Gardaí review traffic plan after 16km tailbacks

A HUGE crowd of 70,000 spectators turned out for the first day of the championships, leading to 16km tailbacks and serious gridlock.

“The traffic was brutal. I came down from Athlone and it took me the guts of five hours to get here,” said James Costelloe from Clonown, Co Westmeath.

“I hit traffic about five miles north of Kilkenny and spent the next three hours crawling 10 miles to the event,” said Mr Costelloe.

Motorists began to arrive on the 700-acre site from 6.30am and long queues had formed on most routes by 9am.

Gardaí said they “will be reviewing” their traffic plan involving the Garda helicopter, to deal with an expected 40,000 vehicles each day.

“Problems were caused by huge volumes of traffic approaching from Dublin and the midlands,” said Pat Ward, regional traffic superintendent for the south-east.

“There were people stuck in traffic for quite a long time and we appreciate their patience,” he said.

At the show hopes rose the European Commission will approve advance payments of a key scheme to 123,000 Irish farmers because of the harvesting difficulties caused by the wet weather.

Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith, who is attending a two-day Farm Council meeting in Annecy, France, discussed the issue with commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel, having earlier applied for the advance.

Mr Smith, who is to visit the championships today, said he was encouraged by his meeting with Ms Fischer Boel.

He said he was very hopeful his application for an advance payment would be presented at a meeting of the EU management committee on direct payments tomorrow and with formal approval shortly after.

He said his approach to the agriculture commissioner to advance 50% (€650 million) of the payment has been prompted by the very wet summer, which seriously affected farming.

“I was particularly conscious of the difficulties caused for farmers, with crop growth and harvesting being impeded and significant delays in production of winter fodder,” he said.

Mr Smith said if his application is approved, his department would commence paying out 50% of the 2008 Single Payment Scheme in all cleared cases with effect from October 16, with the balance being made from December 1.

Tánaiste Mary Coughlan, who officially opened the event yesterday, said energy costs, climatic pressures, currency uncertainty and a slowing in international economic growth present huge challenges, but long term the fundamentals are in our favour.

“The agrifood sector in Ireland has a solid future based on grass feeding, a more efficient farming structure, further moves to higher value products, more efficient processing, application of new knowledge from research and market and consumer insights. The potential is there to double the value of output from the agrifood sector by 2030,” she said.

Ms Coughlan said the Government is determined to continue to press strategies for Ireland and Europe to retain its agricultural production base to meet the future demand for food.

“However to translate this natural potential into hard cash, we must position ourselves to competitively and substantially increase our level and range of production,” she said.

More in this section