Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew has been criticised for putting £33,500 towards the Republic’s National Ploughing Championships, while the Northern Ireland Ploughing Championship received £150 in DARD funding.
UUP agriculture spokesman Tom Elliott said it “spoke volumes” about the minister’s priorities. He said just £6,000 is made available every year by DARD to all agricultural shows across Northern Ireland.
“Quite frankly, a paltry £150 viewed in the context of £33,500 being invested in an equivalent event in the Republic is downright offensive,” Mr Elliott said.
He said she justified the expenditure because she could speak with Irish President Mary McAleese and other officials.
“If a ploughing competition is the only, and best, place for the minister to conduct her business with officials from the Republic, then I would suggest we have a real problem.”
Ms Gildernew said the Republic’s National Ploughing Championships is the largest annual outdoor event in Ireland, with an attendance of 150,000 visitors and around 1,000 exhibitors.
She added that the cost of staging DARD events at agricultural shows in Northern Ireland in 2009 was over £75,000.