Government departments and agencies spent over €780,000 on costs associated with attending the National Ploughing Championships this year.
Record numbers attended this September’s event with 297,000 descending on the venue at Fenagh, Co. Carlow for all three days of the yearly event.
New figures provided by Government Ministers in response to a series of written Dáil questions by Barry Cowen TD (FF) show that a total of €783,174 was spent by Government departments and agencies attending the event this with marquee rental making up a good portion of the costs.
The final figure will be even higher as a small number of Government departments including Defence and Housing were unable to provide figures while figures from agencies under the aegis of the Dept of Agriculture will be forwarded to Deputy Cowen at a later date.
The Ministers confirmed that the total spend by Departments and agencies under their aegis amounted to €2.24 million over the last four years.
The largest spend this year was by the Dept of Agriculture where the Department’s outlay totalled €184,576.
This included a spend of €159,495 on the design, build, fit out and dismantling of the department marquee.
Minister Michael Creed stated an additional €12,868 on tickets to the National Ploughing Association (NPA) while €6,642 on Broadband network costs along with €5,571 on promotion and advertising costs.
In his written Dáil reply, Minister Creed stated: “The National Ploughing Championships is a very significant event in the farming calendar and provide my Department with the opportunity to interact on a face-to-face basis with the farming community.”
He stated: “For the duration of the event, my Department operates a fully resourced office on site. Farmers are able to have direct access to specialist staff, with access to relevant IT systems, who can answer any queries or resolve issues they may have.”
There are 12 bodies under the aegis of the Dept of Agriculture and Minister Creed stated that those figures will be sent on to Deputy Cowen later this month.
The spend by the Dept of Agriculture associated with attending the 'ploughing' over the past four years totals €553,948.
Other Department big spenders attending the event include the Dept of Health.
This year the Dept of Health spent €84,219 and this was a multiple of the €6,182 costs incurred by the Dept in 2018.
The Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring confirmed that his department spent €104,394 this year on the Ploughing Championships including €82,186 on stand rental - marquee costs.
The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan confirmed that her department’s spend this year totalled €91,904 and €337,562 over the past four years.
Separately, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton stated that his department spend at the ploughing this year totalled €124,563 and €413,591 over the past four years.
Minister Bruton stated that his Department’s attendance at the Ploughing Championships is an important means to engage with the public as it enables citizens to meet Dept representatives and its various agencies on issues such as rural connectivity, soil and geological profiling of land, sustainability initiatives, energy efficiency grants and schemes.
The Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe confirmed that the spend by the Central Bank in attending this year was €58,842 and €258,842 over the past four years.
The spend by the Revenue Commissioners was €27,280 this year and €42,360 over the past four years.
The enthusiastic support of Government departments and agencies for this year’s Ploughing Championships will come as a result relief for organisers and Managing Director, Anna Marie McHugh after Storm Ali last year left the event nursing losses of €494,370.
The National Ploughing firm, The National Ploughing Association of Ireland Company Ltd incurred the sharp rise in losses after revenues decreased by 12 per cent from €5.6 million to €4.97 million.
Storm Ali last year forced Ms McHugh to cancel the biggest day of the three day event on the Wednesday - this year in contrast, sunny weather played an important role in the record attendance.
In his reply, the Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan stated that the public sector presence at the National Ploughing Championships was co-ordinated by the Department of the Taoiseach as part of the Government's unified approach to the Championships.
He stated: “For the first time, over 150 exhibitors were located in the one area, “The Government of Ireland Village”, and Government stands across Departments, agencies and bodies were grouped in marquees and tents on the basis of the supports, services and policy areas they are responsible for.