A father of five and advocate for people in debt has barricaded himself into his Limerick farmhouse after receiving an eviction notice last Thursday.
Speaking to Journal.ie, Seamus Sherlock said he was absolutely gutted when notice from the bank arrived last week.
“I was shocked, it took me a good few minutes to recover once I had read it,” he said.
“The letter I got was only two sentences long and my whole life and the lives of my five children was wrapped up in those two lines.”
“There’s no date on the order so I have no idea when they’re coming but we’re staying put.”
Alongside a group of supporters, the father has barricaded the entrance to his farm. Supporters have travelled from all around the country with several camping out overnight.
“Most people here are in debt themselves and have their own problems but they said they want to feel like they’re actually doing something,” he said.
Sherlock said he attempted to reach an agreement with the bank after his business failed last year. Since then he has been unable to keep up mortgage repayments.
“I don’t want a write down, that’s not what I’m looking for, I want to pay it off. I just need the bank to give me some time,” he said.
In 2010, Sherlock staged a protest outside the headquarters of the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) asking them to end the practice of cutting off customers who were in arrears.
He later set up ‘Life After Debt’ organization to help others who were suffering from debt issues.
“I was getting more than 30 calls a day some days from people who were struggling with their debt, looking for someone to talk to,” he said.
“I get a lot of calls in the middle of the night from men just like myself who are feeling really low and in the last two years I’ve lost five friends to suicide.”
The farmer feels like the bank are “making an example” of him, because he has been vocal about his debt issues.
“I was in the national media a lot in the last few months telling people to stay in their homes and now I suppose I have to practice what I preached,” he said.
Sherlock is determined to prolong the protest in the hopes of delaying the eviction.
“We’re not going anywhere, we’re here until the bank sees sense and stops trying to bully people,” Sherlock said.
Meanwhile, a new study among members of the farming community showed that one-in-three don’t share their problems and difficulties.
According to a study commissioned by the Irish Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy, Irish farmers tend to hide mental health problems from friends.
The Irish Farmers Association said the findings were not surprising.
“By its nature farming is very isolating” Margaret Healy, Chairperson of the National Farm Family & Social Policy Committee at the IFA told Journal.ie.
“The countryside might be more built up but there are less neighbors as a lot are now commuting to work. There might be no-one in the house from seven in the morning until seven in the evening which means that farming is even more of a lonely occupation than it was before.”
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