Bank seizes family farm

A STATE-owned bank has repossessed a farm in Laois, even though the family that is losing its land offered to pay off more than €150,000 in August.

A STATE-owned bank has repossessed a farm in Laois, even though the family that is losing its land offered to pay off more than €150,000 in August.

At last week’s Circuit Court sitting in Portlaoise a barrister for the family said the bank had given the family the “back of the hand” treatment.

Judge Michael White reluctantly granted an order for Allied Irish Banks to seize possession of a family-run farm in Attanagh, with the judge declaring he had no choice in his ruling in this “sad and difficult case.”

The property is a 26-acre agricultural site in Fermoyle, which includes a piggery, detached field and domestic dwelling. Barrister for the bank, Ms Maria McCormack said that on June 28 of this year, the court accepted that AIB was entitled to seek an order of repossession, with the matter adjourned to July 27 to afford the defendants an opportunity for mediation.

On August 16, the defendants offered a payment of €151,866, some €70,000 less than the €225,000 being sought by the bank. The defendants also submitted an evaluation of the lands at €385,000, a figure contested by AIB as the amount outstanding is around €513,000.

The family home and attendant six acres have already been reclaimed by Laois County Council, with one of the farm’s owners entitled to monies from the sale of the house. Ms McCormack told the court that the bank are only interested in the piggery and surrounding lands, which they can sell to recoup their losses.

Senior counsel for the defendants, Mr William Fennelly said his clients’ offer of August 16 had not been acknowledged by the bank.

“We’ve had no response from them other than the back of the hand,” Mr Fennelly said. “Every possible effort has been made by my clients.”

Mr Fennelly also questioned the decision to hive off the family home and attempt to sell the lands separately. “The piggery will be there until doomsday,” he said. “The lands can be sold separately, but it doesn’t help the bank if they can’t sell the land.”

In response, Ms McCormack said her clients had been engaging with the defendants, in an attempt to bring the matter to a conclusion. “It’s an unhappy situation, one lots of people are in, but the bank is entitled to take the lands and attempt to secure monies as far at they can,” she said.

In ruling, Judge Michael White described it as “a sad and difficult case” and acknowledged that the defendants had made every effort to co-operate with the bank.

“The court has to operate by set train tracks and I have no choice but to grant the order,” the judge said, adding that, “It would have been better to deal with this by agreement.”