‘Beef crisis highlights need to tackle rural isolation’ – TD

The dispute and resulting protests that have affected the beef sector in recent months have highlighted the need to address the issue of rural isolation and mental health among farmers, according to a Co. Galway TD.

Anne Rabbitte, a Fianna Fáil TD for Galway East, said that initiatives such as the ‘men’s sheds’ movement were needed in communities most affected by the issues in the beef sector.

“Over the course of the beef protests, I saw first-hand the need for more initiatives to tackle rural isolation among farmers, which in turn will help bolster mental health,” said Rabbitte.

A side effect of the recent pickets was that it created a meeting place for like-minded farmers to chat about a range of issues. While it was the beef crisis that brought them together, it was a sense of loyalty, honour and friendship that kept them there.

“I know of farmers whose only human interaction in a given week is with the postman. It can be a lonely job and this side of it often goes unspoken but this needs to change,” the TD stressed.

She added: “Organisations like the Irish Men’s Sheds Association demonstrate the growing demand for such outlets.”

Rabitte argued that there has been a “lack of action” taken to address rural isolation.

Recent findings from AgriLand found 57% of farmers have been affected by feelings of anxiety while 46% of farmers have been affected by feelings of depression or severe sadness,” she highlighted.

This is a shocking indictment of the lack of action being taken to truly tackle rural isolation. There’s a duty of care here that needs to be addressed and I firmly believe that farming organisations have a social responsibility to provide their members with such opportunities.

Rabbitte said that there were “plans afoot” within the Beef Plan Movement to develop ‘men’s sheds’ at different locations, including Athleague.

“I would hope that the Department of Rural and Community Development will ringfence funding for such initiatives and I look forward to working with the Beef Plan Movement to fulfill their plan,” the TD concluded.