Farmer’s death ‘stark reminder of dangers’

Ian Marshall
Ian Marshall

A former UFU president has said the death of a man aged 71 in an agricultural incident serves as “a stark reminder” of the danger which farmers face.

Ian Marshall (pictured) was speaking after Co Antrim farmer James Gibson died after what is believed to be an incident involving a bull. His funeral is due to take place today.

It emerged that the tragedy had unfolded at about 8am on Wednesday in Aughafatten, a rural townland a couple of miles north of Slemish Mountain.

An ambulance crew and the medical helicopter were dispatched to the scene in response to what the ambulance service said were “reports of a male having been hit by a bull on the Killycarn Road”. Emergency services did not take anyone from the scene.

DUP councillor Beth Clyde, who knows Mr Gibson’s family, said he had been working with animals his whole life.

“They are a really nice family and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, especially at this time of year,” she told the News Letter.

“People in this community will be devastated by what’s happened and will be grieving for his family.”

Co Armagh farmer Mr Marshall, 50, who was UFU president from 2014 to 2016, has handled cattle all his life himself, and said: “This is a stark reminder of the dangerous environment we all work in as farmers.”

Mr Marshall continued: “We’ve always focussed on the four areas: slurry, animals, falls, and equipment. And actually animals are probably the biggest proportion of that.

“We can never be complacent or take for granted that we’re on top of this. This just highlights the fact that it’s a very dangerous place, a dangerous occupation.

“It’s a horrible thing to happen at any time, never mind the mouth of Christmas.”

Mr Gibson’s funeral is to be held at noon today in Buckna Gospel Hall.

He said since animals would be housed duringe winter, there “is probably more contact with livestock [and] when you’ve got livestock in confined spaces, there’s greater risk of accidents”.

Newry & Armagh DUP MLA William Irwin was attacked by a bull in 1996 - something he dubbed a “very frightening experience”, adding he was only saved by a friend, who hit the animal in the eye.

On Thursday he offered his “deepest sympathy and prayers to the Gibson family”.

Whilst it is unclear what happened in this case, he said: “Bulls by nature are unpredictable and there have been a series of bull attacks in recent times and indeed a number of fatalities. The level of fatalities on our farms continues to cause great concern and it is incumbent on all of us involved in farming to exercise the greatest of care.”