Over 100 farmers arrived at Paddy Donnelly’s farm, Slanemore, Westmeath on Friday September 1 for an information evening organised by Peter Burke TD.

The large crowd was met by a strong panel of speakers, including Minister Michael Creed, Joe Healy IFA President, farm safety expert Peter Gohery and representatives from Teagasc, AIB and An Garda Síochána.  There was also a moving speech given by George Graham, a sheep shearer and farmer who has battled depression and suicidal thoughts in a farming environment and has overcome this.

Paddy Donnelly, farm owner, gave an overview of his farm – a beef and suckler enterprise representative of many of the farm backgrounds present on the evening.  The Minister then spoke on the challenges that faced farmers in the region, the measures being taken by his Department to support farm incomes and the threats and opportunities in the horizon with Brexit.  Joe Healy also covered these issues, along with touching on recent developments in the milk and mushroom industries.

Sergeant John Connelly spoke on farm safety and crime prevention, an issue farmers present had many questions on and were eager to hear about.  He highlighted the text alert schemes and further plans to develop this sytem along with discussing securing your farmyard, tools and livestock.  David Webster of Teagasc spoke on downfalls in application processes and the need for further Government support and David Hyland, AIB Agri Advisor, talked on current products available to farmers in AIB and measures taken to provide support in a volatile cash flow environment.

The last two speakers painted a picture in stark contrast to each other.  Peter Gohery, a farmer from Galway who last a leg in a farm accident, used humour to highlight the disability that losing an arm or leg can cause by blindfolding Joe Healy and Peter Burke TD and making them attempt to carry out out everyday tasks to much laughter from the audience.  George Graham then spoke on his struggle with depression and a time in his life when he was saved from suicidal thoughts by taking an extremely difficult step for him through contacting his local GP and attending counselling.

Tea and coffee were provided afterwards and Peter Burke TD closed the evening by thanking the speakers and talking briefly on the region and the issues he felt the Minister needed to hear about.  Burke, a Chartered Accountant by profession but who farms at Clonmore with his father Peter Senior, stated it was important that the Minister come to the constituency to hear first-hand the problems he has being highlighting to the Department since his election.