This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
Dublin: 11 °C Saturday 15 June, 2019
Advertisement

Paschal Donohoe met KBC to 'reassure' the bank of support after the Strokestown eviction

The bank was criticised for using private security agents to forcibly remove three siblings from their Roscommon home.

Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

FINANCE MINISTER PASCHAL Donohoe held a meeting with KBC to “reassure” the bank of the government’s support in the wake of the controversy surrounding the forced eviction of a Roscommon family in December.

The mid-January meeting involved the head of the Belgian bank’s local operation, Wim Verbraeken, and its chairman, Luc Popelier.

Internal Department of Finance records state the main purpose of the meeting was “to reassure KBC about our support for the bank in light of the recent difficulties it has experienced follow the attempted repossession” of the Strokestown property.

The documents, obtained by TheJournal.ie, went on to note that KBC was an “important challenger bank” with an Irish market share of around 8% and more than 1,000 employees here.

The meeting followed the forced eviction of the three McGann siblings from their Roscommon farm in December, an incident involving a series of violent scuffles that were captured on video.

The case drew national media attention after private security guards employed by KBC were allegedly forced from the property by a group of masked men. 

4529775 A screengrab of footage from the incident Source: The Democrat

Speaking points

Under a list of “suggested speaking points” for Donohoe in advance of the meeting, finance officials said the minister could “welcome the opportunity to discuss concerns that KBC may have” about repossession issues.

“We fully accept that repossessions are part of the normal financial services landscape and that it must be possible to enforce security as a final resort when all else has failed,” the document said. The partially redacted records were released after a freedom of information request.

In public comments after the eviction, senior government figures were more circumspect in showing support for the bank.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil the facts behind the eviction “seem to be about much more than an elderly farm family being evicted” and there had been years of debt, arrears and tax evasion involved in the case.

“Nobody likes to see anyone being evicted in any circumstance. Nobody wants to see it happening, particularly in the run-up to Christmas. However, the High Court does not issue eviction orders lightly,” he said.

However in response to Sinn Féin criticism that the eviction was “an ordeal of thuggery inflicted by a group of men acting on behalf of a financial institution while gardaí watched”, Varadkar added that there was a need to regulate private security firms used by banks to carry out evictions. 

The McGann family later said that the Taoiseach’s comments were “a deliberate attempt to deflect attention from some of the very serious issues relating to our eviction”.

Two men have since been charged over the violent confrontations after guards occupying the site were attacked. A security dog had to be put down after suffering serious injuries during the incident, while the guards’ six vehicles were also set alight.

The family, who were not involved in the attacks, subsequently returned to the home. One sibling, David McGann, has filed High Court proceedings against KBC claiming that the eviction was unlawful and the security firms allegedly involved had no authority to enter the property.

The bank had earlier obtained a possession order against McGann’s brother, Anthony, in relation to a debt of more than €300,000. KBC lodged legal action against him in 2009 and court records show a repossession order was issued in 2013.

The incident triggered anti-eviction protests in Strokestown, while three TDs and around a dozen supporters also ‘occupied’ a KBC branch in Dublin.

1 KBC Protest_90560980 Source: Mattie McGrath

In a statement, a spokesman for the Department of Finance said the discussions that took place at the meeting were confidential, however given its timing “the events in which the bank’s branches and agents came under physical attack were likely to be of particular concern to the bank”.

“It would have been completely inappropriate for the department and the minister to ignore the incidents which took place or in any way to condone or appear to condone these incidents,” he added.

“It was right and proper that this message should be clearly conveyed to KBC.” 

Comments are closed due to ongoing legal proceedings.

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

About the author:

Read next:

COMMENTS