Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Saturday 23 September 2017

Three nights in prison almost broke this agricultural contractor

But he survived and is now helping families coping with suicide

Grace Vaughan

Christopher Duffy lost both his uncle and best friend Mark to suicide and the agricultural contractor from Co. Meath knows only too well the pain and devastation suicide leaves in its wake.

"Nobody knows how desperate someone must be feeling so that the only option left is to take their own life," says Christopher who had his own struggle with a bank which ended up as a three-night stay in Mountjoy prison.

Every farmer faces pressures of some sort but, for Christopher, he fell into arrears and was able to make the repayments on his machinery due to a change in regulations around the spreading of slurry.

Doing everything possible to avoid bringing shame on his family and hold onto his existing business the contractor says he was met by a constant apathetic wall.

The humiliation of not being able to pay employees was bad enough Christopher said, but one of the worst days was when he was at a family funeral and a neighbour rang to tell him that agents of a bank were at his farm. The neighbour also put out a call to other neighbours and when Christopher arrived home, he was met with the support of 30 neighbours.

However, worse was to come. A possession order was now in place on some of his agricultural machinery and Christopher waited for the bank agents to come and seize it.

However, it was only when he got a phone call from the local Garda station issuing an arrest warrant for breaching a court order against him that he realised that it was incumbent on him to return the machinery and not for it to be collected by the bank agents.

Charged with contempt of court, Christopher spent three nights in prison. While for some a three-day prison stay is a short one, for Christopher it almost broke him and says it was the one and only time in his life where he felt completely broken.

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Yet, he says he feels privileged that he was able to come out of prison, the financial hole he was in and managed to rebuild his company.

Others are not so fortunate and Christopher says many farmers are feeling pressure to the point where they feel helpless and resort to desperate measures like suicide. "Then we’re in big trouble," says Christopher, "because for most of us, farming isn’t just a business, it’s a way of life – take that away and you’ve nothing."

It gook a couple of years for Christopher to find his feet again but he did and part of that road led him to help found the annual Mark Quinn Memorial Tractor Run fundraiser in memory of his friend. The event takes place in March and is now in its third year and all proceeds go to SOSAD, a charity that helps families affected by suicide.


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