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The tide is turning — women deserve to be treated equally in farm inheritance

Margaret Donnelly


It was heartening to see CSO figures showing that up to 18pc of farms will be inherited by daughters/women

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Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Primogeniture — now there’s a word. It’s a system preference in inheritance given by law or custom to the eldest child — normally sons.

While its origins date back thousands of years, its primary motivation to a large extent, remained the same of the centuries, usually to keep the estate of the deceased whole and intact in the family name.

The practice was eliminated in most of the Western world over the past 50 years; however, it still lingers in some corners. For instance, English primogeniture endures mainly in titles of nobility.

Here in Ireland, the farming community has wrestled with its own form of primogeniture over the centuries.

For too long women’s place on the farm had been seen as indoors primarily, and many daughters were passed over for inheritance in favour of sons.

However, it was heartening to see figures from the CSO on the 2020 census relating to succession.

While just 13pc of the country’s farmers were women, we all know that far more are actually involved in farming on a day-to-day basis than the numbers suggest.

However, what was really encouraging in the new data is that up to 18pc of farms will be inherited by daughters/women.

Mind you, those figures are skewed by the sheer lack of succession plans in place — in no region have more than 50pc of farmers actually sat down and committed pen to paper to outline exactly who will inherit their farm.

Perhaps the tide is turning against primogeniture in Ireland and women will finally get treated just the same as men when it comes to inheritance.

The number of women studying ag science in recent years shows it’s a career they’re not afraid to take on.

The recent push by Women in Agriculture Stakeholder group will help keep women to the fore, and little by little, we might see a significant change as more women are seen by everyone as equal and capable.

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