By Ann Marie Foley - 30 June, 2014
The much loved Old Mac Donnell’s farm of 2014 is a “most complex web of danger, injury, and sadly fatal accidents,” Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare and Leighlin told the hundreds of farming families who attended the inaugural National Embrace FARM Accident Remembrance service on Sunday.
In his sermon at the ecumenical service in Abbeyleix, Co Laois, the Bishop said that those who work on a farm are up to ten times more likely to be killed in the course of their work than the general working population, making farming the second most hazardous occupation after mining.
Bishop Nulty described himself as the son and brother of a farmer and as such he said he knows all too well about the risks.
He spoke of those who have died tragically in farm accidents such as on the Spence family farm in Northern Ireland, and the Byrne farm in Carlow.
He said on Sunday that there have been 13 farm accidents so far this year compared to 16 in total last year.
“Every one is one too many – behind every accident is a family – there is a community – a town and a parish devastated.”
He said that farmers are often the backbone of his parish and engaged with many voluntary and community organisations.
“The faith practice of farmers is higher than any other profession – because they are much at home and in touch with nature – because they have come to know and love through their work – their creator.”
Bishop Nulty was joined by Bishop Michael Burrows, Church of Ireland Bishop Of Cashel Ferns And Ossory, who read the opening prayer.
Host and MC was Fr Ger Ahern, PP, and various local priests and ministers participated in readings and prayers.
Rugby players from each of the four provinces took a lighted candle to the altar from where they read the names of those who had died or been injured in farm accidents.
In this most solemn part of the service, family members stood to be presented with a specially created candle of remembrance.
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney presented a wreath as a mark of respect for and remembrance by all of the island of Ireland for families who have lost loved ones to farming accidents.
After the service, at a meeting to address some of the more practical aspects farm accidents he said: “The church service was a powerful expression of solidarity and prayer.”
He told CatholicIreland.net that the day was not one for announcements of measures to help with farm safety.
“Lots of people in the church today were sitting next to people who were going through the same journey that they are trying to go through – which isn’t easy and takes a long time for some people and for many they never get over the shock and the trauma of this. I think it is important for farming leaders for neighbours and others to come and show solidarity – and that is primarily why I am here.”
He also said that there is some scope to work with Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan, who was also present, to provide support for children and teens who have lost loved ones, and to provide positive role models such as the rugby players present who promote the need for farm safety.
The Minister for Agriculture also said that a date has been set for a meeting with the Embrace FARM group and Brian and Norma Rohan who have been instrumental in organising the day.
They lost Brian’s father, Liam, to a farm accident and wanted to remember him and others in a fitting way.
“This is the very first time it has been done,” Norma Rohan told CatholicIreland.net, “that people killed in farm accidents remembered by anyone in a service like this.”
She added, “There is no support structures out there for families of farmers who die in a farming accident, there is nothing joining them up, nothing connecting them, so that is what myself and Brian are hoping to do.”
She invited other families to tell them what they want done and to come and join them.