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'Horror' stories of farmers hearing from neighbours their farm is for sale on the internet

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ICMSA president Pat McCormack

ICMSA president Pat McCormack

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ICMSA president Pat McCormack

There have been "horror stories" in the past few weeks of farm families finding out their farm is up for sale from their neighbours, according to ICMSA President Pat McCormack.

Speaking at the association's AGM he told the Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue this is not acceptable and is an issue the association has been dealing with over the last number of months and weeks amid reports of a renewed surge in forced sales by vulture funds.

McCormack called on the Minister to put the message out to such institutions that a "degree of respect needs to be devoted to farm families".

"We have had some horror stories in the last number of weeks, where farm families have been notified by their neighbours that the place was for sale on the internet and that is simply unacceptable."

It comes after the Tanaiste Leo Varakdar said farmers not paying back their debts are increasing borrowing costs on other farmers.

His comments came after the Farming Independent reported a renewed upsurge in forced farm sales by vulture funds, according to personal insolvency practitioners (PIPs) and the farm organisations.

Varadkar emphasised that “people have a responsibility to repay their debts”.

“If people do not pay back their debts, they are causing social harm. Farmers not paying back their debts means that it is harder for other farmers to get credit and that they have to pay higher interest rates when they do,” he said.

The Fine Gael leader said there was a need to be “frank and honest” about the fact that people not paying back their debts causes social harm to others.

However, Personal Insolvency Practioner Gary Digney said that based on his experience there is little or no debt write off sought in farm cases. "In farm cases most if not all of the farms look for time via term extension and capitalisation of arrears to pay the debt. However, these modest solutions are not offered by many funds who seek a short term strategy."

The Tanaiste also said he believes strongly that people who make an honest and reasonable effort to pay back their debts as best they can, whether that means over a prolonged period or by means of a restructuring of the debt, should be facilitated.

“Nobody wants to see anybody losing a home, a business or a farm. Generally speaking, the courts are sympathetic in those circumstances. I do not see how a sale of a farm or a business could occur if there had not already been repossession hearings in a court, because that would have to happen first.

“Courts in Ireland do not grant repossession orders lightly. The number of such orders granted is very low. It must be borne in mind, therefore, that many protections already exist. I encourage people to engage with personal insolvency practitioners and banks and financial institutions to try to find a solution to their debts, where that occurs,” he said.

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