Joe Carroll from Kilcormac protesting on Tuesday

Kilcormac farmer could lose farm over Fair Deal Scheme

A Kilcormac farmer mounted a protest outside the Department of Health on Tuesday over the fact that he has lost his house, and may now lose the family farm, to the Fair Deal Scheme.

Joe Carroll, a 74-year-old, who pays €2,000 a month to keep his wife in a nursing home wants a cap put on the amount the HSE can take under the Fair Deal scheme, now dubbed by him and hundreds of others who joined in Joe’s protest on Dublin’s Baggot Street as an "unfair deal."

Joe's wife Jane was diagnosed in 2013 with Parkinson's Disease, and having been nursed at home by Joe initially, the family were advised by doctors in Tullamore that professional care was necessary because of Jane's growing needs.

"I was very pleased by the way it turned out, there was roughly 200-300 people there all protesting with their placards," Joe told the Offaly Independent on Tuesday. He added that the Healy-Raes were the only TDs protesting alongside him and members of the IFA on Tuesday.

"As Jane's condition deteriorated we as a family tried to make it work at home, but on the advice of the doctors, they suggested that she go into a nursing home.

"That was four and half years ago now and I pay in excess of €20,000 a year. We weren't really prepared for it and we were done on the means test between the house, the farm and the bit of savings we had.

"The house is gone and if things keep going the way they are, the farm will soon be gone. This is the crunch year," continues Joe who has been working on the family farm that belonged to his father before him since 1974, when Joe was just 18 years of age.

"It's very stressful. The worry of this is with you night, noon and morning. People always ask me how I'm getting on but I never thought it would come to this - it is very mean of the HSE."

Joe says he doesn't tell his wife Jane much of the whole picture so as not to worry her in her current condition.

"It's just unbelievable that the HSE can be so ruthless. They are making a tidy sum off everyone in the country, many more from Kerry to Mayo were there with me protesting today and they all have the same story to tell.

"What we need is for Minister Jim Daly to change the legislation to put a cap on the farm assets after three years. That would mean I could pay €800 instead of €2,000 - that's a huge difference.

"They're blaming the lack of legislation on Brexit - Brexit has nothing to do with this, that's a cop out. We are not looking for anything for free, Jane has needs and they need to be met.

"I farm Friesian bulls and they're at the lowest price in years. I don't know how I'll be able to carry on. 

"If this doesn't work out I could lose my shirt over it but I don't want to go down that road," finished Joe who plans to mount a protest outside Dáil Éireann if legislation is not brought in to help him and others in a similar position.

Meanwhile, IFA President Joe Healy said the Government has abandoned farm families by failing to implement the three-year cap on farm assets under the financial assessment of the Fair Deal scheme. The Government has been promising this would be introduced since last July.

"It is now nearly nine months since cabinet approved the proposal to introduce a three-year cap on farm and small businesses assets, where a family successor commits to continue to farm the asset for a period of six years.

“Farm families are beyond frustrated. When Minister Daly promised that he would be progressing the matter in the Oireachtas in the autumn session. Unfortunately that was not the case,” said Joe Healy.

IFA Farm Family and Social Affairs chair Caroline Farrell said ongoing delays are causing huge uncertainty and distress for the most vulnerable of farm families, and are jeopardising the viability of the farms affected for future generations.

“In the time since Cabinet approved the proposal, it has cost individual farm families an estimated €40,000 in nursing home costs,” she said.

"Delays will make farms unviable unless the Minister acts now. The IFA is calling for the changes to be introduced without any further delay and retrospectively applied to July."