Poignant tributes paid at remembrance service

Those who died or suffered serious injury, as a result of farm accidents, were touchingly remembered at a special church service last weekend.

This year’s Embrace FARM ecumenical remembrance service, took place in the Church of the Most Holy Rosary, Abbeyleix, Co Laois, on Sunday, June 25.

The service which has been held every year since 2014, attracted a large and representative turnout.

It was led by Church of Ireland Bishop Michael Burrows, with Fr. Gerard Ahern, PP, Abbeyleix, and Canon Patrick Harvey, among the officiating clergy.

Agriculture Minister, Michael Creed; Justice Minister, Charlie Flanagan; and Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness, were present. Commandant Kieran Carey, aide-de-camp to the Taoiseach, was also there.

Among the congregation were: the President of the ICA (Irish Countrywomen’s Association), Marie O’Toole; President of the ICMSA (Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association), John Comer; President of the ICSA (Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association), Patrick Kent; Macra na Feirme President, James Healy; Ulster Farmers’ Union President, Barclay Bell; and James Speers, President of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster.

The agri-business sector was strongly represented, with Fiona Muldoon, CEO of FBD, among those attending.

The cross-section of people who have been affected by farm tragedies was evident in those who brought symbols of lives tragically lost, to the altar.

The Lyons family from Ferbane in Offaly – remembering their five-year-old son, Liam – presented a family photo.

Patsy O’Connor from Roscommon, who lost his wife Lucy, brought his hat, as so commonly worn by farmers.

Carol Devereux from Wexford, who was honouring her father, Paddy, brought a basket of food.

Farm accident survivors also participated. Aengus Mannion, who has gone through over 30 operations to be able to walk again, was there.

So too was David Brickley, who fell through a slatted shed. They brought symbols of animals and machinery.

An ‘earth ceremony’ formed part of the service for the first time. This came about after a number of families told Brian and Norma Rohan, founders of EmbraceFARM, how they went to the scene of the accident, and took home a handful of earth.

These pieces of earth were carried out of the church by President of the ICMSA, John Comer, and Macra President, James Healy.

A hawthorn tree was then planted in the church grounds, testament to the united sense of loss in the farming community.

We do something different every year, and people were really taken by the earth ceremony.

“The symbolic gesture of it was one thing, but being farmers, there was a bit of banter about Connacht land versus Munster land,” said Norma Rohan.

The Embrace FARM service is, she said, an opportunity for people affected by farm accidents, to meet others who understand the heartbreak and complete devastation that they are going through.

“We ask farmers to avail of all the farm safety information they can, so that they avoid having to meet us.

“Nearly every processor at this stage has a farm safety project, as do the farm organisations and state agriculture bodies,” she said.

The week since the service has brought further heartbreak on Irish farms, with two more lives lost; a farmer in his 50s in the Labasheeda area of Clare, and a one-year-old-boy in Co. Kilkenny.