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Meet the new Agribusiness Group hoping to ‘keep the Air Ambulance flying’

Air Ambulance NI (AANI) today announces the launch of its ‘Agribusiness Group’ who will actively promote the work of the charity and encourage support within the Agri sector.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Barclay Bell, a trustee of AANI and the person behind gathering the group together spoke of his reasons for establishing the network, “The air ambulance service relies heavily on charity funding, aspiringto raise £2 million a year to sustain and develop pre-hospital critical care. This life-saving service is already a major benefit to farmers and rural communities. In isolated rural areas it can be difficult for medical services to reach, treat and transport people. The air ambulance helps tackle that and aims to save lives, brains and limbs. Fundraising has been hit hard with the health pandemic, yet we know there is a strong supporter base and willingness to help in rural communities. We hope the agribusiness group will help harness that for the charity.”

Mr Bell who is a farmer on a mixed farm in Rathfriland, Co Down, is a past President of the Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) and actively involved with several other farming organisations. During his tenure as UFU president he helped raise £200,000 for the Air Ambulance NI charity and said, "Our agricultural sector has really embraced the work of air ambulance and this group are bringing their skills, experience and passion for their community to help Northern Ireland maintain its only air ambulance service.”

The group is made up of eight other members: Aurelie Moralis of Castlewellan, Co Down who is a qualified vet now working in the animal health pharmaceutical industry, Martyn Blair from Finvoy, Co Antrim, a full-time farmer with qualifications in agricultural economics and marketing, Oonagh Chesney of Portglenone, Co Antrim, Company Secretary of Fane Valley Co-Op Society Ltd and all group subsidiary companies and is currently serving her second term on the Board of the Livestock and Meat Commission. The group also includes James Speers, a farmer and past president of the Young Farmers Clubs of Ulster from Markethill, Co Armagh, Jennifer Hawkes of Omagh, Co Tyrone, a fourth-generation pedigree dairy farmer and the current Chair of the Ulster Farmers’ Union rural affairs committee and a member of the Trustees Board of Rural Support. In addition to this, on board is Raymond Bready originally of Rathfriland, Co Down, now living in Donaghadee, a Key Accounts Manager for John Thompson and Sons and commentator for equestrian events across Europe, Libby Clarke of Magheralin, Co Armagh who is a cattle breeder, cattle judge and runs her own estate agency and Caroline Doyle, Agricultural Business Manager for Barclays Bank.

The Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) for Northern Ireland is delivered by a partnership between the charity Air Ambulance Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service. It’s a service that responds to critically ill and injured patients on average twice a day and can be the difference between life and death.

Glenn O’Rorke, Operational Lead for the HEMS said, “Our very first call out was to a farming incident and farming and agricultural incidents account for up to 11% of call outs. This includes accidents involving farm machinery, slurry or cattle. Unfortunately, on average, there is a farming call every week with no decrease through the pandemic. It is never lost on us that behind every call out is a patient, their family and localcommunity. We are really touched that the rural and agricultural communities are continuing to support and thank everyone involved in the newly established agribusiness group”.

About Air Ambulance NI Agribusiness Group Members:

Aurelie Moralis, Castlewellan, Co Down.

Aurelie qualified as a vet in Belgium in 2002 and subsequently moved to Northern Ireland where she worked as a farm animal practitioner in Co. Down for 12 years. She wasn’t from afarming background but was always drawn to the country and thoroughly enjoyed the everyday challenges of farm animal practice.

During her time in practice she met her husband Mark and had their two children Liam and Sarah (now 10 and 12). Aurelie lives on Mark’s family farm near Castlewellan and the beautiful Mourne Mountains, which provides great joy and freedom to them all.

In 2014, Aurelie moved to Zoetis- a global leader in the animal health pharmaceutical industry- and took on the role of Veterinary Consultant for Northern Ireland. She has since joined the Irish Livestock Team as their Marketing and Technical Manager for the Ruminant Portfolio.

Always wanting to do more for the farming and veterinary community, Aurelie joined the North of Ireland Veterinary Association (NIVA) as a Council Member and served as their President in 2019.

Speaking about her reasons for joining the group, Aurelie explained, “I was delighted when Barclay Bell phoned to see if I would like to become part of the Agribusiness Air Ambulance NI fundraising group. As a vet, a mother, living on the farm and a keen hillwalker, I am very aware of the everyday dangers we are exposed to. When accidents happen on a farm, whether it is with livestock, or machinery, time is often of the essence, which is why we must keep the Air Ambulance flying.

Martyn Blair

Martyn Blair, Finvoy, Co Antrim.

After studying for a degree in Agricultural Economics and Management at Queens University, Belfast and a Master’s Degree In Marketing at University of Ulster, Jordanstown, Martyn returned home to farm full time in partnership with his father Bill on his familyfarm in Finvoy outside Ballymoney where they keep poultry for commercial egg production and also have a calf-to-store beef enterprise.

Martyn is a past President of the Young Farmers Clubs of Ulster and led the organisation to raise over £35,000 for Fields of Life in his final year of office.

He is a past board member of the Ulster Farmers Union(UFU), past Poultry Committee Chairman and current Executive Member. He also sat on the inaugural UFU next generation committee.

Martyn recently finished as chairman of the Board of North Antrim Agricultural Association. He ismarried to Barbara and has been blessed with three children; James, Lucy and Robbie who he says keep him extremely busy. “I was delighted to be asked to involve in this committee. Air Ambulance NI is such a crucial and important service to the people of Northern Ireland and in particular those of us living in rural areas and working in often remote and challenging environments. I hope to bring my experience of years of fundraising through the YFCU into our ideas for events and campaigns for AANI. I am extremely excited to be working with such a talented and experienced group of peers and hope we can raise substantial funds in the coming years”

Oonagh Chesney

Oonagh Chesney, Portglenone, Co Antrim. Married to Willie, Oonagh has four children and lives on the family farm in Portglenone.

She has been involved in the agricultural industry for 30+ years having completed a National Diploma in Agriculture at Greenmount College then progressed to Graduate with a degree in Business Studies from University of Ulster.

Oonagh commenced her working life with Wilsons Country in its early fledging days, moving on to Fane Valley in the early 1990’s. Oonagh is the Company Secretary of Fane Valley Co-Op Society Ltd and all group subsidiary companies and iscurrently serving her second term on the Board of the Livestock and Meat Commission. She was appointed to the Board of AI Services Ltd last year.

Oonagh was President of the Greenmount Association and hasserved on a variety of committees over the years. She is currently a Governor of the local primary school and reallyenjoy spending any spare time she has in Portstewart.

Speaking about her involvement in the group, Oonagh says, “I was really pleased to be asked to participate in the AANI agri group. AANI is a fantastic service that we all hope never to need but if in the unfortunate position to need assistance its vital to have it. Working and living in the rural community, I know how important the service is and I want others to know that too. I am really looking forward to helping to raise awareness of the charity and the wonderful work that it does through my network of contacts within the industry. If the last year has taught us anything it has taught us to appreciate what we have – we are so lucky in NI to have AANI lets make sure we can keep it.”

James Speers, Markethill, Co Armagh.

Former President of the Young Farmers Clubs of Ulster (YFCU), active member of the Collone YFC, Ambassador for The Prince’s Countryside Fund, farmer and former Farm Quality Assurance Inspector.

James got involved with Air Ambulance NI when he got elected as YFCU President in 2017. Here he committed histwo-year term as president to raise money for the charity andwas extremely pleased that the YFCU members throughout NIsupported him greatly and provided ongoing support. James then hosted his own barn dance in September 2018 on his home farm that attracted over 1200 people dancing the night away to Richie Remo. Total raised from his tenure as president and donated to Air Ambulance NI was £33,723.75.

James is delighted to be a part of the new agribusiness group for Air Ambulance, “For me Air Ambulance NI is a lifesaving service that helps everyone across Northern Ireland. I’m delighted to join this group and help these amazing individuals from across the agricultural sector to help keep the air ambulance flying. I am delighted to be part of this group oflike minded individuals who want to help promote and raise money for AANI; the entire team including Kerry and Colleen from AANI are a pleasure to work with.

Jennifer Hawkes, Omagh, Co Tyrone.

Jennifer lives and works on a fourth-generation pedigree dairy farm near Omagh, Co Tyrone with her husband Kenneth and family. Now retired, Jennifer spent most of her career working as a Local Government Officer, she is the current Chair of the Ulster Farmers’ Union rural affairs committee and a member of the Trustees Board of Rural Support.

Jennifer is a familiar face from the Agricultural Show circuit and is the Chair of Omagh Show ladies committee, a past Show Society Chair and a long-term member of the Shows organising committees. Jennifer has had a passion for farming from a young age and in 2018 she was awarded the prestigious CARAS award by HRH Princess Anne for her contribution to the wider rural community.

Speaking about why she wanted to support Air Ambulance NI, Jennifer said, “The Air Ambulance is an invaluable resource for the people of Northern Ireland, every day it delivers critical lifesaving pre-hospital medical care to patients. Knowing the difference this service can make I didn’t hesitate to come on board when I was approached to be part of the Agribusiness group. I look forward to working with the other innovative and enthusiastic team members and hopefully our combined knowledge and experience base will help to encourage the necessary fundraising to allow the organisation to continue its service development.”

Raymond Bready, Rathfriland, Co Down now living in Donaghadee.

Born and bred on a small family farm on the Newry side of Rathfriland, Raymond started working in the animal feed industry in 1985 with Boyce Bros, Banbridge after leaving school and continues to work as a Key Accounts Manager for John Thompson and Sons, to this present day.

As well as being a dad and partner, his other passion in life is on the end of a microphone. This started in the mid 90’s at Mossvale Riding Club and then progressed to Eventing Ireland. This led on to Raymond commentating at many International events including European championships here in Ireland, Scotland and Slovakia. In recent years, Raymond ismore likely to be found at Omagh, Castlewellan and Balmoral Shows where he is determined to use his voice to promote everything that is good about the Agri food industry here in Northern Ireland.

Speaking about his reasons for supporting the service, Raymond explains, “I have now been given the opportunity, and challenge, to promote and encourage the generous people of Northern Ireland to raise funds for AANI. My role will be to connect with the Equestrian Industry here across NI. If I can be involved in raising even £1 for this hugely worthwhile charity, then my job will be a success. The two million pounds required each year to keep the amazing charity flying starts with the smallest donation. “

Caroline Doyle

Caroline Doyle from Co Antrim is an Agricultural Business Manager for Barclays Bank and a wife and mother of two little girls.

She grew up on a dairy farm in Co Antrim with her brother and sisters each having a role to play, from bedding and feeding calves to bringing bales in from the field.

When Caroline was old enough, she joined the Glarryford Young Farmers Club (YFC) and often took part in their competitions, plays, arts festivals and fund-raising events.

She then went on to train as an accountant, working mainly with farming clients leading to her current role as an agricultural business manager with Barclays.

Caroline is also a coach for Girls Youth Rugby for Ballymoney Rugby Club which involves raising funds to support the club and various charities.

Speaking about joining the AANI Agribusiness Group, she said, “I was very privileged to be asked to join AANI and help these wonderful people from across the agricultural sector to raise awareness. Growing up on a farm and knowing some of the unfortunate people who have had to use the air ambulance I am keen to highlight the importance of this service. Hopefully with my past experience raising money for various charities I am able to help promote this fantastic charity along with a great team”