A farmer in Co Cork has said the auction of his herd of cattle yesterday was like seeing "your life burnt in front of you" and fears his son will move to New Zealand instead of staying at the farm.
Peter Kingston, 51, from Nohoval, Co Cork, broke down as he tried to explain the emotional effects of seeing his 1,000 cattle sold off,
Mr Kingston cried as he listened to an auctioneer calling for bids on the herd being sold off after ACC Loan Management secured a €2.45m judgment against him.
As up to 100 protesters from the New Land League stood outside, Mr Kingston said it was particularly hard for his 77-year-old father, George.
“Two weeks ago he had to get stents in the heart. He’s aged by about 10 years. The weakest are those affected the most,” said Mr Kingston, whose family won the RTÉ series Ireland’s Fittest Family in 2014.
He said his father started the dairy farm in 1972 after he had made some money from beekeeping. “He always had a passion for cows. He worked all his life here and still lives on the farm.”
Peter Kingston started working with his father in 1983, when they had 120 cows. He said he had hoped his eldest son, Richard, 21, would keep up the tradition. But now he said it is likely Richard will “hop on a plane to New Zealand” to try his hand at dairy farming.
“Nobody has died, but to see your life burnt in front of you is very hard. The Phoenix rose from the ashes and I’ll do that too,” said Mr Kingston.
He said he is concerned he might also lose the family home. A number of private security guards and gardaí were present around the farm yesterday as bidders arrived at the auction organised by Sinead McNamara, sheriff of Co Cork.
One New Land League member, who had come from Wicklow, berated a foreign bidder: “Did you come here to buy some cheap cows? How would you like it if I came to your country and did that to you?”
League spokesman Jerry Beades said around 100 members had come to show solidarity with the Kinston family. He said he fears they are “an example of where Irish farming is going, because the government facilitated the selling of debt”.
TD Michael Collins said he was there to support the family.
“I’m a farmer too and I think this (auction) is very heavy-handed. There has to be another way and myself and Mattie McGrath will be raising it in the Dáil. A more caring society is needed.”
Cllr Alan Coleman, a dairy farmer in neighbouring Belgooly, said it was a sad day for the Kingston family and that more farm families may get into similar trouble.
“Legislation also has to be changed to allow some money from such sales to be given to unsecured creditors,” he said.
Con McCarthy, chairman of West Cork Community Alliance, said banks should work out long-term deals with such families.
“This type of sale is appalling,” he said.