The government has been urged to seek inclusion of a farm safety scheme in the Rural Development Programme by Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy.

Carthy, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, spoke on the matter following confirmation from the European Commission that Ireland is free to adopt a Pilot Farm Safety Scheme currently run by Sweden.

On the topic, the MEP said: “During the 2009-2013 Rural Development period, Sweden included a scheme called ‘Safe Farmers Common Sense’.

“The aim was to reverse the rising number of deaths in the sector. This 5-year national project, funded by the EU, resulted in zero farm fatalities being recorded in Sweden in 2013.

Last year, 23 of the 45 recorded workplace fatalities in Ireland occurred in the agriculture, forestry, and fishery sector. This is well above the second most affected sector, construction, which accounted for nine deaths.

“This is not to even mention the large amounts of non-fatal accidents which result in serious injuries that affect the ability of farmers to continue working,” Carthy added.

“Other European countries are well ahead of us. In 2006, Nordic countries set out a vision to have a zero fatal injury target by 2012 in the Kuopio Declaration. Sweden and Denmark have achieved that target after targeted campaigns focused on improving the practises of farmers in relation to risk exposure.”

The Sinn Fein MEP believes it is time for the Irish government to follow suit and adopt a similar campaign in Ireland.

“Last March, I made a formal request that the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee draft a report on the state of play of farm safety measures in the EU.

This request was blocked by the larger parties despite the most recent legislation covering this area dating back to 1989.

“It is time for legislators to start taking this issue seriously and I will be writing to other Irish MEPs to ensure their backing to bring this issue forward again,” Carthy concluded.