A LARGE group of protesters representing a controversial trust which takes over properties in danger of repossession, were involved in an angry scuffle at the weekend as they tried to force entry to a stud farm at Brannockstown near Kilcullen.
Around 150 people took part in the protest but the vast majority are understood not to have been locals but to have come from elsewhere in the country.
Landowner and developer Eugene McDermott, who is a native of the area, still lives at the house attached to Kennycourt Stud Farm, which is the subject of an IBRC (Irish Bank Resolution Corporation) repossession order
Last year, the former Anglo Irish Bank applied to the High Court to sell the 120-acre stud farm, claiming Mr McDermott had failed to repay €814,000 owed to the bank. The house located on the property was not part of the proceedings.
Mr McDermott had a further judgement recorded against him last month, when Bank of Scotland secured orders amounting to almost €7m in the Commercial Court. This arose from loans dating back to 2005.
The crowd who attempted to force entry onto the Kennycourt land on Saturday, carrying banners and tricolours, and jostling two security men, were representing a private ‘trust’ which claims to be taking action nationally against repossession and eviction.
The Rodolphus Allen Family Private Trust has claimed that up to 2,000 people throughout the country have signed up to the trust in order to prevent the repossession of properties.
Initiated by Charles Allen, the trust scheme is designed specifically to assist those who cannot repay loans and who are threatened with repossession, by claiming that those involved have signed over their properties and these are now in the ownership of the trust.
The scheme has, however, been dismissed by several legal experts as a tactic which is highly unlikely to succeed in the courts.
It’s believed that people who sign up to the trust then lease their properties back from it at a nominal rate, giving them the use of the asset. A charge of €250 ( a fee of €170 and €80 in what are termed vouched expenses) is imposed to put assets into the trust and it has been claimed that up to €2bn in assets has been signed over already.
The protesters who turned out on Saturday began by handing out leaflets in the locality, gathering at Donnelly’s Hollow near the Curragh and then moving on to force an entry onto the land at Kennycourt, claiming that it was now the property of the trust and that IBRC had no right to block it off or prevent entry.
It’s understood that Mr McDermott was not among the protesters, who included a number of other businesspeople or property owners from elsewhere who are currently in difficulty with loans and also facing repossession orders.
This was the second time in the course of the past week that the Kennycourt land was the target of protesters from Rodolphus Trust. On Thursday, a group of them parked a digger at the gate, which they padlocked to prevent entry by security guards or others. Although security men subsequently removed the padlock and digger, these were again put in place by Saturday’s protesters.
Two security men at the site were jostled and pushed before cutting equipment was used to open gates and allow the crowd to force its way onto the land.
Despite legal opinion to the effect that the trust concept cannot succeed in the courts, the Rodolphus Trust movement has claimed that it will identify loopholes which can put assets beyond the reach of the banks. To date, however, these legal arguments have not been identified, while the Rodolphus Trust persists in presenting itself as a self-styled modern land league.
In the meantime, owners of land and property have been warned to take legal advice before signing up to the trust. The Irish Mortgage Brokers company is among those who have issued such a warning, placing question marks over the Kilkenny-based company through which all of the paperwork is apparently handled.
Attempts by the ***Kildare Nationalist*** to contact Eugene McDermott yesterday (Monday) proved unsuccessful. Although the Kennycourt Stud website lists both an office number and a mobile number for Mr McDermott, there was no response from either.
Local TD Martin Heydon (Fine Gael) said that while he could not comment on the specific case, the tactics being utilised were not acceptable.
“Where repossessions are concerned, while we would certainly place huge significance on the family home, the situation is obviously different in respect of other properties and land. The personal insolvency measures, for example, simply will not work if people do not accept that, in certain circumstances, there must be repossessions,” Deputy Heydon said.