| 9.5°C Dublin

Tense stand-off between Sligo farmer and bank

A tense stand off has developed between a Co Sligo farmer, Gardaí and bailiffs after the Bank of Ireland sold 35ac of a 96ac farm to an unknown buyer for an undisclosed sum.

John Devaney (64) and his son Jonathan (33), from Templeview, Easkey, Co Sligo, have refused to vacate the land, for which a possession order has been granted, because they claim its loss will break up their milking platform and render it impossible to re-establish a dairy enterprise.

The Devaneys have accepted that the sale of their assets is necessary to resolve their debt with the bank. However, they claim they offered to sell an alternative 38.5ac block and milk quota to settle their debt.

They say the impact of Bank of Ireland's action is that they would have two unconnected holdings of 18ac and 38.5ac.

The pair have accused the bank of being heavy-handed, failing to engage with the Devaneys' agent, agricultural consultant Richard Rea, and failing in its duty of care.

Mr Rea requested a meeting with the solicitors for the Bank of Ireland but this never took place because pre-conditions were sought.

He claimed that he also offered the sale of another 38.5ac and quota, together with the goodwill of the Devaney family, instead of the 35ac that the possession order applied to -- but this was refused.

The Devaneys mounted a 24-hour watch on the land over the weekend after the bank wrote to Mr Rea, warning that if the cattle were still on the land by yesterday it would be necessary to remove the cattle to a pound in Cavan using wranglers. They were warned that they would be liable for all expenses charged by the pound, amounting to around €35 per animal a day.

As we went to press yesterday, the Gardaí and bailiffs had withdrawn from seeking to secure possession.

When contacted by the Farming Independent, a Bank of Ireland spokesperson said it was the bank's policy not to discuss individual customer cases.

"We work closely with customers who encounter financial difficulties. Our most experienced bankers work to help and support these customers on an ongoing basis," said the spokesperson.

Irish Independent