Published Monday, 17 September 2012
The Spence family were farmers and everyone remotely connected with farming or rural life in any way will have an instant affinity with their sense of loss. These three men were doing nothing more than going about the daily business of working their farm, making their livelihood, meeting the demands of good husbandry and land management.
That such a devastating event could suddenly occur in the midst of such a mundane scene is profoundly shocking.
There's been an outpouring of sympathy and solidarity from the farming and sporting communities to which the Spence family belong but all families will share their grief to some extent.
They will do so in the hope that sharing the grief will somehow lighten the burden of loss for the surviving members of the family though we all know that this is a tragedy of scarcely imaginable proportions.
My heart goes out to them and I'm sure, even though I haven't been in recent contact with them, that I also speak for the members of the Lough Neagh and River Bann Association who appeared on the programme tonight.
These are people who are close to nature, close to the land and the water. Michael Savage makes his livelihood from the waters of the lough, as does Stephen Cardwell and his family.
They share a deep concern for the environment and expend a lot of their energies trying to improve the quality of the water in the interests of fish and bird life, the leisure and tourism industry and, of course, in the interests of water conservation for households across Ulster.
What Noel, Graham and Nevin Spence were doing when they were so cruelly struck down is directly related to those concerns.
They were managing slurry, the by-product of livestock farming that must be spread on the land at appropriate times and in appropriate ways to ensure that it does not contaminate the water supply and cause problems like eutrophication in places like Lough Neagh.
In the countryside all events are connected and have consequences.
So our thoughts tonight are very much with our friends, the Spence family.