A new venue has been secured for the Newry Agricultural Show in 2023 after an outbreak of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) threatened to derail the return of the show after a four-year break.

Covid-19 restrictions prevented the show taking place in 2020 and 2021 while the event also did not take place last year for financial reasons.  

However, it’s all systems go for 2023 and the show will take place on lands close to the village of Bessbrook on Saturday, June 24.

An outbreak of bTB on the farm that had been originally earmarked as the host venue for Newry Show almost led to the cancellation of this year’s event.

Only the intervention of a nearby farmer, who provided an alternative venue close to the village of Bessbrook, has ensured that the show will still take place on its scheduled date.

Newry Agricultural Show committee chairman, Brian Lockhart, said: “This was the last thing that we were expecting. It turns out that one reactor animal was identified courtesy of a recent bTB test on the herd of the farmer, whose land we have used to host our annual show for the past number of years.

“Given that our original site had been used to graze some of the cattle tested, veterinary staff within the department of agriculture determined that Newry Show 2023 could not take place on these lands.”

But Lockhart said the fact that the show will be hosted on an alternative venue close to Bessbrook is good news for everyone.

The launch of of the Newry Show 2023

According to the Newry Show’s chair, 2023 is very much a case of bringing back an event that has a history stretching back 106 years.

He said: “We celebrated our centenary back in 2017. Farming and food are at the very heart of the economy throughout the Newry and Mourne area. The commitment to host Newry Show is as strong as it has ever been.

“But events of recent weeks have brought home to us all just how devastating the impact that bTB is having in rural areas at the present time.”

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) deputy president William Irvine, who attended the show’s launch event, said that bTB is now out of control: “The cost to the public purse of implementing the current bTB control measures, which aren’t working, will be north of £50 million in 2023.

“The reality is that badgers do harbour bTB. The disease is being picked up on increasing basis within road kill animals submitted for post-mortem investigation.

“There is a new strategy in place, which addresses the reality that bTB must be eradicated within both our cattle and badger populations.

“It is up to the department of agriculture to implement these plans as a matter of priority.”

According to the UFU representative, farmers want to see healthy populations of badgers and cattle living side by side in the countryside.

Meanwhile, a large range of attractions have been organised for the Newry Agricultural Show in 2023. These include competition classes for ponies, cattle, sheep, goats and pig. Horticulture will also be a major theme this year.

A food village will feature prominently as well as numerous activities for young farmers and children.

Old favourites including the Home Industries’ marquee and the renowned dog show will make a welcome return this year too.