Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has called on the Government to introduce proper and robust legislation that would guarantee the rights of family farms and businesses being sold off to vulture funds.
The Ireland South MEP was speaking as she attended a protest in Dublin against the forced sale of family farms and businesses.
Organised by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) the protest was held outside the offices of BidX1, and online property trading platform that had been advertising the sale of rural farms and land.
“Firstly, the fact that BidX1 have temporarily ceased the sale of agricultural land on their website in light of this protest and the concerns raised by farmers shows that people-power can and does work,” she said.
“So, I would congratulate everyone here but this must be the beginning of something, not the end.
“BidX1 have made very clear the halt of such sales is temporary and I have no doubt that when the spotlight is taken off them again they will go back to such practices.
“These are not simple property sales. What is happening here is the forced sale of people’s homes, farms and businesses. This is the loss of land that may have been in a family for generations or indeed the loss of an entire way of life.
“These things are priceless and for them to be sold off so callously and so cheaply is an act of cruelty that this Government should be ashamed to allow to be happening on their watch.
“Nor are the families affected looking for a free ride. What they are asking for is the chance to come to a reasonable, affordable negotiated settlement on their farms and homes, but all too often what these vulture funds are after is a quick turnover and a quick sale.
“We must also not forget the devastating impact a process like this can have on a person’s mental health. It can be devastating to think you have lost your family’s home or lost a farm that generations of your family have worked on and that is without being incessantly hounded and harassed by banks and vulture funds.
“I would urge anyone in that position not to be afraid to speak out or seek help. Looking after your mental health, particularly in a period of crisis is not only nothing to be ashamed of, it is the correct, sensible and responsible approach to take.
“The Government must introduce robust legislation that will place real regulations on these funds and real consequences for stepping outside them.
“It’s quite clear that the current codes of conduct are ineffective and ignored. Just a few days ago we learned from the Central Bank that no vulture fund or bank has ever been sanctioned for breaching any code of conduct. This despite countless reports of harassment from people unfortunate enough to be targeted by them.
“It’s not good enough. The Government must cease its current policy of abandoning rural Ireland and act to regulate these vultures.”
Liadh Ní Riada MEP
6 Patrick’s Quay, Cork
021 451 8986