Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Wednesday 26 July 2017

Higgins: put safety at the heart of our farming industry

Sabina Higgins meets ploughman Gerry King from Co Louth and his two draught horses
Jack and Jill at the National Ploughing Championships at Ratheniksa, Co Laois, yesterday Photo: Frank McGrath
Sabina Higgins meets ploughman Gerry King from Co Louth and his two draught horses Jack and Jill at the National Ploughing Championships at Ratheniksa, Co Laois, yesterday Photo: Frank McGrath
President Michael D Higgins said that farm safety should be a priority for the agriculture industry
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

President Michael D Higgins called for farm safety to be placed at the heart of the country's agriculture industry, as he officially launched the 84th National Ploughing Championships.

Tens of thousands of visitors poured in through the gates from early morning, with more than 1,500 trade stands selling everything from high-end machinery to handmade hurleys throughout the 800-acre site.

As the crowds gathered at the bandstand in Ratheniska, Co Laois, as the ribbon-cutting and blessing ceremony got under way, Mr Higgins described the figures as startling with 11 lives lost so far this year and statistics showing the farmyard is now the most deadly of workplaces.

Mr Higgins said people must reflect on the changing environment on farms which account for 60pc of fatalities.

"This year 11 people to date have lost their lives on Irish farms," he said. "That this figure is four times greater than the second most dangerous occupational sector in the country, construction, is a salutary and sobering reminder of just how hazardous our farms can be."

Mr Higgins said it emphasised the importance of adequate training and precautions but it must be recognised that it is a more "complex task" than most workplaces.

"The vast majority of our farms are required to play a dual role - as a place of work but also as a family home," he said, with five deaths of children on farms last year. "We must resolve to place farm safety at the very heart of our growing agricultural industry."

Macra na Feirme president Sean Finan said work has been under way with young farmers to ensure they take "personal responsibility for their own safety".


Some 77,500 people attended the first day of the ploughing, down from 82,000 last year.

It is estimated that the championship generates €39m in annual sales for Irish businesses, with a number of international buyers have come in from abroad to see the innovative machinery and farm products on sale throughout the event.

Many traders were reporting a busy first day, with AJ Wall, from Mooncoin, Co Kilkenny reporting a steady trade in handmade hurleys. He said it was always a strong event in their business calendar.

IFA president Eddie Downey said he would be sending a clear message to politicians descending on the ploughing today that more action was needed to ensure the economic recovery in cities is reflected in the countryside.

He called for investment in broadband and extra garda policing to reduce rural crime.

Irish Independent