we'll pull plug on the Ploughing'

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Anna Marie McHugh, one of the Ploughing organisers

Anna Marie McHugh, one of the Ploughing organisers

Anna Marie McHugh, one of the Ploughing organisers

Organisers of the National Ploughing Championships have asked Agriculture Minister Michael Creed for guidance on whether or not the festival should go ahead, leaving the country's biggest event in doubt.

With all mass gatherings of over 5,000 banned until the end of August, doubt has been cast on large-scale events which are due to take place, such as the Ploughing Championships and the Rose of Tralee Festival.

Over three days each September, the Ploughing Championships attracts 300,000 people from all over the world to view its exhibits and trade show. Assistant managing director of the event Anna Marie McHugh said that even though the Government's guidance would allow for the championships to go ahead, the organisers have reached out to Mr Creed.

"That deadline is very close to us. We start on September 15, so it's only a few days ahead.

"I wouldn't say in any way that we had a sigh of relief that it doesn't include us," she told the Irish Independent.

"From our perspective it gave us the green light to go ahead and contact the Government.

"If they feel there is any risk whatsoever, then we'll pull the plug and we'll see other options of doing competitions behind closed gates."

While she said the ploughing competitions themselves can conform to social-distancing guidelines, the same wouldn't apply for trade exhibitions.

Distancing

"I would really have a big question on whether we could have social distancing in place to the level that we would be happy with by September, it would want to be something that is in practice in events and that we are used to.

"If this is something that will be a part of our lives going forward, we'll have to have a look at how events like ours can exist," she said.

A shadow of doubt has also been cast over the annual Rose of Tralee Festival, which involves over 60 countries and brings in around €10m for the local economy in Kerry during its five-day festival each August.

"We're being realistic, it is looking unlikely that we will have a festival, but at the moment, we're looking at other options," said Aimee Keane, communications and PR manager of the festival.

"We had been considering pushing it later into September anyway but safety is key, so we won't do anything that will put people at risk."

She added it's unlikely a "standard" festival will take place, which attracts more than 100,000 visitors to Tralee and Kerry over five days each year. This may be the first summer since 1959 that the celebrated event won't go ahead.

"It's easy to forget outside of summer months how dependent people are on it and how we depend on it in the local economy," she added.

Concerns also remain over Electric Picnic, which attracts nearly 60,000 people each year to Stradbally, Co Laois.

It remains scheduled to go ahead on September 4, days after the Government's guidance on mass gatherings is set to end.

However, Body and Soul, Life, All Together Now and Bloom are just some of the dozens of festivals and events that have now been called off.

Irish Independent