We are writing to you this morning to say ‘Be Strong. Be Vigilant. But be Hopeful.’ As the Ministers whose privilege it is to represent and defend the interests of farmers in Ireland, we know how important you are to the lifeblood of this country. We want to acknowledge that and ask you to keep going and keep positive in these most difficult times.

We are in an incredibly serious and precarious situation. COVID-19 is circulating in our communities and our parishes. We are all deeply worried about the recent surge, a surge which is seeing our health service and hospitals come under sustained pressure and our lives and livelihoods threatened.

Since COVID-19 was identified on our shores, we have had thousands of cases and very sadly we have seen families lose loved ones.

So we face a huge challenge. But we will face it down, as we have others in the past. We will continue to tackle COVID-19, pulling together to save each other, our families and the heroic frontline workers in hospitals and care homes.

And we will do so in our farming communities too. As farmers, we have always prided ourselves on being tough and resilient. We work together at times of crisis. Our community spirit shines through time and time again.

We are asking everyone to pull together once more, to deal with perhaps the biggest crisis this country has ever known.

Farmers on the frontline

Farmers, from the start of the pandemic, have proven to be critical frontline workers. Producing high-quality food, you have kept our shelves stocked, ensuring that the kitchen tables of Ireland remained full of food.

We all thank you for your Trojan efforts. And the Department staff and its agencies have, and will continue, to provide the critical services that keep these supply lines open, protect food safety, and ensure that farm payments continue to be processed.

Taking care

Since the outbreak of this global pandemic, we have heard on a number of occasions that ‘the next seven to 10 days are crucial’. Never, however, has that been truer than now.

We all need to take collective and personal responsibility to ensure that our elderly neighbours stay safe, that we do not bring COVID-19 into our homes or communities, and that we thereby take the pressure off of our vital healthcare services.

The Government, meanwhile, will continue to listen to public health advice, watch the evolving situation on an hourly basis, and take responsible decisions.

But while we do this, all of us, in an atmosphere of vigilance, we must also be positive. The vaccine has arrived. The roll-out has begun. We are hopeful that we are reaching the beginning of the end.

So, while we are staying safe, let’s be grateful to all our farm families – the custodians of the land, wonder at its richness and be thankful that spring is coming.

Stay safe. Look after each other. Protect our healthcare system.

Minister Charlie McConalogue.

Minister Pippa Hackett.

Minister Martin Heydon.