Farmers owed around €250,000 following mart closure seek further legal advice

Farmers owed approximately €250,000 following the closure of Castleblayney Mart in Co. Monaghan earlier this year have decided to seek further legal advice to see if compensation can be secured.

At a meeting in the Glencarn Hotel in Castleblayney last night (Monday, July 30), farmers agreed to seek another opinion on whether or not a case could be taken against the Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA).

Between 40 and 50 turned up to the meeting; but it is understood that the number of people owed money is actually much greater.

Those present at the meeting heard how the authority was aware that the mart’s parent company – Edward Paul Nugent Ltd – was continuing to trade, despite its licence expiring on February 19, 2017.

The PSRA sent a total of six letters to Nugents – between February 6, 2017, and October 27, 2017 – outlining that its licence would expire on February 19, 2017, according to Paul McCormack of McCormack & Co Solicitors, Castleblayney.

As a member of the committee selected to deal with farmers’ compensation claims, McCormack explained that he believes that the PSRA had a “duty of care” to protect clients of auctioneers – including farmers.

The situation was allowed to occur where “farmers were doing business with a company that didn’t have a licence,” he added.

Legal action

Commenting on the situation, the chair of the committee – and the chairman of the Monaghan branch of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), Frank Brady – outlined that taking legal action against the PSRA is the best course of action.

“Anyone that I have spoken to has been very positive that there is an issue and that there is a chance that there is a case that we can bring and maybe get some compensation.

There’s a chance that we could get compensation from the organisation because of its failure to inform us.

Brady outlined that up to €1,000 has been spent on legal costs to date. It was decided at last night’s meeting that another opinion would be sought on the likely prospect if legal action is taken against the authority.

The cost of which is expected to equate to about an additional €500, a bill which the IFA has agreed to pick up.

‘Probably unlikely to succeed’

Farmers also heard at last night’s meeting how the committee has already received legal advice from a senior counsel.

Quoting that advice – which referenced another case with certain similarities – McCormack told those present: “A claim against the PSRA to recover money lost in this case is probably unlikely to succeed, even if it can be shown that the PSRA was negligent or that it failed to carry out the statutory duties in the proper manner.”

However, McCormack stressed that this senior counsel did not have access to letters sent by the PSRA to the mart’s parent company. So the committee has decided to get in touch with another senior counsel who has more experience in this type of matter.

If this senior counsel comes back and indicates that there is a valid case, farmers owed money by the mart have agreed to financially support a class action against the PSRA, McCormack said.

But, if the committee is advised that there is very little chance of a case succeeding – other avenues will have to be explored, he added.

Another meeting to discuss the matter further is scheduled to take place on Monday, September 3.