Landless siblings have vented their anger at what they describe as unjust farm inheritance.
Listeners contacted RTÉ Radio 1’s The Ryan Tubridy Show following Monday’s segment where an anonymous farmer shared the pain he experienced, and continues to feel, after his family farm was left to his brother.
The anonymous farmer wrote to the show again on Monday, with his second contribution read out by Ryan Tubridy on Tuesday morning.
“I'm the man whose dream to farm was taken away by my parents and my brother, and it was suggested kindly by one of your listeners that I should talk to my parents,” he wrote.
“I tried to share some of my feelings several years ago, but unfortunately they have an incredibly narrow perspective that only sees the farm and my brother.
“Despite how they wronged me so hurtfully, I love my parents. They are not the most approachable or reasonable people and my father has a hot temper.
“They know very little of life outside of their farm bubble, which consists of them, my brother and his family.
“In fact, they are barely able to hold a conversation about anything outside of farming and local interests.
“This part is very hard to explain or understand, especially for non-farmers, but my parents and brother have possibly, in their guilt, deluded themselves into believing that farming is the hardest job, and everyone else is better off than them, despite the huge profits they make off what is a large dairy farm.
“They still tell themselves that I have what they sneer as a nice nine-to-five office job, despite the fact that I regularly work 70-hour weeks in a stressful job that brings me no joy except it helps me pay the bills and helps me save up for a small farm over a few decades.”
‘Very dark day’
The man said he accepted that farming is hard work, but maintains that the job satisfaction attached to the lifestyle cannot be matched in other professions.
“It hurts deeply that they show almost no interest in me or my family or my job,” he continued.
“I didn't include this in my original letter, but there was a day, a few years ago, when I heard some people in our locality talking, saying that my brother had to stay home and farm while I got to go to college.
“This is the day where I contemplated, not just killing myself, but killing my parents and my brother too for this ultimate betrayal.
“This is why those tragedies struck a chord in me. They felt so guilty for choosing my brother over me after leading me to believe all my life that I'd be farming our family farm that they spread rumours that I didn't want them. So they knew what was wrong.
“They know but just don't care. It's all about the farm for them.
“On that very dark day, it was only the thought of leaving my wife and children with that horrible legacy that stopped me.
“I'm in a better place now, thanks to ongoing counselling and a good wife and children that make life worth living for.
“You will never ever understand how that hurt and betrayal by your own family cuts like a sharp knife into my heart and into my soul. It haunts me every time I see my brother and his children on the farm, living my dream.”
Tubridy said his RTÉ Radio 1 show received a "deluge" of responses to the anonymous farmer’s story. Some offered advice while others shared similar experiences.
One listener wrote: “One of the things that might help to ease his pain might be that his parents were doing exactly what was done to them, and it was the culture of the time.
“It wasn't personal and understanding this can alleviate so much sadness and suffering.
“Indeed my own dad, as the youngest of a farming family, was waved off at the train station to make his way to Dublin while his older brothers enjoyed the safety of the farms handed down to them.”
Another listener wrote to Tubridy, sharing that his parents decided to carve up the farm for the first time since the famine years.
“It didn't go down well with the big brother who in fairness deserved it all. The younger brother returned to the fold having wasted his private schooling, looking for his slice, and my kind-hearted mother decided to give him his share.
“Since then, the older brother has felt entitled to just about everything else off the farm shares. It wouldn't be a problem if there weren't five others to be looked after. In fairness, he has been a good brother and amazing father, and is like all fathers thinking about his children.
"That's where I would draw the line, his children need to buy their own houses, make their own way, it's very complicated.
“My poor elderly widowed mother has had to deal with all the fall out after our parents lived selflessly for years.”
Perception of gender roles
A listener emailed the show describing the most wonderful thing in lockdown was her ability to go home to the south of Ireland and work on the family farm she grew up on.
“Farming is a much more enjoyable lifestyle. I want that for my kids, but I'm a girl in my late 20s and I've been trying to accept that it is my parents' wish that the farm goes to my brother because he is the male, and it feels unfair and archaic, but there's nothing I can do.
“My brother and his fiancée both work in office jobs and I see them go home and walk the land and make plans for their life together. I love nothing more than to go home and work the farm for the rest of my life, like I did as a child.
“I don't know how I'm going to create a life like that for my kids. It's 2021 and a lot of women in Ireland spend their childhood working just as hard as their brothers. For them, inheriting the farm is never even a consideration.”