The culture of acceptance of children driving farm machinery on roads needs to be addressed and curbed as the case in which a 12-year-old was found by Gardai driving a tractor is not an isolated incident, the founder of AgriKids has said.
Alma Jordan was speaking after Gardai stopped a tractor at 12:30am on Sunday, December 1, driven by a 12-year-old boy. The John Deere tractor was halted in Trim town, with three boys in the cab. The 12-year-old driver was accompanied by a 15-year-old and an eight-year-old.
“For people to think this is an isolated case demonstrates how far removed they are from the problem and the culture that is toxifying the safety and well-being of our farm families,” said Alma.
“A lot of people read the report and used it as an opportunity to have a laugh and a skit: ‘Sure what harm?’; ‘We all did it,’ even claiming the Gardai had little to do to by pulling them over,” she said, stressing that it is not an isolated scenario.
“How would these comments have been if we were reading a headline about three children killed off a tractor or if their actions had been responsible for the death of another driver or pedestrian? How could they or their parents come to terms with that? This is real and it is serious and it is a tragedy waiting to happen,” Alma said.
‘Shocked to hear’
“I am in schools all over Ireland, talking to teachers as well as thousands of children. I can tell you they are actively driving farm vehicles and many are doing so on the road.
Some teachers have taken me to one side before a workshop, singling out those children from farms whose safety they fear for. They have a duty of care for these children that goes beyond the school playground.
“I think some parents might be shocked to hear about how their actions are causing such concern.
“One teacher I recently met, a farmer themselves, came across a child from their class driving a tractor. Having a duty of care and feeling a strong moral obligation, they approached the parents. Their actions were appreciated by the child’s mother whose own voice and concerns had fallen on deaf ears.
“I felt very sorry for this mother that she was left to feel so powerless when trying to execute her own natural instincts to protect her child,” Alma said.
With AgriKids, where safety has been the key message, I am also very quick to say how much our children can learn from growing up on a farm. It is an enterprise that is rich in real world educational opportunities for our children.
“Farmers are scientists, accountants, administrators, marketers, sales people and, of course, business people. A farm provides many opportunities to learn. But the opportunities to be harmed are also prevalent and need to be respected and acknowledged and we need to make our children aware of them.
“This culture needs to be addressed and curbed, or we will be reading a very different headline, one not to be laughed at.”