11 February 2000

MPs suicide gaffe row

FARMERS have reacted furiously to remarks made by Newport MP Paul Flynn about farmer suicides.

During a by-election night radio broadcast the Labour MP alleged that the only reason suicide rates among farmers were higher than for the rest of the population was because farmers had access to shot guns.

"I am appalled and all rural people will be outraged by his remarks," said Malcolm Thomas, director of NFU Cymru-Wales. "We have had dozens of calls from farming families who are angry and upset at his comments.

"Whatever Mr Flynn thinks, there is a real and grave crisis in rural Wales, with farmers driven to despair by plummeting incomes. His remarks show he knows nothing about rural communities, cares nothing about rural communities, and should, therefore, say nothing about rural communities.

"His crass and insensitive comments will simply exacerbate the grief of farming families who have been devastated by suicide."

The Farmers Union of Wales, which has been involved in lengthy private correspondence with Mr Flynn over an assertion that the FUW should stop "whingeing" on behalf of members, publicly attacked his comments on farm suicides.

"Not only is Mr Flynn wrong, his remarks are an intrusion into private grief and he would be better off trying to understand the problems of rural areas and taking action to help," said spokesman Alan Morris.