Farmer and wife face jail sentence after angry stand-off with receiver

Paul and Emer O'Shea
Paul and Emer O'Shea

A FARMER and his wife are facing a jail sentence on Thursday after an angry stand-off with a receiver at the gates of their home turned nasty.

Dad Paul O’Shea has already spent 15 nights in Mountjoy Prison in his fight for the barley fields which were once farmed by his grandfather in Co.

Now his wife Emer may have to do porridge too as the couple say they will fight until the bitter end to hang on to their fields just outside Castledermot.

They will appear before the High Court after a group of 50 supporters, including associates of the Land League, refused to allow a receiver, who was flanked by 20 security guards, access to the property through a gate the O’Sheas say is theirs.

Gardai were on hand during the early-morning showdown, which has now landed the couple and a high-profile Land League figure before the courts.

An hour-long stand-off ensued after receiver George Maloney and his back-up arrived at the homestead at 3am, and in the presence of the local gardai attempted to get through the gates and the crowd.

“I wasn’t here on the night in question, but my wife Emer was and it was shocking,” said Paul.

“People from all over the country came here to help us, to help protect my wife. I don’t know what sort of a country we are living in if society can stand back and watch a family being mugged at 3am in the morning.”

Theirs has been an epic battle against the banks, who they claim never gave them a chance to renegotiate the terms of a loan they took out in 2003.

The couple took out the loan to extend the farm’s grain stores, but began to have difficulty paying it back in 2009 when the recession hit.

A receiver was appointed in 2012 to take charge of the two fields which run on either side of the family home and it is understood they have recently been sold to an unidentified buyer.

However, efforts made by Mr Maloney to access large sheds and grain stores through a laneway through the O’Sheas front gate has resulted in scenes reminiscent of the John B Keane play The Field.

O’Shea had already spent more than two weeks in jail on foot of a finding that he was in contempt of court orders not to interfere with Maloney in his attempts to sell the land owned by him.

Now, a recent tussle which saw Maloney arrive at the O’Shea property with more than 20 security guards has landed him back before a judge.  And this time his wife is facing being found guilty of contempt of court too.

Navan-based Land League member Ben Gilroy will also appear before the court.

“I have been 15 nights in Mountjoy already and I would simply say, I wouldn’t recommend it. You just keep the head down,” said Paul.

“This was my grandfather’s farm and it came to my father and then to me. I was 13 when he died and I have farmed this land ever since. I will never give up on this place. It is all I have to provide my family with. It would never make you a millionaire, but it would feed the children and educate them.

“I borrowed money in 2003 and, like 90 per cent of businesses, things got tough in 2009. When things slowed down I approached the bank and tried to renegotiate the loan, but was told that if I didn’t pay in full every month they would take the fields.”

Paul said he initially hired lawyers to represent him in the courts as he tried to fight off the bank. However, he says he can no longer afford counsel and is reliant upon volunteers who have offered their help.

Shortly before Christmas, the family had their first head-on battle with receiver, Mr Maloney, when he tried to access sheds and outhouses through an electric gate they keep locked at the end of the drive to their four-bedroom home.

 “He is trying to antagonise us coming to our private residence at the private gates. He is trying to access those sheds, but there is machinery in them belonging to a third party.

“The only access to the sheds is through our gates, but we are not letting them in through our gates at 3am in the morning with all these security guards.”

Paul said he will continue to fight and will go back to jail if he has to.

“I won’t give up on this place, on those fields. How can I? It’s all I have. If I was allowed I could work out that debt and pay it back, but I wasn’t given a chance. I’m allowed to protect my family and my property and that is what I will try to do.

“They can commit me to jail as long as they want, but now they want to jail my wife and the mother of my child. That’s the reality of this situation. That is what we are fighting.”