Young farmers’ leader calls for farm-safety tutorial in schools

Macra na Feirme agm urges Government to prioritise the rejuvenation of rural Ireland

President of Macra na Feirme Seán Finan: “Education at a young age remains the key to tackling farm safety . . . It’s a very long-term thing, but it’s very important that we target schools.”

President of Macra na Feirme Seán Finan: “Education at a young age remains the key to tackling farm safety . . . It’s a very long-term thing, but it’s very important that we target schools.”

 

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has been urged to fund a farm-safety programme in schools following the worst year for farm deaths since 1991.

New president of Macra na Feirme Seán Finan made the call in his inaugural speech at the agm of the young farmers and rural youth organisation in Loughrea, Co Galway, at the weekend. Some 30 people died in farm accidents in 2014.

“Education at a young age remains the key to tackling farm safety. It’s like any GAA team. You have to start with the young lads and girls and train them and change the mindset. It’s a very long-term thing, but it’s very important that we target schools.

“We have seen the roll out by the Road Safety Authority of a primary schools’ programme for the promotion of road safety and a green flag programme for promotion of environmental awareness. Today I call on the Minister to fund a schools programme on farm safety.”

Mr Finan also called on young farmers to take the lead in promoting farm safety among family, neighbours and friends. Accidents involving farmers aged over 55 account for about 70 per cent of farm deaths and the majority involve machinery and tractors.

“We’ve seen a lot of older farmers being killed on farms and obviously there’s an ageing demographic in farming. There are more farmers over the age of 80 than under the age of 35 and we have to encourage people to be safe.”

Mr Finan, (31) a farmer and construction project manager from Ballinlough, Castlerea, Co Roscommon, won the contest on April 7th to replace outgoing Macra na Feirme president Kieran O’Dowd.

Exciting time

Mr Finan said Macra would be rolling out a new Skillnets training programme for young farmers in the coming months addressing matters such as financial planning, grassland management and cattle breeding.

Some 40-45 per cent of Macra members are involved in farming, either full time or part time.

He also highlighted the lack of women in agriculture, saying “we need to encourage more women to enter the industry as they have a vital role to play in its development and growth”.

Mr Finan said Macra na Feirme had “unlimited potential” for growth, and he would work with Macra’s members to draw up a development plan for the organisation. “This plan will include ambitious targets for an increase in membership and participation in all areas including cities, rural areas and colleges.”

Challenging period

Edmond Connolly

Three new vice-presidents also took office at the agm. Odile Evans from Plattenstown, Arklow, Co Wicklow, is the new Leinster vice-president. The new northwest vice-president is Caroline O’Dowd from Gurteen, Co Sligo, wife of the outgoing president Kieran O’Dowd. Gerard Griffin from Fermoy, Co Cork, is the new Munster vice-president.

Meanwhile, the agm also heard a call on the Government to prioritise the rejuvenation of rural Ireland. Mr Finan said the Government must fully implement 34 recommendations made in the Commission for Rural Development of Economic Area (CEDRA) report which was published last year.

“We have witnessed the decimation of rural Ireland in recent years with the closure of post offices and Garda stations. Rural Ireland has lost a lot. This report was done to help rural Ireland and there are a lot of very good recommendations in it so we’d like the Government to prioritise the implementation of it.

“Appointing Ann Phelan [Minister of State for Rural Affairs] to oversee it was a positive first step, but there’s a lot more that could be done with issues such as broadband and transport. They affect the rural economy and if they were implemented it would make a big difference.”