A Downpatrick businessman has been praised by a Dáil representative for the tremendous work he has done over a number of years in promoting game shows around Ireland North and South.
The Irish Game and Country Fair and Fine Food Festival which took place in the grounds of Birr Castle over the weekend in County Offaly following on from the Shane’s Castle event in Antrim was officially opened by Sinn Fein TD, Carol Nolan.
Deputy Nolan said that she was delighted and honoured to officially open this year’s event and thanked the Parsons family of Birr Castle for their invitation. Deputy Nolan went on to say that this year was particularly special as it marked the 10th anniversary of the Birr country fair, a renowned event which continues to attract thousands of visitors to Birr. The popular event is steeped in medieval history and is also a celebration of rural tradition and heritage.
Speaking at the event, Deputy Nolan said: “As a rural TD, I feel that it is particularly important that we embrace, celebrate and protect every strand of our rich rural tradition and heritage. Many rural communities in Ireland have been negatively impacted upon by depopulation, and we must counteract this trend by sending out a clear message that rural Ireland is a great place to live in and with more support and investment, it could be an even greater place. This annual fair presents many positive attributes of rural life that it represents and showcases and it should help to encourage more people to live and work in rural counties throughout the country.”
She commended the organisers of the fair and acknowledged the crucial role of cross-border co-operation which plays an important part in many events such as The Irish Game and Country Fairs which take place at Birr Castle and at Shane’s Castle, Co. Antrim.
Deputy Nolan added: “It is apparent that these two fairs have developed the concept of true cross-border co-operation in the promotion of rural tradition throughout our island. Cross-border co-operation opens up new possibilities for all on this island and presents us with opportunities to engage with each other and work together for the benefit of all citizens on our island. I hope to see more cross-border co-operation which promotes the values of respect and unity among all traditions.”
Responding to Carol Nolan TD, Fair Director, Albert Titterington from Downpatrick, said: “Carol Nolan has hit the nail on the head with her comments, not least the need to protect and celebrate local communities and traditions.
“If ever proof was needed of the vibrancy of rural communities in Ireland, one needs only to see the way people are drawn in their thousands to the Birr Castle Fair, and to its sister game fair at Shanes Castle in Antrim to celebrate the country way of life and countrysports.
“Over 200 vibrant trade stands were bursting with customers keen to buy into the rural way of life. The very best of Fine Food – much created by local chefs — added to the festivities of jousting knights, medieval tented village, gundogs in action, clay pigeon shooting and world class angling displays.
“With everything from falconry to dancing horses and ancient long-netting displays, historic vehicles and so much more, the day-long Main Arena action entertained the record crowds from dawn until dusk, while the stunning historic Birr Castle watching over proceedings.
“Many products were shown at Birr for the first time, yet another indicator of its value as a valuable shop window and product launchpad.”
Albert Titterington also referred to the north/south cooperation, mentioned by Carol Nolan and pointed in particular to the ‘canine corridor’ between Birr Castle in Co Offaly and Shanes Castle in Country Antrim.
He said: “We have noted the way that our international canine events at both fairs have caught the imagination of enthusiasts everywhere. In particular, the Great Game Fairs Mick the Miller and Master McGrath Challenge Races, which are in memory of these two world renowned Irish racing dogs, are recognised as today’s Irish Blue Ribband events, and draw massive support from across Ireland and beyond — another superb symbol of rural Ireland offering imaginative attractions which are simply in a class of their own.”
Finally, Albert Titterington also mentioned the huge economic boost that both Birr Castle Fair and Shanes Castle Fair generate: He said: “Both Fairs generate a massive tourism boost to traders in both localities and it is well known that there is simply not a bed to be had in hotels and guest houses in the area within a 20 miles radius. Add this to the massive footfall increase at both events and it is easy to see the really significant economic cash injection for local Antrim and Offaly economies.”
The Great Game Fairs of Ireland acknowledge the support of TourismNI, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council and Failte Ireland.