The High Court has lifted the suspension of a Co Monaghan livestock mart's operating licence in order that it can trade out of its difficulties under supervision.
Last week, the Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA) obtained an interim order from the court, made on a one side only represented basis, suspending the licence of Corcaghan Co-operative Agricultural and Dairy Society Ltd, trading Ballybay Livestock Sales.
It followed concerns from the PSRA, which regulates property services, about the financial operation of the mart.
Lifting the suspension on Tuesday, the president of the High Court Ms Justice Mary Irvine disagreed in the "strongest terms" with claims in an affidavit on behalf of the mart that the PSRA had sought an unnecessarily draconian order (in seeking suspension). In the judge's view the application was entirely proportionate having regard to "the scale of irregularities" which had not been disputed.
The PSRA had no option but to seek the suspension last week given that debts were between €480,000 and €490,000 and on the basis on cheques drawn it would have left Ballybay with a total debt of some €690,000, she said.
The application to lift the suspension was made by Ken Connolly BL, on behalf of the mart, who also apologised for any criticism of the PSRA.
Hugh McDowell BL, for the PSRA, said the mart had accepted the position as set out by the authority and it was asking the court not to suspend the licence on the basis that it wants to trade out of its difficulties and set out its approach to that.
The individual who was managing the mart (Adrian Grimes) was no longer in that role and the committee which oversees it had concerns about how it was run, he said A new individual has been put in place to run it.
The PRSA was amenable to taking a position which will best help resolve its difficulties, counsel said.
If the suspension was to be lifted, Mr McDowell was asking the court to have a supervisory or overseeing role in relation to its role and put in place conditions particularly in relation to the putting in place of a third party auditor or accountant to oversee and manage its client accounts.
The mart had already floated the suggestion of putting in place Grant Thornton in that role and it was a condition that the mart should not do anything other than comply with its client account obligations. A further condition is that it would notify the PSRA of any concerning development, particularly in relation to those accounts and that it provide the authority with a weekly report, by close of business at the week's end.
It must also confirm it will comply with the conditions, provide a comprehensive update and current level of deficits on the client account, and respond positively to any requests as to the status of its licence so the authority can say it is not suspended but subject to oversight by the court, counsel said.
Mr McDowell said the mart had not traded for the last week and it will apparently begin trading under the new relationship which would hopefully resolve the matter entirely.
.Mr Connolly, for the mart, said the conditions outlined had been agreed with the PSRA which was also satisfied there were no mala fides on his client's behalf and what happened was in relation to the financial governance of the previous CEO/manager. The judge remarked that the poor financial governance went beyond Mr Grimes.
Mr Connolly replied the mart accepted there was "culpability all round" but reiterated there was no mala fides. The suspension was the "talk of the town" and for the mart to survive it must respond to ensure the survival of what is probably the busiest mart in the north east and of huge importance to the community, he said.
The judge said the conditions agreed were to be made an order of court. She adjourned the matter to December 14 for mention but said there needed to be "absolutely 100 per cent compliance or there will be difficulties on the next occasion".