By Kieran O’Mahony
A WAR of words has broken out between the county sheriff and the Kingston family from Nohoval, over the condition of their prize-winning Holstein herd, when the animals were seized last year.
In April 2015, a judgment was sought against the Kingston family by ACC Loan Management over loans of almost €2.4m, and a receiver was appointed to oversee the sale of over 1,000 cattle on the farm.
In an affidavit to the High Court this week, county sheriff Sinead McNamara said that when she arrived on the farm with veterinary surgeon, Sean O’Sullivan, last December, they were shocked by the condition of the herd and property.
She also said that no feed had been provided for the herd or the calves, and that no suitable bedding was available. The county sheriff also said there was no running water for the animals and that the herd was in ‘lock down’ due a failed test for Bovine Tuberculosis. The herd has since been given the all-clear for TB.
However, Peter Kingston of Craden Hill Farm – whose herd was auctioned by the sheriff this week – disputes this version of events.
‘It was disgusting to see that type of caper going on with public comments by Sinead McNamara saying that when they took over the herd there was no feed and water,’ Peter told The Southern Star.
‘I wasn’t there, but all I know is that an awful lot of cattle died since she took over the farm. There’s only one parameter that you can use for working out how good a farm is doing, and that’s by looking at its death record. The death record is small if it is going well. If the death record is big, then the farmer’s doing it all wrong. The county sheriff had well over 100 animals dead in four months, while I had eight or 10 in the previous six months.’
While the Ms McNamara declined to comment to The Southern Star, she did outline in the affidavit that her office had spent nearly €100,000 in preparing the herd for the auction, as well as retaining, at considerable expense, a team of expert Dutch farmers to operate the property and maintain the herd.
It has been claimed that about €1.5m has been spent on the case, keeping the herd, and security, since they were seized.
‘What tyranny is going to be brought on the scene to deal with the next farmer? The law is an ass,’ said Peter.
As for his family’s future plans, Peter said that it’s still too early to consider their options.
‘We might go farming or we might not bother, and we don’t know what we will get up to. Who knows what tomorrow brings? Tomorrow always comes and there’s a tomorrow for everybody,’ said the father-of-four, whose family took the €15,000 first prize in RTÉ’s Ireland Fittest Family show in 2014.
Tuesday’s auction of over 1,000 prize-winning cattle on the Kingston farm drew a large security presence following media reports of a planned obstruction of the sale by members of the Land League. The sheriff earlier secured a High Court injunction restraining Jerry Beades and other members of the Land League from obstructing the sale.
With tensions high inside the auction, freelance photographer, Denis Boyle from Bandon, who was covering the event for The Southern Star, was escorted out after taking a photograph of a lone protester holding a ‘boycott’ sign.
Richard Kingston, Peter’s son, was also escorted from the auction, despite his plan to hold a peaceful protest. Outside the farm a number of locals and other farmers gathered to protest at the cattle sale, amid a large media presence.
Newly-elected TD for Cork South West, Michael Collins, was refused entry to the auction and he criticised the heavy-handed security there. Deputy Collins said the banks are wrong and that there has to be another way.
‘No one is caring about this family and we, as a nation, have to sit up and take a stand. Being a farmer myself, I can relate to them and it’s a terrible situation. It’s extremely upsetting for the Kingstons and I’ll be bringing this issue to the gates of Dáil Eireann,’ said Deputy Collins.
Jerry Beades of the Land League who attended the protest, described it as a ‘circus’.
‘Basically what we see here was designed to put it up to Irish farmers that this is what they are all going to face,’ he said.