Irish President Mary McAleese is to travel to her home city of Belfast this week as she attends Ireland’s biggest agricultural show.
The Irish premier will be visiting the Balmoral Show on Thursday as the guest of Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew.
She will kick off the day by enjoying the traditional fry laid on at the Department of Agriculture breakfast, followed by a tour of the Balmoral Showgrounds.
The President will be joining an estimated 70,000 people expected to flock to the south Belfast venue over the next few days to enjoy the spectacle of the hundreds of cattle, sheep, pigs, horses and poultry on display in almost 600 livestock classes, as well as a host of many other attractions. Ms Gildernew said: “I look forward to welcoming President McAleese to the Balmoral Show.
“The event is vitally important to our agri-food industry and will provide a great opportunity to showcase the high quality of the northern agri-food sector to President McAleese.
“The Balmoral Show is the centrepiece event of the local farming calendar, when country comes to town. The Department’s display will form part of the Executive’s exhibition and offers farmers, and rural dwellers, the opportunity to tap into the expertise that will be on hand to provide guidance on a range of agri-food and rural matters.
“This year we will be displaying a wide range of services and information on my Department’s work, including DARD Direct, education and training opportunities, technology and business development services, environmental, animal health and welfare issues, and diversification. I would encourage everyone with an interest in farming and rural development to visit our exhibition.”
This year the livestock competitions have been expanded to include new classes such as the Miniature Horses and Ridden Clydesdales, while visitors will be entertained by the sheep shearing contests, the pig young handlers competition and parades of prize-winning livestock.
Horse fans can enjoy the international show-jumping competitions, inter-hunt chase and pony club games, while the Rare Breeds Display will be back with unusual animals like the Irish Moiled cattle and Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs, and Friends of Ferguson will put on a display of vintage farmyard machinery.
Weather forecasters have advised the crowds to hope for the sunshine but be ready for the rain as they predicted three days of mixed showers and sunshine.
Organisers have urged visitors to consider leaving their vehicles at home in favour of public transport.
The Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS) has teamed up with Translink to offer a special promotion, with discounts for Translink passengers showing their travel ticket at the door.