Thursday 29 September 2016

Protesters target sale of 1,000 dairy cows seized from 'Ireland's Fittest Family'

Published 10/04/2016 | 02:30

TV FAME: From left, Richard, Jessica, Peter and Luke Kingston on ‘Ireland’s Fittest Family’ where they scooped €15,000. Photo: Gerard McCarthy
TV FAME: From left, Richard, Jessica, Peter and Luke Kingston on ‘Ireland’s Fittest Family’ where they scooped €15,000. Photo: Gerard McCarthy

Protesters are planning to storm the firesale of a prize-winning herd of 1,000 cows and calves seized by ACC Bank from a well-known family of dairy farmers who were winners of Ireland's Fittest Family on RTE.

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The herd, which includes pedigree Holstein cattle, was seized from Peter and Tracey Kingston's well-known Cradenhill farm, after ACC was awarded a €2.4m judgment against the couple.

The herd will come under the hammer on Tuesday on the Kingston farm in Nohoval, Co Cork. Farm sources say the auction is one the biggest cattle sales of its kind. The New Land League, the anti-eviction protest group, is calling on farmers to boycott it and is also planning major disruption of the event.

Peter Kingston and his father built up their prize-winning herd over 30 years and won many championships. Mr Kingston yesterday said he could not comment in detail on the sale of his herd, but he did say: "The bank had no charge over the cattle but it was allowed to move the charge onto the cattle."

Asked how he felt, he said: "If you saw 28 years of your work going up in smoke and 43 years of your father's work going up in smoke, how would you feel?"

A catalogue for Denis Barrett Auctions describes the livestock sale as a "complete dispersal" of the "Cradenhill Herd" which is "synonymous with top pedigrees, high production and excellent show winning type"; it includes "over 950 elite animals", including the "entire milking herd and all followers", a reference to calves.

The Kingston family became known to a national audience when they featured in Ireland's Fittest Family two years ago. Peter and his children, Jessica, Luke and Richard, started out on the contest as the underdogs but beat two other families to the title and €15,000 prize.

In an interview afterwards, Peter Kingston described how farming helped the family to rise to the challenge: "No one says 'no' to anything. Whatever needs to be done is done. Also, farming teaches you to readjust. You are always faced with problems, and you need to think on the spot," he said.

According to court reports, ACC Bank sought a High Court judgment against the Kingstons for more than €2.4m last year, after they missed a number of repayments. The Kingstons took out the loan of €2m in 2007 to restructure their debt with AIB, on interest-only repayments, and the bank advanced a further €500,000 for farm buildings in 2008. The bank claimed security over 170 acres of farmland. According to the reports, the couple reached a new repayment arrangement with the bank but missed a number of repayments. The court heard that ACC called in the full €2.4m in January last year and all that was received was a cheque for €1,500.

The Kingston family remains in their family home but the land around it is now in the possession of ACC. The sheriff has seized equipment. Receivers hired contractors to maintain the prize-winning herd, and have hired security.

Sources claim the cost of the receivership, including looking after the herd, security and sheriffs costs, stood at just over a €1m in March.

Jerry Beades, Senate contestant and spokesperson for New Land League, said a meeting about the planned protest will take place in Cork tonight.

He said "farmers were angry and there are also calls for the farming community to boycott the auction because of the fees charged by the receivers".

Sunday Independent

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