Jack Quann
Jack Quann

16.06 30 Apr 2021


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Organisers of the National Ploughing Championships have criticised a lack of consultation over the return of live events.

It comes as the Government plans a number of pilot events, both indoor and outdoor, in order to help with the safe re-opening of sports and music shows when public health allows.

The safe re-opening of cinemas and theatres in June is also being "looked at".

Anna Marie McHugh is from the National Ploughing Championships, which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors.

She told Lunchtime Live she thinks the trials are good, but is frustrated over the timing.

"I'm potentially more demoralised from yesterday than ever, to be honest with you.

"We were to hold the national event in September from the 15th to the 19th, and we would hold a world event which obviously is massive for Irish tourism.

"There's no comparison with an outdoor gig in an open field and a gig in a stadium that's seated.

"I think seated stadiums yes, can be very organised, and they should be given the chance to do their pilots because they can be controlled very easily.

"But this whole talk now that [Minister] Catherine Martin has had about the pilot schemes: who is she negotiating with on these pilot schemes? What regulations are being put in place?

"We're the biggest outdoor event in the country, and I've had no conversation at any time with Catherine Martin or any of her team.

"There's a taskforce set up that's negotiating on this whole thing: I don't know who's on it, do the people that are on it know what they're talking about?

"The kind of questions that I have - insurance, where does that come in?

"So if somebody gets COVID at your gig are you responsible, are you liable?"

Ms McHugh said her organisation 'can't afford that' if it was the case.

'How do Gardaí manage that?'

And she said this system could have been proposed a year ago, to be ready for implementation now.

"These things don't happen overnight, we have to start on the field on the 1st of July, we have to have our trade stand bookings in.

"We haven't even sent out the booking form yet.

"We could have had this done last year ready for this year... we're all there, all willing, we've been there ready to go because we haven't been doing anything."

"Who is the Minister consulting with on the details of it: is there going to be antigen testing, do you have to come with your PCR test?

"If we have to have PCR tests coming in the gate to the Ploughing, or any other event, and say you don't have your right documentation, and you get turned around - how do Gardaí manage that?

"Thousands of cars going out of an event, when they're arriving to an event?"

'We want it right'

She suggested that looking for consultation now could "possibly" be too late.

"Fantastic things have been done, I'm not saying it hasn't - isn't it fantastic all the opening ups that are happening now, and people need it.

"But we do want more and we want it structured and we want it right.

"I know the UK is opening up, but I also know a number of the independent events in England cancelled during the week because of insurance."

And she noted the Taoiseach Micheál Martin's comments that he would not be afraid to intervene if numbers go up.

"If numbers went up the second week in August, I've got €4m spent on a site in Ratheniska - what do I do?

"I'm getting no Government funding, I'm getting no Government support whatsoever".

'This could have been done a year ago' - Criticism over slow plan for return of live events

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

    

Main image: Large crowds of people attend the 2019 National Ploughing Championships - the biggest event in the agriculture industry - in Co Carlow. Picture by: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

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