A few years ago I attended the BBC’s Countryfile Live in the UK, which was in many ways the British equivalent of the Plowing Championships.
I attended a poorly attended lecture by Michael Gove, then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. I couldn’t believe it as he was largely ignored by the few in the tent, and I took the opportunity to pop him out the door with a few questions after he’d finished his presentation.
Imagine an Irish minister being ignored while plowing?
After a three-year absence, the three-day event is a must for many politicians on their calendars, a rare opportunity to squeeze the meat of hundreds of thousands of rural voters.
One party looking to impress rural voters this week will be Sinn Féin. With the party ranking high in the polls, I sat down with its leader, Mary Lou McDonald, to discuss her and her party’s views on rural Ireland.
To achieve their stated goal of ending the decades-long dominance of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, Sinn Féin must destroy their dominance over rural Ireland.
Traditionally, the civil war parties shared 60 to 70 percent of the rural votes in every parliamentary election.
However, since the financial crisis, their impact on rural Ireland has waned with a surge in support for independents and, in 2020, Sinn Féin.
To win overall power, Sinn Féin will need to take not just one, but two seats in some rural constituencies, and to do that they need to be transfer friendly.
That’s why events like plowing are so important to Sinn Féin.
Reaching rural voters can be physically and politically difficult.
And with around 300,000 people in Ratheniska over the next three days, it’s an opportunity to be seen by the rural crowds.
However, Sinn Féin will not be alone in this regard, and next week’s budget announcement will provide the government with an opportunity to hand out small tax breaks.
A week is a long time in politics, not to mention the unknown distance to the next federal election.
Ms McDonald led the party to a historic return in the last general election, but only time will tell if she can repeat that feat and gain even more ground next time. It is likely that rural voters will hold the key.
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/comment/rural-voters-hold-key-to-next-election-and-ploughing-is-a-vital-battleground-42002420.html Rural voters hold the key to the next election – and plowing is a key battleground