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Independent.ie

Sunday 4 December 2016

'Rural Ireland seems to be an inconvenience for official Ireland'

My week: Des Morrison, Castleconnor, Enniscrone, Co Sligo - Farmer, cattle valuer and employment appeals tribunal panellist

Ken Whelan

Published 16/03/2016 | 02:30

Enniscrone farmer Des Morrison.
Enniscrone farmer Des Morrison.

Des Morrison was a busy man last week. He spent his days at the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) in Letterkenny where he sits as part of the IBEC panel and his evenings catching up with the routine chores on the family farm.

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Des and his wife Mary run a Holstein dairy herd on "twelve acres around the parlour" and supply 400,000 litres of milk to Aurivo with the winter milk going to Killygordon in Donegal. The couple also finish some cattle on their fragmented 100ac farm.

"I call Mary 'management'," says Des.

It's very much a joint enterprise and given the amount of time which Des spends at employment appeals to say nothing of his work as a cattle valuer, his description of his wife's role could be an understatement.

His work with the EAT and his cattle valuing across Connacht, the border counties and Donegal gives him an unique insight into how things actually are in rural Ireland.

His assessment of the current situation is stark. "Rural Ireland has been deserted by official Ireland who seem to think that Ireland ends at the Spa Hotel in Lucan and the Red Cow in Clondalkin," he said.

"It's as though rural Ireland is just an inconvenient address for those running official Ireland."

"The people forming a Government in Dublin and celebrating 1916 at the moment should remember the Proclamation and what it says about equality as well as social, moral and statutory rights," he says with some passion.

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"And they should remember the amount of Dáil seats which represent rural Ireland, and they should remember it every day until the next general election," he adds.

Des doesn't claim to have all the solutions to the urban-rural divide in fortunes in modern Ireland, but says the new government should start with a fairer nationwide distribution of new jobs.

"I am not saying that every village in rural Ireland should have an industrial estate but hubs for rural employment should be created," he says.

He also believes that simple measures like re-instating the live cattle export trade to the north and Britain would be helpful as it would reinvigorate the rural marts and introduce another layer of competition when it comes to cattle prices.

And a reinvigorated rural Ireland would have other benefits not least in tackling rural loneliness, depression and suicide.

Mental health should be given an urgent priority by the new government as should rural security, he says: "I know of farmers who keep the lights on in their houses throughout the night because they fear they will be robbed."

On the upside, his workload on farms affected or restricted by animal disease outbreaks has reduced considerably. "We have no BSE now thanks be to God or Brucellosis but we still have to deal with TB."

So apart from managing the home farm, hearing employment appeals and valuing restricted cattle, what does he like to do when some free time comes his way?

"I go to the local pub and I follow the local GAA team. I have an interest in the law though the only time I appeared in a court room was in Roscommon when the Employment Appeals Tribunal held a sitting there. And I like to go racing to Leopardstown, Fairyhouse and Punchestown when I get the time," he says.

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