Clare farming community at odds over new mart share-ownership conditions
New rules introduce two-tier share scheme, dependent on trading levels
Shareholders at Clare Marts passed resolutions requiring all members to trade cattle, sheep or horses to the value of at least €5,000 over a four-year period to retain voting rights.
New conditions were attached to share ownership at Clare Marts this week when shareholders passed resolutions requiring all members to trade cattle, sheep or horses to the value of at least €5,000 over a four-year period if they are to retain voting rights.
“Farmers in Clare Marts are biting off the hand that fed them,” Ennis businessman Oliver Moylan said.
Mr Moylan, who owns the Ennis Cash Company, said he felt very aggrieved about the decision, as he will lose his voting rights by virtue of not trading, despite involvement in the marts for more than 50 years.
He criticised the decision, saying Clare Marts would never have come about had it not been for business people in the area who gave money to set up the marts in the 1950s.
Clare Marts general secretary and manager Martin McNamara said that while the Ennis Chamber of Commerce and local business people were “instrumental” in setting up Clare Marts, the money was put up by numerous shareholders including farmers.
Mr McNamara said 30 per cent of the capital to set up Clare Marts in the 1950s came from business people and farmers in the Ennis area.
He said business people will retain their voting rights for a period of four years, and if they do not meet the trading requirements in this time, they will still become “B shareholders”, although without voting rights.
“That is the option open to them. It is not up to me to say whether it’s fair or not. That has been the decision of the members,” he said.
Vote for change
At a special general meeting of Clare Marts on Wednesday night, almost 91 per cent of shareholders voted for changes to share categorisation, dividing shareholders into “A members” and “B members”.
To become an “A member” shareholders must purchase or sell or commit to purchase or sell cattle, sheep or horses to the value of at least €5,000 over a four-year period. If they do not meet this requirement they lose their voting rights and become a “B member”.
“It’s a farce they don’t want non-traders. They just want farmers and yet a lot of the marts’ business involves renting and investment,” Mr Moylan said.
He criticised the decision saying it was very unfair on business people involved in the marts since the beginning, who will lose their voting rights by virtue of not-trading.
“They’re now trying to make it so we have no voting rights. It’s discrimination against a minority.
“I have given more than 50 years of great work. I wrote a blueprint for the future development of the marts in 1975/1976 which they still use.
“What good is a share without a vote . . . it is unheard of that there is a condition attached to shares.”
Mr McNamara denied that the main interests of Clare Marts were as an investment company. “That’s rubbish. The main purpose of Clare Marts is to service farmers with the sale and purchase of livestock.”
He said the turnover of the marts was €69.5 million last year with the majority of that coming from the sale of livestock. He said while rental income from warehousing and property was a “high contributor” to the profits; it was not to the turnover.
He said the resolution that was before the meeting was passed with a very high percentage. “Over 90 per cent of the people present voted yes for the resolution.”
He said the voting rights were not removed from the existing people or the people who set up the mart.
“Anyone that had a share prior to the passing of the resolution retained all their rights for their lifetime. They retain the same rights and say.” He said that any existing shareholder up to the passing of the resolution has the same rights as they had five years ago, 10 years ago and 50 years ago.