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Safety plea follows death of Ardglass farmer Patrick Curran

By Rebecca Black

Published 23/12/2015

Ulster Farmers Union deputy president Barclay Bell
Ulster Farmers Union deputy president Barclay Bell

The number of deaths on Northern Ireland's farms has risen from last year, with a family in rural south Down the latest to be left devastated.

Five people have died following incidents on farms in 2015.

Patrick Curran (79) died on Monday evening following an accident on his farm in Bishopscourt near Ardglass.

He was due to celebrate his 80th birthday shortly and had run his large beef farm all his life.

South Down MP Margaret Ritchie said Mr Curran was regarded within the community as "one of life's gentlemen".

"He was a person of great honesty and integrity, and a stalwart of the local community. He lived for his farm and his animals," she said.

A funeral for Mr Curran is expected to be held later this week, on either Thursday or Saturday.

Ulster Farmers Union deputy president Barclay Bell said the tragic accident has brought the number of people who have died in farming accidents in Northern Ireland this year to five, up from four in 2014.

However, this number is down from eight in 2013 and 12 in 2012.

Scores more farmers are injured in their work, but many of these accidents are not reported.

Mr Bell told the Belfast Telegraph that the tragic deaths of three members of the Spence family on their farm outside Hillsborough in 2012 sent shockwaves through the farming community.

He urged farmers to take a minute before carrying out any task, revealing that on his own farm he will "hardly even climb a ladder any more without thinking about it". Earlier this month Ben Hamilton died following an incident involving a vehicle at Aghadulla Road outside Dromore, Co Tyrone. It is believed a digger fell on him.

And earlier this year, a farmer from the Strangford area, Richard Sharvin, died in an accident.

Mr Bell said the UFU is working hard to spread the message about farm safety across the region.

"This year, up until Monday night, there were four farm deaths. When you look at the figure last year of four, of the previous year which was eight and the previous which was 12, the work of the Farm Safety Partnership has been very useful," he said.

"In general I think the message has got out, the work of the partnership is invaluable but it is back to the old story, because farming is an occupation where generally you are working alone, you have to be very conscious of the safety message and the acronym SAFE - which is slurry, animals, falls and equipment. Those are the four big dangers and you cannot drop your guard."

Mr Bell said he feels farmers are more aware of the farm safe message, but emphasised it should be constantly refreshed.

"We still have a lot of work to do. Statistics can change very quickly," he said.

Mr Bell said the fact that so many farmers work on their own and that the farming community is getting older (average age currently around 58) means extra caution should be taken.

"It just takes one slip and it can be tragic," he said.

"Just before they do something, if they just stop and think for one minute, 'can I do that job any safer or any better'".

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