GARDAÍ are advising motorists travelling to the national and European ploughing championships which begins in Athy, Co Kildare, tomorrow to plan their journey in advance.
A large Garda force including members from the aerial and mounted units will operate a major traffic management plan.
An expected 180,000 people will attend the three-day event which President Mary McAleese will officially open at noon tomorrow.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen is due to attend on Thursday. Agriculture Fisheries and Food Minister Brendan Smith, and the north’s Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew, will also be among the visitors.
Regarded as the largest outdoor farming and rural festival in Europe, it will cost an estimated €3.5 million to stage and will be worth about €10m to the region’s economy.
Athy, where the first national championship was staged in 1931, has hosted the event on three other occasions.
This year’s showpiece has an added dimension because the European reversible ploughing contest will be held in the Republic for the first time.
The National Ploughing Association said it is delighted to be returning for the second successive year to Athy. Sites for the event have been provided by the Fennin and Fox families with neighbouring landowners making parking facilities available.
NPA managing director Anna May McHugh said last year’s event was a huge success from a traffic management point of view, and also because of the quality of the land for ploughing and the accessibility to the site for exhibitors and visitors. She said everything about the Athy venue works. The site access is excellent, the trade arena is ideal and the land is among the best in the country for ploughing.
Gardaí are advising motorists intending to travel to the event to select the route they intend to use, start early and following the direction signs.
Supt Pat Kavanagh, Kildare, said the traffic management plan is essentially the same as the one that was successfully implemented last year.
“That worked very well for us. It worked very well for the NPA and for people travelling to the event and getting home afterwards,” he said.
Supt Kavanagh said the routes are well marked and colour coded, purple, orange, green, brown, blue, grey and yellow.
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