A record number of people attended the National Ploughing Championships today, with 127,000 visitors to the event in Ratheniska, Co Laois.

The figure for the second day of this year’s festival is an all-time high for the event, and is up 3,500 from day two last year.

Yesterday's attendance was 77,500, down from 82,000 last year.

Meanwhile, the Government has announced a new €30m scheme to improve rural areas hit by the economic downturn.

Speaking from the event this morning, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that the thousands of people queueing up to attend the ploughing championships spoke volumes for the success of the ploughing and the strength of rural communities in Ireland. 

On his tour of the venue on day two of the championships, he underlined the importance of farm safety and highlighted concerns about burglaries in rural areas. 

He said there will be a package of €30m unveiled by the Government in the Capital Budget next Tuesday for rural communities.

The measures to be unveiled will be the Government's response to the recent CEDRA Report on rural communities.

Mr Kenny and that they will enable people in rural areas to draw their money from local authorities, the LEADER rural development scheme and other rural programmes to help develop initiatives in their own areas for job creation and further enterprise development.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Séan O'Rourke, Minister of State with Special Responsibility for Rural Economic Development Ann Phelan described the investment package over the next five years as an "incredible amount of money".

She suggested that the focus of the funding will be towards towns that need environmental upgrading and development in public utilities such as street lighting. 

"The communities themselves will actually decide themselves what they want, and they will be able to put forward an expression of interest of what they want to do.

"When we identify that they will then be able to get their plan in order, and in some ways this is about trying to harness the potential that we know exists out their in rural communities across Ireland."

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said that the plan might be enough to buy a headline but it is not enough to deal with the damage inflicted on rural communities by the Government.

Speaking at the ploughing championships, he said it amounts to €6m a year when the Government had destroyed the LEADER programme and done away with post offices, garda stations and public transport.

Fianna Fáil environment spokesperson Barry Cowen said the scheme was too little too late.

"The Government has ignored, neglected and slashed services to rural Ireland.

"It closed 139 garda stations, slashed LEADER funding by 40%, eroded the post office network and stalled the roll-out of rural broadband."