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Independent.ie

Saturday 10 December 2016

Leo goes back to his farming roots

Claire Mc Cormack

Published 27/09/2016 | 02:30

Sheep shearing co-ordinator George Graham watches on as Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar shears under supervision from sheep shearing world record holder Ivan Scott
Sheep shearing co-ordinator George Graham watches on as Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar shears under supervision from sheep shearing world record holder Ivan Scott

He describes himself as a "city boy" but Leo Varadkar also has some farming in his DNA.

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The Minister for Social Protection reminisced on summer days spent on his family's tillage and poultry farm in Dungarvan, Waterford at the National Ploughing Championships.

"I was born in Dublin, I grew up in Dublin so I'm a city boy but I think most people in Ireland are just one generation from the farm.

"My mum used to own a farm, she inherited it from her ­grandfather in west Waterford. She sold it," he said.

He still fondly remembers packing his bag and heading off to the Déise county. "I have a lot of cousins around the same age so they would spend a month in Dublin, and I would spend a month in Waterford. I liked the machinery. My grandfather had a combine harvester and we'd go out cutting in August if the weather was decent. I was really impressed by it all," he said.

Mr Varadkar revealed that changes to PRSI for farmers and a potential increase to the Farm Assist and Rural Social schemes are on the cards for the upcoming budget.

"I'd like to extend PRSI cover to illness and injury benefits if someone gets injured in the course of a farm accident because there is very little they can fall back on now.

"I'm also looking at whether it would be possible to increase places on the rural social scheme, which is important to rural areas that don't have much access to off-farm incomes," he added.

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* Our picture shows Minister Varadkar tackling sheep shearing at the Ploughing with the assistance of Irish and World shearing champion Ivan Scott and sheep shearing co-ordinator George Graham Photo: Jeff Harvey

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