Widow's call to arms over bank's repossession of land
IN A modern take on the famous John B Keane play, heated scenes unfolded in a field where horses grazed.
The bitter dispute has been brewing a few miles from Cahir, Co Tipperary, since a bank appointed a receiver to repossesses land and prepare it for sale.
Receiver Martin Ferris was ordered to take back the land from Margaret Hanrahan after the widow failed to repay a €1.2m loan to ACC Bank.
Gardai had to be called to a field in Kilcoran, near Cahir, on Tuesday as they tried to mediate between the two sides. They confirmed that a complaint of "minor assault" was under investigation after an alleged incident.
A small number of farmers had gathered to support Ms Hanrahan while the field was being ploughed by workmen appointed by the receiver.
Ms Hanrahan owns her house in Burncourt, but not the land or stables surrounding the property. Yesterday, she moved horse-riding gear from stables into her sitting room as she called for ACC to review her case.
"I don't want anyone to pay my debts but I want to ask the bank what does any person know about eviction, receivership, insolvency or bank debt?
"All I want is the stables and 10 or 20 acres of the land, so I can keep the equestrian business going and try to pay back my debt," she said.
The saga began after Ms Hanrahan decided to expand her business in 2007. ACC Bank approved her for a loan of €1.2m to allow her to buy 85 acres to open the equestrian centre at Burncourt.
The loan was obtained on an interest-only basis for two years. Ms Hanrahan, 56, put up two commercial properties in Clonmel and a 30-acre farm at Kilcoran as collateral.
After failing to meet massive mortgage repayments on the property, she now faces losing all of her land.
Ms Hanrahan had months of negotiations with ACC and tried to sell her assets but there were no buyers interested. The bank is now in the process of taking over all of the properties and land she owned, in a bid to sell them and pay off the loan.
Ms Hanrahan, whose husband died in an industrial accident 17 years ago, ran a transport company for 11 years. However, she decided to move into the equestrian business because of a lifelong interest in horses and helping young people with behavioural problems.
She has been canvassing other farmers who are in similar positions and handing out leaflets at agricultural events, including the Tullamore Show.
"People are afraid to talk about this but they need to come forward," she said.
"We are meeting now to pool energy and resources -- we have nothing to lose. It would be easier to go to jail than to live like this."
Receiver Martin Ferris had posted an 'urgent notice' on the Kilcoran field on July 19 -- warning that the site was now under his control and any grazing animals should be removed from the property within 14 days or face being impounded.
Mr Ferris said: "Our client recognises that the repossession of land is an emotive matter and is obviously difficult for some borrowers to accept.
"If borrowers have genuine grounds for complaint, they can, of course, have recourse to the courts."
When contacted, ACC Bank said that for reasons of confidentiality it did not comment on individual cases.