‘Help Lagan Valley farmers’

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Councillor Robbie Butler has said Sinn Fein Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill must ensure increased funding is made available to help farming families in Lagan Valley cope with the severe stresses and strains of working in the agricultural sector.

Councillor Butler added: “In this respect, I would highly commend the work being done by the Rural Support helpline charity, which has already provided considerable advice to many farming families who are under pressure.

“While I welcome the past funding for Rural Support from the departments of agriculture and health, I also hope the legislative Executive, and especially Minister O’Neill, would ensure specific funding is allocated to continue this valuable service during this current Assembly session.

“Our farming community, particularly in Lagan Valley, has faced a vast mountain of challenges in the past decade, including the European beef ban, the threats from BSE and Foot and Mouth, as well as the potential bird flu pandemic.All of these stressful situations have naturally placed at times a terrible strain on our farming families.

“So often, we have read general reports about young people taking their own lives as a result of various circumstances throughout the Province.

“In the constant battle to preserve the emotional well-being of our agricultural workers, the role of Rural Support is in the front line. It is, therefore, essential this charity receives as much help as possible. I do not want to see a nightmare scenario develop where because of the pressures of trying to make ends meet in modern agriculture, that farmers feel suicide is the only solution.

“I therefore appeal directly to anyone in our farming community who is facing emotional or stress problems to get in touch with Rural Support as soon as possible.

“I also highly commend the helpline volunteers who carry out a very worthwhile task.”