‘We will be homeless if they sell us out now’ – farming family

A farming family in Co. Meath are in danger of becoming homeless if a vulture fund goes ahead with its plan to sell their land next week.

Michael McCann – along with his wife Claire and young daughter – currently lives in a mobile home in his farmyard where he runs a dairy goat enterprise.

Michael and his brothers – Ger and PJ – recently discovered that two parcels of their land have been listed on digital property platform BidX1. The farmland is located along the main road connecting Trim and Summerhill.

Both of these lots, consisting of 38.27ac and 21.1ac respectively, are scheduled to go for auction on Thursday, September 20.

On the larger parcel of land, Michael runs a flock of approximately 300 dairy goats – with around 150 of them being milked at present. The second plot is part of PJ’s farm, where he milks a herd of dairy cows.

goats

Meanwhile, Ger is a drystock farmer and a relief milker for other farmers in the area.

This morning (Wednesday, September 12), almost 100 farmers turned out to support the McCann family – who are eager to bring this ordeal to a close.

Vulture funds

A number of years ago, the McCann family took out a loan from Ulster Bank to buy 38ac of land in Freffans, Trim, Co. Meath.

Ulster Bank subsequently sold on the resulting debt to a vulture fund by the name of Promontoria. The farming family were notified of this move, but efforts to deal with the vulture fund have been unsuccessful to date.

Speaking to AgriLand, Claire said: “We sold our family home to invest here, so if they sell us out now we will be homeless with no where to go. We made that decision; we were only young at the time.

Things just didn’t go the way that we had planned.

Meanwhile, Michael outlined that the ordeal is having a “devastating affect” on the entire family – including his parents, who are now in their 80s.

“If they sell it, we are going to be on the road; we have no where else to go. Then it will put my other brothers under pressure as well. It’s not going to do my mother and father any good either,” he added.

Farm
L-R: Ger and Michael McCann

Efforts have been made to come to an agreement with a third party linked with the vulture fund in the hope that the situation could be resolved, according to Ger.

He said: “I remortgaged my house to give them a big lump of money.

It’s not as if we have been backing off trying to get out of paying; it’s safe to say that – between the McCann family – we have put €500,000 into it. Ulster Bank have got that.

“That has not been taken into account at all.”

Proposal

As it stands, the two parcels of land have a combined guide price of €410,000. The 38.27ac has a guide price of €250,000 (just over €6,500/ac) while the guide price for the 21.1ac lot has been set at €160,000 (almost €7,600/ac) .

Michael described these guide prices as “a joke” and stated that the land is worth significantly more.

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Michael McCann with his wife Claire and young daughter

A proposal to resolve the situation was put forward as recently as last Thursday (September 6). As part of the proposal, the McCanns are in a position to pay back about 65c on every euro owed.

“We went forward then with a proposal – a good proposal – and it was totally rejected,” Ger said.

It is understood that the McCann’s would be willing to sell 30ac and that they would be able to raise enough funds to buy the other 21.1ac lot. It is hoped that this proposal would raise in the region of €500,000.

Continuing, Ger said: “No one wants everybody to know their business. But if we don’t stand up now, we are going to lose everything – all of us.

“We accept that we have to offload some assets; but we want to do it voluntarily.”

Michael added: “We don’t want to be pushed into it and for someone to come in from anywhere and purchase it. We want to be able to sell it ourselves and get the proper price for it.”

Raise awareness

It is understood that the family were never asked to vacate the land, despite it being advertised as “vacant” on BidX1.

The McCanns were never notified of the upcoming auction either, only finding out when a friend rang to say that it had been listed online.

Almost 100 farmers gathered to support the McCann family this morning

The family called on farmers who find themselves in a similar position “not to bury their heads in the sand” and to stand up and fight their corner.

At present, both parcels of land belonging to the Meath family remain listed on the BidX1 website.