Bank defends bid to seize farmland
A BANK insisted yesterday that it only took action against a farmer who had defaulted on his mortgage payments when all other avenues to recover the debt had been exhausted.
John Devaney and his son Jonathan, from Easkey in west Co Sligo, are resisting attempts by bailiffs to take possession of 33 acres of a 96-acre holding, which has been sold by the bank to recover the monies owed.
The father and son, who were joined by supporters on Monday in a blockade of the farm to prevent bailiffs removing livestock, claim that the loss of 35 acres would fragment the farm, making it no longer viable.
They insist that they want to meet their debt through the sale of an alternative and larger plot but that Bank of Ireland has not discussed this offer with them.
In a statement issued yesterday, a spokesperson for the bank said it had been granted possession of the 33 acres by a High Court order in February 2007 following what it said were "lengthy legal proceedings".
The Sligo County Registrar gave effect to the possession order on October 28, 2009, making the bank "in effect, the owner of the land in question".
It said that the land had been offered for sale by public tender in August and a contract for sale had been entered into.
"Should Mr Devaney wish to pursue the option recently articulated by his representatives, Bank of Ireland can put him in touch with the purchasers," the statement concluded.
Responding last night, Mr Devaney insisted that no discussions had taken place prior to the sale of the land by the bank.
"There was never any discussion. As far as I am concerned, they have exhausted no avenue at all," he said.
He added that he, his son and their supporters would continue to obstruct anyone seeking access to the land in order to remove livestock.
Meanwhile, tributes were paid yesterday to the chairman of the Sligo IFA, Billy Somerville, who had actively campaigned on behalf of the Devaney family and who died suddenly on Tuesday night.
The dairy farmer and father of two, who was in his 70s, had spent the days before his death on the Devaney farm in support of their fight.
IFA president John Bryan described him as "one of nature's true gentlemen" who had "worked selflessly to advance the interests of farmers in Sligo".