Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Saturday 20 October 2018

Over 61,000 hardy souls brave the elements

Hands full: Edel Mullane is all smiles at the Ploughing. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Hands full: Edel Mullane is all smiles at the Ploughing. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Nicola Anderson in Screggan

It is safe to say that this is not the natural terrain of our very urban Taoiseach.

But those Irish lessons he was taking must have had a practical 'man of the soil' dimension. Because it turns out that not only could Leo plough like any of his Waterford ancestors, but he could plough in his good suit.

Which came as a bit of a surprise, possibly even to him - and certainly to his tailor. Back from the horrors of the Salzburg summit, the fresh air at Screggan, Co Offaly, no doubt served as a pick-me-up.

He was supposed to have come to the Ploughing on Wednesday - the morning of the summit - but the weather had put a stop to that. Perhaps he had even secretly hoped to miss out on it altogether - but this is prime 'grass roots' territory and could no more be avoided than a party ard fheis.

So when this extra, hastily scheduled day, was put on to make up for Wednesday's storm-enforced closure, Leo was on his way.

It was a strange sort of day and initially had all the appearances of being a washout, the roads and car parks in the morning virtually deserted. However, an estimated 61,700 hardy souls came through the turnstiles, giving a total of 240,700 people and, after the battering the site took from Storm Ali, organisers can be pleased with their efforts.

Smaller crowds: Some 61,000 visitors went to the Ploughing yesterday. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Smaller crowds: Some 61,000 visitors went to the Ploughing yesterday. Photo: Steve Humphreys

With no chance to book guests or organise events, many of the stands were notably less lively than they had been. But there were still some activities, with the Department of Agriculture accepting final entrants for the ACORNS programme for rural female entrepreneurs, with businesses ranging from farming softwear to agri-tech and skincare. However, with the actual ploughing wrapped up the previous day, this was really the ploughing championships with neither plough nor championship and so we were in a bit of a limbo.

Luckily, this year's winners stepped in to save the authenticity of the event, putting on a masterclass - and Leo was brought up for a look.

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But there was no escape from the hard issues at hand.

Amid a steady drizzle, he did a tour of the stands beforehand, visiting the IFA where he heard the concerns of farmers about Brexit. Then Macra na Feirme - where, outside, he was heckled by a lone, young man about the housing crisis.

National Ploughing Championships 2018. Lucy Ryan (4) from Thurles, Co. Tipperary has a handy way of getting around with her mother Clara. Picture; Gerry Mooney
National Ploughing Championships 2018. Lucy Ryan (4) from Thurles, Co. Tipperary has a handy way of getting around with her mother Clara. Picture; Gerry Mooney
National Ploughing Championships 2018. Judges Ollie Furey, John Tracy and Michael Cunningham discuss the entries on the conventional plough competition. Picture; Gerry Mooney
National Ploughing Championships 2018. Ryan Tubridy gets all country as he tries to milk a cow with the assistance of Caitriona Mullin from Mountbellew in Galway at the Volac/IHFA stand. Picture; Gerry Mooney
National Ploughing Championships 2018. Lucy Ryan (4) from Thurles, Co. Tipperary has a handy way of getting around with her mother Clara. Picture; Gerry Mooney
National Ploughing Championships 2018. Workers repair the damage caused to the Fine Gael stand after Storm Ali . Picture; Gerry Mooney
National Ploughing Championships 2018. Jane Jackson tries to clean up her stand in the exhibition site in Screggan after damage caused by Storm Ali . Picture; Gerry Mooney
Pat Spillane chatting in the Independent Tent at the Ploughing Championships in Screggan Co Offaly.
20/09/2018 Emma Hynes, 14, from Athlone minding Napolean the Charolais bull at the Ploughing Championships in Screggan, Co. Offaly. Pic credit; Damien Eagers / INM
20/09/2018 Charlie Reynolds, 4, from Dunleer enjoys himself at the Ploughing Championships in Screggan, Co. Offaly. Pic credit; Damien Eagers / INM
National Ploughing Championships 2018. The parade of tractors for the 2018 Ploughing champions . Picture; Gerry Mooney
National Ploughing Championships 2018. Eustace Burke from Carrigaline prepares his Angus heifer Clontead Lady Hotshot before day three of the ploughing gets underway. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Magareth Donnelly chatting about Post Pope Ireland to Harold Kingston and Fr.Brian Darcy in the Independent Tent at the Ploughing Championships in Screggan Co Offaly.

"Four thousand kids homeless, you should be ashamed of yourself," shouted Kevin Murphy (22) from Wexford - a volunteer who feeds rough sleepers in Dublin's inner city.

"He doesn't know the half of it," he said afterwards of the extent of the Taoiseach's knowledge of the crisis. Kevin persevered, calling on the Taoiseach to "get out of his BMW" and fix the crisis.

"More people should be doing it," he said, as a man came up and congratulated him on saying what he had.

Further down the muddy tracks, he met with Jane Jackson from 80 emissions - an environmental group which aims to enforce a maximum speed of 80km in order to reduce pollution.

The group had been a victim of the storm, with its stand at the ploughing completely wrecked - but Jane's son had brought up a gazebo from Galway and she was allowed to erect it on site.

Up at the fields, there was an intake of breath as the Taoiseach picked up the reins of the old-style horse-drawn plough being demonstrated by Coleman Cogan, from Sligo.

They had struck up a bit of a rapport beforehand.

"Do you go fishing?" Coleman asked him. "No," admitted Leo. "Well, you should," said Coleman. "They say it's great meditation," Leo mused.

Then he set off. "Go on Ned, come on Ted," he instructed the two shire horses, as they set off in a jerky fashion and a clank of the harness.

At the end of the row, the Taoiseach called it a day.

"He did well," marvelled Coleman, pointing out the straight lines.

Afterwards, he met with World Champion ploughman Eamonn Treacy, from Carlow. "And you'll be on home turf next year," said Leo. "Well, it hasn't been announced yet," Eamonn reminded him, as Leo clapped his hand to his mouth in dismay.

Irish Independent



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