Row erupts over funding for ploughmen

Competing in the winter sunshine during the Fermanagh and Tyrone Ploughing Society annual match at Omagh.Picture West Tyrone Imaging/Kevin McAuley Photography Multimedia
Competing in the winter sunshine during the Fermanagh and Tyrone Ploughing Society annual match at Omagh.Picture West Tyrone Imaging/Kevin McAuley Photography Multimedia

MOYLE councillors got themselves into a pickle over failure to provide funding for a top agricultural event in the Bushmills area and there was also a sour taste over memories of a ploughman’s lunch.

During a debate about funding for an international ploughing match held in Bushmills in recent days, Ulster Unionist councillor Willie Graham clashed with Council Chairperson, Cllr Cara McShane (Sinn Fein).

Cllr Graham claimed that when a previous ploughing match was held in Bushmills in 2009 and there was a dispute about the type of food being provided - whether it should have been a buffet or a full dinner - that he paid for dinner for those present himself.

Cllr Graham said the Council was only going to provide “a cup of tea” for the ploughing people at the Causeway Hotel on that occasion so he upgraded it to a dinner and “paid for the whole damn thing myself” which he said was a “shame” on the Council.

He said he forked out rather than being “affronted” by the Council but he said he will not be standing for re-election to the Council and will not be paying for it this time.

Cllr McShane said the councillor’s comments were “quite alarming” and she believed there was almost an aspect of “buying votes” to which Cllr Graham replied: “Ach away on with you”.

Council official Esther Mulholland said the funding which could have been given to the ploughing match this year would have come out of a Council funding pot which is advertised at a certain time and it would be unfair to other groups if it was re-opened for specific events as that would create a precedent.

Cllr Graham believed the Council would get “quite a lot of bad publicity” over their stance.

Cllr Joan Baird (Ulster Unionist) said it was a “grave pity” the Council were not supporting the ploughing match as it attracts many people to the area.

Council Vice-Chairperson, Cllr Robert McIlroy (DUP), said if a funding bid had been made at the right time it would have got Council backing.