26 August 2011 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Co Monaghan has always been justly proud of its agricultural show tradition, and the recent staging of the annual events in Castleblayney and Tydavnet have reaffirmed the justification for that pride.
Both events have presented the various facets of the county’s rural existence in a highly impressive manner, presenting a vista on agricultural enterprise pleasingly at odds with the gloomy habilliments worn by most other aspects of economic activity at the present time.
And the picture painted by the county’s agricultural show presentations this year has been a progressive one.
There is a quaint stereotype of the rural show that, if it ever in fact existed, has long since ceased to be relevant, but which can persist in the minds of those unfamiliar with the manifestations of modern farming or the various forces that animate life in our modern countryside communities.
Both ‘Blayney and Tydavnet Shows have provided testimony that depicts a forward-thinking agri-business community where increasingly high standards in the production of livestock and bloodstock pertain and where pride and professionalism, while it might find a once-a-year display window on the showgrounds, form the bywords for daily working practices and the maintenance of standards.
Diversification in agricultural activity, away from the traditional sources of employment and revenue generation that have now run fallow, is also mirrored by the farm and domestic produce that vies for rosettes in the various classes, and in the range of displays and attractions that beguile the visitor. Very few people could depart from even a cursory examination of the programme of events at both these annual county spectacles with other than a positive, and indeed reassuring, image of the business activity and community enterprise being conducted in the Mid-Monaghan and North Monaghan parts of our county.
The value of our rural shows as stimulus for economic activity and reinforcement of the vital ties that bind the constituent communities of our county together was never higher.
There is much good example to be garnered from the intensity of effort and planning that goes into the shows themselves, devotion mirrored by those who compete in the various classes and competitions determined on the day.
There is a thriving mechanism of endeavour at local community level that seems somehow immune to the economic vagaries that have beset so many dimensions of commercial and industrial activity in recent times. It would be too simplistic to suggest that this force represents an engine that could power a widescale recovery from the downturn – but there is surely within it a blueprint for how the adverse effects of economic depression can be ameliorated, as well as a remedial lesson in values.
The enduring success of our agricultural shows, and of the settlements and rural populations that sustain them, has its foundations in values that contrast starkly with those that came to the fore during the effulgent years of Celtic Tiger capitalism, when acquisitiveness and excess supplanted temperance and thrift as the governing principles of so much of Irish life and living.
Volunteerism, the basic building block of the rural show structure, largely fell by the wayside in the scale of national values during the rush towards self-aggrandisement that gripped so many before the Irish economy took its preciptious plunge.
As the nation sets about a revision of its core values, it could do worse than emulate the template set by such events as last weekend’s Diamond Jubilee Tydavnet Show, where “the community spirit that brings people together” that was spoken of by Presidential candidate Sean Gallagher as he joined in the formalities not only survives but thrives.
The IFA recently launched a policy framework for rural Ireland entitled ‘The Irish Countryside – A Place for Living, Working and Enjoyment’. The goal of the campaign is to enhance the quality of life for those living in rural Ireland by focusing on potential areas of development such as enterprise, employment, infrastructure and services.
Implicit in the venture is a challenge to the Government to deliver on past promises and supply what are in some cases massively long-standing service and facility needs in rural communities.
While this challenge is a robust one, and one deserving of being taken seriously and addressed by the Government, the IFA are surely aware that, if important provisions in the areas of transport, job creation, water and sewerage and planning were not forthcoming during the years of plenty, they are hardly likely to figure high on the priority lists of the responsible Depts in this time of want.
The farmers’ lobby group are also equally aware of the great capacity within individual rural communities of generating of their own accord the energy and innovation that will go a long way to increasing the standards of rural life. The innate capacity of the Irish farmer or countryside dweller to identify and exploit an opportunity that can materially enhance the lot of themselves and their neighbours or associates is well known – in Co Monaghan it is a trait of character that, at its apotheosis, has given rise to the foundation of business enterprises that have grown to world renown.
This entrepreneurial acumen is, we suggest, as vibrant as ever today – but it needs stimulus to flourish.
It would, we suggest, not take much from the Government in order to make a meaningful contribution towards assisting the realisation of the objectives set out in the IFA’s policy document.
The energy and vibrancy is there already within our rural communities, as such events as agricultural shows vividly demonstrate.
The introduction of revised rural planning legislation that would act as an incentive rather than an obstacle to the establishment of small enterprise and the growth of countryside communities would be an important contribution in this area – one that could be accommodated over the course of the coming years as new Co Development Plans are prepared and put before local authorities for adoption.
As the IFA’s Pat Farrell said this week, “The Government can realise a substantial return if they address the issues in this policy framework. Much of what we have set out can be achieved at very little cost, but it can do a lot to enhance our rural communities.”

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