Farm Ireland

Friday 23 February 2018

​Families tell of heartbreak as farm deaths double in 2014

Brian and Norma Rohan and Eugene Hogan who have all lost family members to farming accidents
Brian and Norma Rohan and Eugene Hogan who have all lost family members to farming accidents
Aideen Sheehan

Aideen Sheehan

FARM deaths have doubled this year with 21 fatal accidents, as families left behind drive a new safety campaign to help save lives.

Sons and daughters attending the Ploughing Championships yesterday told of the heartache experienced by those left behind.

Brian Rohan started coming to the ploughing with his father Liam when he was 11 years old.

Liam was an all-Ireland ploughing champion who remained healthy and active until his death two years ago at the age of 74, when machinery fell on him at the family farm in Shanahoe, Co Laois.

Now Brian is spearheading a farm safety drive using harrowing video testimony from bereaved families.

Brian founded the Embrace Farm group to help families who suffer similar losses, and wants to warn others of the "awful reality" left by each tragic death. So far this year 21 people have died, compared with just 10 in the same period of 2013.

"There's the terrible emotional pain that is so obvious but then there's the huge practical pain, that many people don't realise at the time, of who picks up the pieces. Who farms the farm when the farmer dies?" said Brian.

Eugene Hogan, whose brother Dermot died just two months ago when he fell from a shed on his farm in Co Offaly, said: "Nothing can prepare you for the reality of such an unexpected loss".

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Dermot was an Offaly under-21 hurling manager who was full of life and left behind his heartbroken wife and three daughters.

His father Kieran, who's in his 70s now, makes a 50-mile round trip every day to keep the farm going.

Dermot worked in ABP and the Larry Goodman-owned company is now backing the safety drive with videos from families available to view on and

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said he hoped the videos would shock people and "hopefully will get the hairs on the back of your neck standing or create a lump in your throat, which it certainly did for me".

All previous efforts to combat farm safety had not worked, even though so many families were affected.

"The trauma and heartache and difficulty that comes following the loss of a loved one. My family experienced that as well," said Mr Coveney.

He called for a "fundamental change of mindset' in which all husbands, wives, children, sisters and brothers on farms constantly challenge each other to take all necessary safety steps.

The department will also shortly launch a new farm safety scheme providing grants worth around €12m for safety measures such as new railings and covers on slurry pits.

Mr Coveney also announced a new service to assist bereaved families to deal with the bureaucracy involved in suddenly having to take over management of the farm.

"Dealing with the business of running a family farm in the aftermath of a family tragedy places enormous pressure on those left behind. I want to ensure that my Department provides the necessary assistance during this period of distress," he said.

Bereaved families would be given a single point of contact to offer comprehensive and expert advice on dealing with the farm, he said.

Irish Independent

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