Northern Ireland’s agricultural shows will not survive unless they secure government support. This was the very bleak assessment provided by Northern Ireland Shows' Association (NISA) chair, Ann Orr, following the recent decision by Fermanagh Show not to go ahead with its annual event in 2021.

She explained:

“Fermanagh makes it a full house of local shows that will not take place this year. Balmoral Show apart, this is the second successive year in which all of the local show associations in Northern Ireland have had no option but to cancel their events.

“All of this is coming at a cost to the individual shows. It has been estimated that those organisations with permanent offices and associated staff costs are losing in the region of £20,000 per annum, just to stay in existence," she added.

“This is a totally unsustainable situation for the organisations involved. The Executive at Stormont must step in and support the local shows now. If this does not happen, many of them will have no option but to call it a day.

“Such a development would be a tragedy for rural communities right across Northern Ireland.”

ROI package for shows

The NISA representative confirmed that the Irish government has agreed a support package for all the local shows in the Republic of Ireland.

She explained:

“The money was provided courtesy of a community fund and was given to all the member organisations making up the Irish Shows Association.

“As a result, each local show received a support package of €8,000. NISA is aligned to the Irish Shows Association.

“It was initially thought that NISA member organisations would also be eligible for the €8,000 support measures. However, this will require a cross-border agreement being reached between the Irish government and the Northern Ireland Assembly. As yet, this has not yet happened."

Meeting with Minister Poots

According to Ann Orr, NISA representatives were due to meet with Minister Edwin Poots earlier this year.

“This meeting was postponed in the wake of the minister taking ill,” she said.

“The reality remains that Covid-19 is decimating the finances of all NISA member organisations. The Stormont Executive must step up and provide realistic support for these organisations, otherwise they will not survive.”

Newry Show Society secretary Brian Lockhart agrees:

“This is all about money. Looking ahead, it will be very difficult for me to secure sponsorship from businesses that have had to deal with all the problems thrown up by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This is why government has to step in and provide financial assistance to all the show societies, as they look towards 2022 and beyond.

“We all play a pivotal role in showcasing the farming and food sectors. Our politicians must get actively involved in confirming their support for all our agricultural shows," he concluded.