Farm Ireland

Friday 15 December 2017

Farmers raise thousands to keep local mart going

Stock Photo: Roger Jones.
Stock Photo: Roger Jones.

Paul Deering

Farmers in Manorhamilton have rallied round in a bid to save the local mart from closure.

Over €170,000 has been put into an account by locals in an effort to keep the mart going which Sligo District Court heard on Thursday had a significant deficit in its client account.

The exact amount wasn't disclosed in court but it's significant enough for a regulatory body to state that it may well go to the High Court in the matter, an action that could lead to the mart's closure.

The court was also told that Manorhamilton Livestock Sales Ltd didn't have a licence and the regulatory body wasn't in a position to grant it one due to outstanding issues.

These included issues with regard to a tax compliance certificate and the client account. The matter originally came before Manorhamilton Court last October and was adjourned to Sligo District Court last Thursday where the regulatory body, Property Services Regulatory Authority resisted an application to have the case adjourned for a further two months to allow the mart address deficiencies in its licence application.

The mart admitted at the court in Manorhamilton to two counts of operating without a licence at Station Road, the only one in the country in such a situation the court was told.

The court heard that the mart had allowed too much credit in the past and this was the reason for its financial difficulties.

Mr Gerard McGovern, solicitor (for the mart) said it was a complex matter but that a number of matters had been dealt with over the past month. "We're seeking more time to get the matter across the line and I'm asking for the matter not to be finalised to day. We are getting there. I agree it's slow and painful. Things have cropped up you wouldn't expect to have cropped up," he said.

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He added that people in Manorhamilton were very concerned about the mart. A sum of €170,000 had been lodged by new investors in a solicitor's client account with a view to being used as share investment.

Mr Noel Whelan SC for the (PSRA) said each day the mart traded without a licence it committed an offence. Since July 2012 it was required to have a licence.

He confirmed to Judge Kevin Kilrane the body had the power "to go to the High Court and close it in the morning." He said an essential requirement of a licence was having an appropriate client account. The body had a concern about the risk and it had an obligation to the rest of the community.

Judge Kilrane noted there was local support for the mart and people were "putting their money where their mouth was."

"If I impose a conviction today it might have the effect of frightening the horses as it were of the support of the local community," he said.

Mr Whelan said the mart had informed the authority that it was pursuing those who owed it money, it no longer gave credit and there was a suggestion some persons were putting up money re share capital.

Judge Kilrane said if there was trust between the parties to remedy the deficiencies that were there he was prepared to grant the two month adjournment sought by Mr McGovern.

Mr Whelan said the matters arose from complaints in the community. He added there was no confidence fromt he authority that the matters would be remedied in that time frame.

Mr McGovern said one of the complaints had come from someone who owed a substantial amount to the mart and was pursued in the Circuit Court in relation to this.

Mark Dunne of the PSRA, in evidence, confirmed that after the court in Manorhamilon last October he met with mart director, Ivan Moffitt and went through the various steps required for a successful application for a licence.

The tax clearance issue had not been rectified and the appropriate financial arrangements were not in place, he said, adding that the application could not be accepted.

"We don't have any confidence at this stage," said Mr Dunne. The big issue he stressed was the client account, a situation he described as "very serious." "We cannot allow money belonging to the public to be at risk," he said.

In reply to Mr McGovern, the witness agreed that creditors owed a substantial amount of money to the mart and also that in recent days a substantial sum had been put into an account of a solicitor. Mr McGovern said the next step was to have a shareholder agreement in place.

"There's no credit available anymore which has caused this major problem for them," said Mr McGovern.

"We need two months. We are down to the client account and if that is sorted...." - Mr McGovern.

"Not quite down to just that" - Judge Kilrane.

The Judge said the mart had been operating for years and had traded successfully but either through foolish management or difficult times it resulted in a deficit in the client account which was a serious thing.

The authority had the power to close the mart but it wasn't pressing the nuclear button just yet. He said he was prepared to adjourn the matter for two months on terms.

This included a letter from Mr Dunne to Mr Moffitt outlining the totality of the requirements for the licence and the latter filing a daily report as to progress. Mr Moffitt was also be contactable with any supplementary questions to be dealt with the same day.

If Mr Dunne felt there was any breach liberty was granted to re-enter the matter before a court in the Judge's district. The case was put back to March 9th.

Mr Moffitt was told if there was any breach the proceedings would be brought to an immediate conclusion in the District Court and it could lead to a conviction and the High Court closing the mart.

"It's the last chance saloon," said Judge Kilrane.

Sligo Champion