The “over-zealous” nature of farm inspections in north Tipperary over recent years has not helped efforts to promote farm safety.

That is according to Tim Cullinan, Chairman of North Tipperary IFA. He was speaking at a farm safety event run in conjunction with Central Auctions Co-Op Marts at Nenagh mart, last Tuesday, July 4.

Cullinan said there had been an ongoing problem in north Tipperary. Concerns had been raised about the number of farm inspections, and the way in which they were carried out, as well as the amount of penalties imposed.

“The cost to north Tipperary farmers in penalties has been €1.28 million over the period from 2010 to 2015,” he said.

Farmers have been living in fear, and have come to us, asking us to highlight the problem, and we took it on.

“We met with the local officials and couldn’t get any answers as to why there was such a problem in the north Tipperary area.

“Last week, we presented the case for north Tipperary to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, with a full bus-load travelling to the Dail. The Secretary General said he would respond to the concerns raised,” said Cullinan.

Unannounced early-morning inspections had heaped stress on farmers, he said.

If farmers are going out to operate machinery when they are already stressed, that is something that has to be looked at and dealt with.

Speaking after the event in Nenagh mart, Cullinan told AgriLand there had been a positive outcome to the concerns raised about inspections and appeals, as well as on changes made to the handbook that accompanies payments.

“The department came before the committee and agreed to a complete review of the appeals process.

“It has been acknowledged that changes were made to the handbook accompanying payments without consultation of farmer representative groups, contrary to the farmers’ Charter of Rights, and that has to be revisited.

“It was accepted that the way in which inspections have been carried out in north Tipperary has been very stressful on farm families.

“[The department] is willing to sit down with ourselves in the IFA and see what way the inspections process can be changed to alleviate the stress on farm families,” Cullinan said.

“It is a great result for a campaign in north Tipperary. The committee took on board everything we said and, in fairness, the issue was clarified within a week. I would like to compliment Pat Deering, who chairs the Joint Committee on Agriculture,” he said.

Safety at work

Noting that there have been 15 confirmed deaths on Irish farms so far this year, Cullinan said the IFA was taking the issue of farm safety very seriously.

“We organised this safety talk and demonstration at Nenagh mart to raise awareness of the need for safety on Irish farms. There will always be accidents, but there are lots of steps we can take to prevent accidents and death,” said Cullinan.

William Shortall, Development Officer for Tipperary north and south, said the farm safety event was held at the mart to keep building awareness around the dangers on farms.

“The mart is a natural gathering place for farmers, which is why we opted to hold the event at Nenagh mart.

“We have the Irish Red Cross here, doing blood pressure checks, and giving demonstrations on how to handle emergencies when they arise on the farm.

“We are also visiting primary schools in south Tipperary, asking children to bring the safety message home,” he said.

“We have no idea how many accidents happen on Irish farms – only the fatalities get recorded.

“There is always more that can be done when it comes to creating awareness of the dangers.”