11 September 2001
Virus risk halts Irish plough event

By FWi staff

THE Irish National Ploughing Match has been called off because organisers felt the influx of UK visitors carried too great a risk of spreading foot-and-mouth disease.

The event, scheduled this year for 2-4 October in County Laois, is the largest of its kind in the World.

It attracts 120,000 visitors a year and about 10% of the exhibitor stands would have been from the UK.

The cancellation reversed a decision taken only last week by the organisers, the Irish National Ploughing Association (NPA), which gave the go-ahead for the event.

An NPA spokeswoman said: “As the match grew closer it appeared that the situation in the UK was worsening.

“Because of this some Irish exhibitors including one of the largest stand-holders, food processor Glanbia, decided to pull out of the event this week.”

FWi understands the decision to cancel was prompted by the pull-out last Thursday (6 September) of FTMTA, the machinery organisation.

Ninety-three per cent of FTMTA members surveyed believed it presented a high risk of foot-and-mouth. 49 exhibitors would have had a UK presence.

She added that the NPA regretted having to take the decision because the match generated 100s of thousand of pounds for the local economy and millions in sales for exhibitors.

“Our heart goes out to the exhibitors who will be hit hard by this decision.

“But with thousands of visitors from Northern Ireland, Wales and the north west of England, we felt that the risk of foot-and-mouth outweighed any potential benefits.”

Irish Farmers Association president Tom Parlon said that, with the continued threat from GB, the cancellation of this years national ploughing championship was “inevitable”.

While thousands of farm families would be gravely disappointed, it was a price that had to be paid to safeguard the country from foot-and-mouth.

President of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), Pat ORourke, complimented the NPA executive on taking the “courageous and correct” decision to cancel this years event.

“In keeping with the tradition of the NPA, they have put the agricultural industry first. Farmers who have supported the championships in large numbers will welcome their decision”.

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