Farmer and international rugby star Seán O’Brien becomes a Champion for Change
Following from accidents in his local community and a near miss experience, Ireland international rugby star and farmer Seán O’Brien becomes one of FBD's Champion for Change.

Seán O'Brien has become one of FBD's Champions for Change, urging farmers around the country to stay vigilant and safe in a determined effort to tackle farm fatalities, injuries and accidents.

Champions for Change is a major national farm safety initiative sponsored by FBD, which is aimed at targeting an immediate reduction in farm related deaths. Some 30 people, including five children, died in the farming sector last year.

The campaign works by using digital technology to create a nationwide community of interest, discussion and support around the issues involved.

Rugby star Seán O’Brien will front the FBD Champions for Change campaign in a series of online TV, print and digital advertisements designed to promote participation.

Commenting on his decision to become a Champion for Change, O'Brien said he is "asking everyone to join the Champions for Change movement and to dedicate themselves to safety on their farms throughout Ireland. This campaign isn’t about being told what to do. It’s about us as farmers taking the responsibility and keeping our farms safe. All it takes is one step at a time, doing the necessary jobs, taking the right precautions and getting safer and safer as you go along. That will help to reduce accidents and fatalities everywhere and it really can’t come a minute too soon where one death or one injury is one too many.”

At the launch, the rugby star revealed that, as well accidents occurring in his local community, he too has experienced a near-miss on his family farm when his father had an accident during calving time and luckily survived the experience. It was the potentially devastating outcome of this incident, which was avoided, and his wish to make people actively aware of farm safety issues that led O'Brien to join Champions for Change.

“As a farming family, we’ve always been very conscious of the need for farm safety but nobody is infallible and accidents can happen. My heart goes out to anyone bereaved or injured by a farm accident. It’s very hard to imagine what that’s like and nobody should have to go through such heartache.”

Michael Berkery, FBD Chairman said, “Farmers everywhere can join with Seán O’Brien to prevent accidents and hopefully save lives by joining the Champions for Change programme. Changing our usual way of doing things can be challenging but because farming is a tough and demanding occupation with plenty of workplace hazards, it’s time to stop taking risks and prevent any unnecessary heartache."

Figures from the Health & Safety Authority show that (across all industry sectors) 55 people were killed in work-related accidents in 2014, the highest rate of fatalities since 2008. Fatalities in the Agriculture sector increased by 87% in 2014, with 30 people (including 5 children) killed compared to 16 in 2013. For the fifth year running the Agriculture sector recorded the highest number of fatalities, representing over half of all work related deaths in 2014. More than 2,500 serious accidents occur on Irish farms each year.

Renewable schemes 'too narrow' – IFA
The Support Scheme for Renewable Heat is cleared for take-off, but a lot more remains to be done, according to the IFA.

IFA renewables chair Tom Short has welcomed this week's EU's green light for the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH) and urged the Government to publish details of eligible boilers and ADs, warning that delays and insufficient funding to date had "completely undermined confidence for investing in the sector".

He described the €300m pledged for SSRH over the next eight years as a "token amount" against the €450m collected every year through the carbon tax on fossil fuels and public service obligation levy on electricity.

This will not deliver on Ireland’s EU renewable energy targets

“This will not deliver on Ireland’s EU renewable energy targets, which will effectively double between now and 2030.

"The range of renewable technologies proposed to date is too narrow," Short said, calling for a clear and coherent policy to develop renewable energy and the wider circular bio-economy.

"Any support scheme that is put in place must support community microgeneration, along with the deployment of the full range of renewable technologies, including wind turbines, micr-hydro, solar PV systems, anaerobic digestion, ground source heat pumps and combined heat and power to meet EU climate change and renewable energy targets,” Short added.

Scheme to open 'shortly'

A spokesperson for the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment told the Irish Farmers Journal: "Further details on the scheme, including opening date for applications, will be announced by the minister shortly."

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Tractor used in Kells ATM thefts was robbed the previous night
In the early hours of Friday 19 April, two ATMs were stolen from Main Street in Kells, Co Meath.

The JCB Fastrac tractor and the digger used as part of the ATM robbery in Kells in the early hours of Friday 19 April had been stolen from the Louth and Meath areas overnight, gardaí have confirmed.

When gardaí arrived at the scene before 4.30am on Friday morning, they saw that two ATMs had been ripped from the Bank of Ireland and AIB bank premises in the town centre.


A Garda spokesperson said: “A JCB Fastrac tractor and trailer and a excavator remained at scene.

"Both the JCB tractor and the excavator were stolen in the Louth and Meath areas overnight.

“A significant amount of damage was caused to both premises and both premises remain closed. The scene is preserved pending technical examination from divisional scenes of crime unit,” she said.

The gardaí are now appealing for any person who was in Kells on Friday morning between 3.30am and 4.20am and who saw anything unusual to make contact.

They are also appealing for any person who saw heavy machinery being moved or transported between Ardee and Kells, the N52 or adjoining roads in the early hours of the morning to contact gardaí, and any person who may have been driving in that area and who has dashcam footage.

Jeep and Volkswagen

Gardaí believe those responsible left the scene in a dark-coloured crew-cab jeep and a dark-coloured Volkswagen car along the Maudlin Road towards Carlanstown, the N52.

Gardaí are appealing for any person who saw these vehicles or knows the whereabouts of these vehicles to contact them at Kells Garda Station on 046-928 0820, the Garda confidential line on 1800 666 111 or any Garda station.

'An organised planned attack'

Speaking at the scene today, Superintendent Dermot O'Conner said: "This crime was an organised planned attack on the community of Kells.

“This crime is not a victimless crime and will have a significant impact on the community of Kells and the local area over this Easter bank holiday weekend.

"I appeal to the local and wider community to support An Garda Síochána and to provide any information to bring these criminals to justice,” he said.

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Two ATMs stolen from Kells in early morning raid

ATM thieves set tractor on fire

Farmers asked to be vigilant for forest fires
The Forest Service has issued a condition orange fire risk warning for the Easter bank holiday weekend.

Forest owners, farmers and rural dwellers have been asked to be extremely vigilant this weekend for any forest fire activity and to report any suspicious or illegal activity to the gardaí.

The Forest Service has issued a condition orange fire warning as a result of easterly high pressure conditions and forecast high temperatures.

High fire risk

These conditions mean that a high fire risk exists in all areas where hazardous fuels such as gorse, heather, dried grasses and other dead vegetation exist.

The projected meteorological fire risk is likely to be further compounded by additional ignition risks arising from the forthcoming Easter bank holiday weekend.

A statement from the Forest Service said that most recent fire incidents appear to have taken place on lands associated with turf cutting, but additional risks may also exist on areas commonly used for public recreation.

“On this basis, the highest degree of vigilance is warranted by forest owners and managers during the long weekend. Fire risk is expected to peak significantly on Monday 22 April 2019,” it said.

Pending significant rainfall, this risk condition will remain in place until 12pm on Tuesday 23 April unless otherwise stated by the Department.

Be on alert

All forest owners and managers are again advised to prepare for likely outbreaks of fire.

Recent weeks have seen significant fire activity and losses in forestry.

Fire lines, fire plans and fire suppression equipment should be reviewed and made ready and other relevant contingencies such as insurance, helicopter contracts, etc, checked and confirmed.

The advice is if you see a fire, do not delay; report it to the fire and emergency services straight away by calling 999 or 112.

People who make the call will not be billed by the fire service or local authority.

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Gorse fire an 'intimidating sight'