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Ploughing championships cancelled due to storm carnage

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The ruined main exhibition site yesterday.  Picture: Gerry Mooney

The ruined main exhibition site yesterday. Picture: Gerry Mooney

The ruined main exhibition site yesterday. Picture: Gerry Mooney

Storm damage at the ploughing championships has forced organisers to cancel the second day of the event.

More than 100,000 people had been scheduled to attend Ireland's largest annual outdoor event outside Tullamore, Co Offaly.

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Maura Walsh from Ird Duhallow group in Kerry in front of the remains of their stand after damage caused by Storm Ali.  Picture; Gerry Mooney

Maura Walsh from Ird Duhallow group in Kerry in front of the remains of their stand after damage caused by Storm Ali. Picture; Gerry Mooney

Maura Walsh from Ird Duhallow group in Kerry in front of the remains of their stand after damage caused by Storm Ali. Picture; Gerry Mooney

However, two delayed openings were not enough to save the National Ploughing Association (NPA) event, after tents were badly damaged by the gusting winds.

NPA assistant managing director Anna Marie McHugh said the organisers will now extend the event into tomorrow to compensate for those unable to enjoy the ploughing yesterday.

Amid the still-howling winds and furiously flapping canvas, some of the exhibitors who had waited in their cars for hours were finally allowed to go in and survey the wreckage.

At one stand, a set of glass windows had completely caved in, shattering shards very close to a pen filled with sheep - which started back in fright as people drew near, having clearly suffered a harrowing ordeal.

"I had a sleepless night thinking of the poor animals," said one volunteer. "Everything else can be fixed."

Almost in tears, Claire Flaherty, of Leisure Horse Ireland, stood amid what remained of the Blackwater Marquee where they had paid €2,000 for a corner stand - along with paying for five members of staff to operate the stall, and the cost of their accommodation.

"I had to read it for myself because the organisers here kept us in the dark. We were hours waiting in the car park before we were allowed inside," said Claire.

Caoimhe Flynn and Jane Jackson, from environmental pressure group 80 Max, were also in the Blackwater tent.

"Where do you even start?," said Jane. "They asked would we come back, but where would they put us?"

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Maura Walsh, chief executive of IRD Duhallow, a rural development group based in Newcastle, Co Cork, on the border of Kerry, stood in disbelief as she surveyed the damage to the Kerry County Council tent where they had been based.

"We never knew it would be this bad. Never, never," she said.

IRD Duhallow lost thousands of euro worth of vital equipment and had to throw out around 200 chilled meals which they had been planning on selling to raise €4,000 for a new display fridge.


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