Farm families from across Ireland united in both grief and solidarity on Sunday as they gathered for a special Remembrance Service for those who have lost their lives in agriculture related accidents.
The Embrace FARM organised ecumenical service drew over 700 people to Most Holy Rosary Church in Abbeyleix, Co. Laois as loved ones were remembered in prayer and song.
The event was the second annual Remembrance Service, with this year’s coming after a horrific 2014 in which 30 people lost their lives on farms, an 87% increase on 2014. Many of those families were represented at the event, as were families of some of the seven people who have so far died in farm accidents this year.
The Service was laced with touching moments, including a touching talk by Brigidine Sister Eileen Deegan – done as she wove from scratch a St. Brigid’s Cross – on the sense of devastation, loss but also support for those affected by farm accidents.
Another hugely poignant moment was the reading out of over 100 names submitted by the bereaved of loved ones who died in accidents on farms. Diane Banville, a mother of two from Co. Wexford whose husband Kevin Banville died in an accident on St. Patrick’s Day last year, read a heart rending reflection on the irreplaceable loss of loved ones brought about by the death toll on Irish farms.
“We know that there are no words we can say at this moment to express what we are feeling, no words that can alleviate our sorrow or take away the pain, the emptiness, the anger and the despair, the loneliness, the fear and the uncertainty, which at times still overwhelms us,” the reflection read.
Among those in attendance were Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney and his counterpart from the Northern Assembly Michelle O’Neill, who jointly presented a wreath as a mark of respect to the lost loved ones, while candles representing each of the four provinces were presented by Barclay Bell, Vice President of the Ulster Farmers’ Union; rugby legend and farmer John Hayes; farm accident survivor Peter Gohery and Nicky Brennan, former GAA President. Others present included Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charles Flanagan, the Taoiseach’s Aide de Camp Comdt. Ciaran Carey, MEP Mairead McGuinness, with the Service led by Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin Denis Nulty and Archdeacon Wayne Carney.
Embrace FARM was founded by Shanahoe, Co. Laois farmer Brian Rohan, whose father Liam died following an accident on the family farm in 2012, last year to act as a support network for families affected by farm deaths.
Speaking following the event he said, “Today was an opportunity for people who have suffered terribly as a result of farm accidents to come together in solidarity and support. There was an awful lot of collective pain in the Church but in coming together like this we just hope that it can help with the healing process, which is an ongoing one.”