In rural Ireland, farms are being repossessed and lands that have been in families for generations are being sold off by vulture funds. Some banks are selling off agricultural debts to multinational property asset companies which subsequently demand immediate payment of moneys owed. Fears are growing that an entire generation of farmers could be wiped out, stalling hopes of a sustainable rural recovery. Vast tracts of lands are now in the hands of vulture funds and farmers are under immense pressure. When farmers lose their land, they not only lose an asset but also their income.
The stress and anxiety experienced by these farmers has led to countless suicides. We need to highlight the number of suicides that are directly linked to financial pressures from banks and financial institutions chasing their own debts.Last weekend the Sunday Independent published the findings of a national survey of the mental turmoil associated with debt, which were just scandalous. It talked about how 44% of participants felt depressed either all or most of the time. Over 30% said they had had suicidal thoughts in the previous four weeks, while 22% admitted they had active plans to kill themselves, which is shocking. A total of 45% indicated they consumed harmful levels of alcohol. The situation cannot be allowed to continue. Does the Government have any plan to implement strict legislation to regulate vulture funds, the activities of which will wipe out a generation of farmers? Young people lose interest in farming when they see the stress and anxiety their parents are suffering. It will spell the destruction of rural communities and be a further drain on mental health services. Banks are acting in a manner that is not acceptable in piling stress and misery on embattled farmers. They are destroying viable farms and undermining recovery in rural areas.
Another serious issue which is emerging is the refusal of banks to release sites to the sons or daughters of farmers who are paying off a loan. Evictions are not confined to rural areas. A friend of mine lost a job last October. She has a five year-old son and with her husband who is working has been served with a notice to vacate their apartment since it is being sold. They are entitled to receive housing assistance payments, but no landlord is willing to take them. Their only alternative is to go onto a housing list and be given accommodation in a hotel which is totally unsuitable, as their child will not have play facilities and they will not have cooking facilities. There is a feeling of devastation in having to move into such places. Can legislation be introduced to force landlords to accept housing assistance payments