Following on from a previous discussion on Liveline about discrimination against women in terms of property and farm transfers, callers picked up the theme again this Thursday.

One caller, John, a farmer’s son, told presenter Joe Duffy that Irish people have wanted to keep the farm in the male name since Cromwell’s time.

“Ever since Cromwell’s plantation of the three provinces, when Irish farmers lost their land, it has been the culture in Ireland that the farm would stay in the male side of the family,” he said. “The farm goes out of the family if the daughter gets it,” he continued, implying that in-laws on the daughter’s side are less like “family” than those on the son’s side.

Farm work is not particularly suitable to women

John also said it is “very unrealistic” for a woman to run a farm.

“It’s very unrealistic for a woman to run a farm. In terms of strength – pulling calves out of cattle or lifting tons of beet. There is no beet now, but all that kind of thing – it’s not particularly suitable to women,” he told Duffy, who challenged his assertion on female strength and birthing cows by pointing out the number of female vets in Ireland.

Culture change

Another caller, Margaret Gill, said that, although there is still discrimination against women in agriculture, this culture is slowly changing. “An awful lot has improved from the point of view of women on the farm,” she said, adding that it should not make any difference whether in-laws on the male or female side inherit the farm.

Whoever gets the farm should be the person who really wanted it and is going to work at it

She also, controversially, asserted that animal welfare is often “very superior” when the woman is in charge on the farm.

“Ultimately, whoever gets the farm should be the person who really wanted it and is going to work at it,” Margaret added. “There is no point in leaving something to someone who is not interested in it.”

Farm offer

Finally, a lady called Sheila rang in to say that a farmer she had never met had contacted her about 15 years ago to offer his farm to one of her sons in his will.

“Although he was no relation, we shared the same surname,” she said, “and he wanted to leave one of my sons his farm as he told me he only had two daughters.”

When Sheila asked him why he would not leave the farm to his daughters, the farmer said it was because he wanted to keep it in the family name.

“He had never met my sons and I had never met him,” Sheila said. “My husband knew of him, but he was still ready to hand over his farm to a complete stranger rather than pass it down to his daughters. We just had to laugh about it at home,” she said.

Women in agriculture

A meeting of the recently-formed South East Women in Farming group last week heard that increasing the visibility of women in farming and providing a support network are the group’s key goals for women in this part of the country.

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