Balmoral Show gets under way at Maze prison site

Roads around the site were congested as people made their way to the show

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Ireland's biggest agricultural and food show has opened its doors and, for the first time in more than a century, it is outside Belfast.

The Balmoral Show is now located on the former Maze prison site near Lisburn, County Antrim.

Up to 80,000 people are expected to attend the three-day event.

Prince Edward, who is patron of the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society, (RUAS) arrived at the grounds on Wednesday.

Prince Edward has arrived at the show grounds Prince Edward has arrived at the show grounds

He spoke to officials and local politicians who were among the welcoming line-up.

The roads around the site were congested on Wednesday morning as thousands of people made their way to the show.

First Minister Peter Robinson said he hoped any problems with access would be overcome.

"We'll look at what happens in the next couple of days and look at the possibility of doing something that might take away some of the difficulties that occur this year," he said.

Chief executive of RUAS Colin McDonald urged people travelling to the show by road to take note of the motorway signs as the "information is updated on a regular basis".

"We would also remind motorists to adhere to all direction given by PSNI," he said.

"The police officers on the ground are working extremely hard to keep traffic flowing on the approach to Balmoral Park, however, as with any large public event some delays are to be expected."

He said the traffic management plan was "constantly reviewed and updated".

For the past few days, more than 500 exhibitors have been preparing for the 145th show.

The new site at the Maze has been named Balmoral Park.

Mr Robinson described how the new park has been built on the rubble of the former H-blocks.

New site, same show

It may be a short hop from the King's Hall in Belfast to the former Maze prison site.

But moving the Balmoral Show to a place steeped in controversy represents a huge leap of faith for the conservative farming membership of the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society.

Read more from Martin

In Pictures: Balmoral Show 2013

He said the significance of this was to show that Northern Ireland had "moved on".

Last June, members of the RUAS voted in favour of moving their headquarters to the former prison site.

The park has been transformed in recent weeks to accommodate the many exhibitions and hundreds of animals on display.

Visitors to this year's show are urged to use free public transport.

The Balmoral Show website contains details of how to get to the show by car or by public transport.

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