Farm safety drive launched at ploughing championships

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney says video highlighting impact of deaths from farm accidents gave him a lump in his throat

The Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, at the National Ploughing Championships at Ratheniska, Co. Laois, yesterday.  Photograph: Eric Luke

The Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, at the National Ploughing Championships at Ratheniska, Co. Laois, yesterday. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

The impact of a death from a farm accident was laid bare at the ploughing championships yesterday when a video was screened showing how the family and friends of Dermot Hogan were affected by his sudden death. The Offaly under-21 hurling manager died in July after falling through a Perspex shed roof.

In the video, his father Kieran recalled how he tried to help his son as he lay dying: “He was very tough and very hardy and I said, ‘he’ll beat this.’ I said, ‘Dermot, come on, you can do it. You can get up,’” he said. “Dermot wasn’t able to get up. It’s probably the only time I asked him to do something and he wasn’t able to do it.”

His brother Eugene said the loss of Dermot’s life “took away a bit of the rest of us”.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney was visibly moved by the video. “That’s the kind of story, unfortunately, that a lot of people don’t hear but an increasing number of families this year are trying to cope with,” he said. “The trauma and heartache and difficulty that comes following the loss of a loved one. My family experienced that as well,” he said.

Mr Coveney’s father Hugh, also a Fine Gael politician, died in a fall from a seaside cliff in March 1998.

Video campaign

This is the first in a series of videos in the What’s Left Behind? campaign which will feature people talking about how deaths in farm-related accidents have affected them. He said he hoped the series would shock people and “hopefully will get the hairs on the back of your neck standing or create a lump in your throat, which it certainly did for me”.

 

He said all farmers must put safety plans into place “whether it’s livestock management, whether it’s machinery, whether it’s managing slurry . . . In our case at home, looking at safety issues around cliff tops at the edge of coastal farms.”

The new campaign was introduced by Embrace Farm, a support group for people affected by farm deaths. Brian Rohan and his wife Norma set it up following the death of his father Liam in 2012.

Mr Rohan said he went to his first ploughing championships when he was 11 and his father won the All-Ireland championship that year. “2012 was the only year I missed since because I just couldn’t face it that year.”

 

Increased risks

There have been 21 farm-related deaths this year, compared with 10 up to the same date last year. Mr Rohan said farming has become much more mechanised and that has increased the risk.

 

“My concern is that as farming intensifies over the coming years, it could get worse. The ending of quotas, for example, is going to see a lot of young farmers in particular increasing their herd size,” he said. “That’s going to mean more animals, more silage to be harvested, more machinery on farms and generally more activity.”

What was left behind after a farm death was “awful, make no mistake about it. There’s the terrible emotional pain that is so obvious but then there’s the huge practical pain, that many people don’t realise at the time, of who picks up the pieces. Who farms the farm when the farmer dies?”

Mr Coveney said practically every farming family knew someone who was injured or killed in a farm accident.

“Despite that, the attitude and approach is always, ‘well, it’s not going to happen to me,’” he said. “And that’s what needs to be challenged . . . we need to continue to redouble our efforts, first and foremost to change mindsets.”