Farm Ireland

Monday 19 February 2018

Farm debt crisis triggers rural revolt

IFA presidential candidate Joe Healy Photo: Andrew Downes
IFA presidential candidate Joe Healy Photo: Andrew Downes

Maeve Sheehan and Claire Mc Cormack

The Government will face mounting protest this week over the heavy financial burden facing rural Ireland in the wake of the suicide of a Tipperary farmer who was in debt to a sub-prime lender.

The death of the farmer last Tuesday week has reverberated through the broader farming community and has prompted two public meetings on debt-related suicides.

The Tipperary farmer was in debt to Carlisle Mortgages Ltd, which was pursuing him in court. The Sunday Independent has not disclosed his identity as his family have asked for privacy.

The lobby group, New Land League, is staging a protest against the farmer's Irish-owned lender in Dublin on Tuesday.

News of the tragedy coincides with warnings from the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) that foreign "vulture funds" are preparing to snap up Irish farming loans.

Ulster Bank is preparing to sell off its troubled loans, which could result in tracts of land ending up in the control of hedge funds. It is understood that it has given some farmers until Wednesday to refinance their debts or see them sold off.

The IFA met Ulster Bank last week to raise concerns over the sales and has also met AIB and Bank of Ireland to ask for leniency towards debt-stricken farmers.

Joe Healy, an IFA presidential candidate, said distressed farmers had told him they were being "bullied" by some mainstream banks which "lacked understanding" of farming.

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David Hall, of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation, said hedge funds had "no interest in farmer incomes or herd numbers. They just want to know how much the land is worth."

Sunday Independent