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Tim Lombard: We need to make hard, unpopular decisions to reduce farm fatalities

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Tim Lombard

Tim Lombard

Tim Lombard

When we first sat in the Seanad two weeks ago, a neighbour of mine was, unfortunately, being buried that same day. He was another man who lost his life in a farm fatality.

That was the second person I knew in Cork who had died in six weeks. One man was killed in a tractor accident, while another was killed by a bull. This is a blight on our communities and on our society.

It is about not only the people who are dying, but about the families who are left behind and how we deal with them.

Unfortunately, over the past decade there has been no major change.

Some 40pc of all fatalities in workplaces happen in an agricultural setting, even though the sector comprises only 5pc of the overall workforce.

We need to look at changing the process because what we have done in the past decade has failed. That has to be the starting line.

The Oireachtas produced a report, in which Members were involved, but there has been no major change in the percentage of people who have lost their lives.

If you look at the basics, we are paying 23pc VAT on farm safety material. That is sinful - I don't know how we can stand over the fact that if someone wants to buy a new PTO shaft, 23pc of the price goes to the Exchequer. This has to change.

Ridiculous

Sixteen-year-olds can do a theory test and then drive a tractor that can do 50 km/h with a load of more than 20 tones behind it. That is absolutely ridiculous.

We have laws in this land that have not been updated and are for a different age.

To really make a change when it comes to farm safety, and to really change what is happening on our family farms, we need to make hard and somewhat unpopular decisions.

That is why I want to make farm safety a priority. I do not want to go to any more of these funerals. It cannot continue.

We need to have major change because what has been done in the past decade has not been successful.

We have a farm safety week in a few weeks' time, but things have to change drastically. It cannot be about promoting farm safety just for that one week. The statistics show that it has not worked.

We need to change because if we do not, the statistics will not change.

Tim Lombard is the Fine Gael Seanad spokesperson on Agriculture, Food and the Marine

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