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Tuesday 6 June 2023 Dublin: 14°C
# live from laois
Straight lines, traffic jams and Garda fans: Here's 8 things we learned at the National Ploughing Championships...
It’s closing time in Ratheniska — but 82,000 people have been wandering the fields and checking out the sights since early this morning.

ONLY MARGINALLY YOUNGER than the Oscars, but with a slightly less proscriptive dress code — the 83rd National Ploughing Championships kicked off in earnest at Ratheniska in Co. Laois early this morning.

President Michael D Higgins performed the official opening earlier — and over 200,000 people will have paid a visit by the time the tents are struck on Thursday evening.

In the meantime, the great, the good and the otherwise of Irish life will be criss-crossing the temporary plastic avenues of the site for the next few days — catching up with old friends, trying to do a bit of business, or asking for votes (sometimes all three at once).

We were up at the crack of dawn to catch all the day’s action…

Here’s what we learned….

1. There was actually some ploughing going on…

You’d be forgiven for forgetting about it, considering everything else that’s on offer…

We felt a little sorry for ploughing champions John Whelan and Eamonn Tracey (below). Reporters attempting to talk to the pair had to cut short their interviews several times — first when Michael D arrived at the media area, and again when word came down that the President would be having a quick chat with the press before his lunch, and not after.

[Daragh Brophy/]

For the record, hundreds of acres are being ploughed at the site this week. Over 300 competitors from all over the country are taking part, with a further 30 participants from ten countries competing in the European Vintage Ploughing Championships.

2. We had at least 12 conversations about the traffic before lunchtime…

Considering that tens of thousands of people are being steered into a network of fields a few kilometres from Portlaoise, it’s perhaps hardly surprising that the traffic might be a little heavy.

That said, rumours abounded of secret cross-country routes to the car parks (unfortunately, no-one we ran into was willing to share their knowledge of these mystic byways).

3. There’s some serious messages being delivered…

21 people have died in farm accidents so far this year — so there was a major focus on the issue from farming associations and organisations exhibiting at the event.

The folks at Agri-Aware took an innovative approach — setting up a multi-media maze aimed at teaching kids how to spot the danger signs on farms, and stay out of trouble…

 [Daragh Brophy/]

Motor safety was also being highlighted — the arresting sight below, outside the Kildare Road Safety stand, halted many in their tracks on their way around the exhibits…

It’s no mock-up, one of the volunteers with the group explained… The car was taken from the scene of a real-life crash.

 [Daragh Brophy/]

4. There’s no escaping politicians…

A large-scale sheep-shearing event just before the European and local elections back in May was, by all accounts, absolutely mobbed by candidates making one last push for votes.

We’re not expecting a General Election for at least a year — but that doesn’t mean you should expect politicians to stay away.

Enda and Joan will be making (separate) visits to Ratheniska before closing time on Thursday — while Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan, who’s also a local TD, skipped this morning’s Cabinet meeting to put in an appearance.

5. Fianna Fáil are more generous than Fine Gael…

Plenty of stalls had goodie-bags to give away — but neither of the Civil War parties were going quite that far… However, there were pens and postcards on offer from Fianna Fáil — and there was a steady stream of people signing-up for a charity raffle as paid a visit.

 [Daragh Brophy/]

“We’ve even had people say to us that they’d prefer the tour of Leinster House to the All-Ireland tickets,” one party official told us (with an entirely straight face – kudos).

It was cups of tea only on offer over at the Fine Gael tent.

They gave out pens, keyrings and other nick-nacks in previous years, one volunteer said — but they decided not to bother anymore, as people would simply take the freebies without sticking around to talk.

6. It’s probably the safest place to be in the country….

There were gardaí on the beat, there were gardaí on traffic duty … and there was a raft of gardaí manning the force’s stand at the event, where senior officers were out pressing the flesh and promoting their ‘Community Safety Week’ initiative.

Gardaí / Facebook Gardaí / Facebook / Facebook

7. The Acting Commissioner seems pretty popular…

Noirín O’Sullivan wouldn’t be drawn on whether she intends to apply to become Commissioner on a permanent basis — all she said on the matter today was that she thought it would be “very unfair” for her to comment on the recruitment process.

That said, she had plenty of well-wishers…


8. We’re still can’t bring ourselves to eat the Larvets…

 [Daragh Brophy/]

In case you missed it, we paid a breakfast-time visit to Rentokil’s ‘Pestaurant’ earlier to sample some dried crickets and locusts.


Video / YouTube

The lads at the stand gave us some ‘Mexican Spice’ Larvets to bring back to the press room — but they’ve been sitting on the desk ever since.

There’s something about the word ‘Larvets’ that’s just so off-putting.

These tiny worms need some better marketing.

Read: Dried locusts and breakfast rolls top the menu as Ploughing 2014 kicks off…

Read: Hate mucky fields? See this year’s Ploughing Championships on Google Street View 

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