For me, the moment that summed up the vibe at last week’s National Ploughing Championships happened at our Irish Farmers Journal stand. Taoiseach Micheál Martin had just spoken at the podium and he was making his way out through the crowd when a small boy eagerly pulled on his jacket in the hope of a photo. When the Taoiseach gave an obliging smile and nod, the phone the young boy was clutching was beseechingly thrust into the hands of the nearest grown up. This adult happened to be Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, Charlie McConalogue. I could not help but smile watching this interaction. As the Minister was getting into position with the phone, the little boy’s brother jumped up and into the shot while their father looked on incredulously.
Just like the weather, the atmosphere was predominantly positive, good natured and easy going. As an industry we are very fortunate to have such a phenomenal showcase each September. Aside from politicians getting out and meeting rural people, the event is top of the news each day, providing a great platform for the innovation of the farming sector to be demonstrated. There is a lot to be said for this opportunity (Katherine writes more on P13).
The ploughing also presents an opportunity for politicians to make announcements. Maria attended the launch of Minister Browne’s [Minister of State at the Department of Justice] new Rural Safety Plan (P17). Although statistics from An Gardaí show that crime rates are down on pre-pandemic levels, 2022 crime rates for burglaries, theft, assaults and reported rape have all increased on 2021 levels. While beneficial, particularly in isolated rural areas, it is still only a plan. Protection can be needed not only from those who would seek to break in but from those living within the walls. An Garda Síochána, who are celebrating 100 years of service this year, recently reported that domestic abuse primarily affects females (77% of injured parties) and is the key driver of (female) gender based violence. Minister for Justice Helen McEntee will address our Women and Agriculture conference on October 27 (details P2). We will be asking her how a plan will become action to protect not only property in the yard, but people in their homes.
A unique attraction of our parish of Windgap is our grotto. It is also celebrating the 100 year milestone and there was a celebration at the weekend to mark the occasion. A few weeks ago on the way home from a walk around said grotto, my mother and I counted seven derelict houses that were inhabited when she was young. Suffice to say another ploughing announcement, this one by Ministers O’Brien (Housing) and Burke (Local Government and Planning), that the Croí Cónaithe Scheme, which provides a grant of up to €50,000 to refurbish derelict houses, is to be extended to rural houses, is welcome. Anne wrote extensively earlier this year on planning issues and the lack of housing options in rural Ireland. Windgap is far from the only parish to have a scattering of these properties, there are actually two in our property pages this week (P18-23). There are conditions to qualify but this is good news for farmers’ children who want to live on their home farms.
The grotto forms part of the Windgap village walking loop. I walk it with the dog as often as I can. There is still time to enter our 21 days of walking competition (see P14).