Farm group protests outside online agency over forced sales
The Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers Association today mounted a protest at the Dublin offices of online property trading platform BidX1 in opposition to the forced sale of lands. Speaking at the protest, ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock said: “The farming community must stand together and send a clear message to vulture funds, and those who collaborate with them, that any attempt to sell distressed farmland will be met with community resistance.”
Continuing Mr Sherlock said: “Online property trading platforms don’t tell the full story. What you’re viewing is a product of the mistreatment of customers by banks initially and then by vulture funds. We have a situation whereby mainstream banks are continuing to sell off loans at an alarming rate, so we have an ever increasing number of families who find themselves having to deal with vulture funds with no choice in the matter.”
“We are encouraged by the statement from BidX1 that they have, for the time being, removed contentious lots from their site in advance to today’s protest. However, for that move to be viewed as anything more than a temporary knee jerk reaction, it needs to become a permanent policy.”
“We want BidX1, and all other such platforms, to be much more careful about putting land up for sale where it’s still possible for a compromise to be found and a deal concluded. At ICSA we want to see more mediation and less confrontation. We believe that a reasonable negotiated settlement should always be considered the best option for everyone involved. We will continue to press for more regulation of the processes by which these loans are sold off in the first place and managed thereafter.”
Concluding, Mr Sherlock said “It’s not easy dealing with new loan masters whose only interest is to profit from your distress but together we can make a difference and stand our ground. ICSA strongly believes in supporting family farms and will endeavour to assist anyone facing difficulties.”
Where farmers are engaged in meaningful mediation with vulture funds, there should be no forced sales and consequent evictions. This was stated by Marian Harkin MEP following the protest, which she attended.
Ms Harkin emphasised that the purpose of this demonstration was to support farm families who are making real efforts to deal with their financial institutions who are currently seeking to sell their farms in online auctions.
“Today we are supporting genuine efforts by farmers and their families to engage with financial institutions. There are examples of these institutions simply pulling the plug when serious and substantive negotiations are ongoing”, she stated.
“This is a very difficult issue but, as politicians, we have a responsibility to facilitate real dialogue and meaningful engagement in an effort to avoid forced evictions. It is important to say this is not about moral hazard but about ensuring that those who make genuine and substantive efforts to find solutions should be given an opportunity to do so”, Ms Harkin stated.
“Some farmers and their families are living in terror day after day as their efforts to deal with their debt are ignored and dismissed and people feel totally powerless. Today is about redressing that balance just a little and giving people a real opportunity to sort out their debts,” Ms Harkin concluded.
“We know that farms have been and will continue to be included in portfolio sales of loans. We also know that these loans are usually secured by land deeds exceeding the value of the loan, making the prospect of a quick sale more attractive than negotiating a reasonable solution with borrowers.”