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Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Jacob Lund via Shutterstock
‘Irish courts are not fully applying EU requirements that have become our lifeline.’

I HAVE BEEN to the funerals of three people who have taken their own lives – they were all dealing with the weight and shame of mortgage debt and the frightening and unimaginable risk of losing their family home.

I have attended these funerals because over the past few years I have gotten to know people all over the country who are the victims of powerful banks and vulture funds, who preyed on people who may have been a little cash strapped and a little desperate at a point in their lives.

And I say cash strapped and desperate only because I was one of those people. Back in 1996, myself and my wife were desperately looking to find a way to ensure that our children could stay in university. We, like all parents, wanted to ensure that they could have the best opportunities in life.

We had been living in our own house for over 18 years and we only owed about €3,500 on our mortgage. We put in a number of applications for the loan but I was finding it difficult to secure what we needed. At the same time, I felt I couldn’t let my kids down.

‘I thought all my prayers were answered’

Then, a friend of mine told me about a company he had heard about. I’d never heard of them, to be honest, but decided to travel across the country to meet them. They were extremely welcoming and didn’t seem to have any problem organising a re-mortgage of €30,000 on my home. I left that office that day thinking that all of my prayers had been answered.

We started repayments on the loan, which were set at just over €600 a month. It was a hard road I knew, but I felt we could manage it.

By 2013 – over 15 years later, we were still making repayments. It didn’t bear thinking about to be honest. On the up side, however, the children had been through their courses, they had married and settled down themselves and they were beginning to start their own families.

But, then, we got the land of our lives when the lender initiated possession proceedings against us. They claimed that we still owed tens of thousands on our loan because they said we had agreed to pay our monthly amounts at an interest rate that was actually calculated at over 29%.

I thought back to that day in the office in Dublin. At no stage had it been made clear to me that the interest would be that high. I had been told that the interest was 2% – a reasonable amount. But, in actual fact, unbeknownst to both myself and my wife, that was actually 2% per month – something we had absolutely not been made aware of.

‘Paid back €90,000 on €30,000 loan’

I spent days and nights awake. We couldn’t let anyone know about this horrendous situation. We couldn’t worry the family. We couldn’t admit that we had been so naïve and gullible. We couldn’t lose our house, our home, the place we had moved into after we got married, the place we had raised our family and now the place that was just known as ‘grannies’.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been in court at this stage. In July 2017, the total amount owing from the initial €30,000 loan was still over €250,000. At that point, we had already paid back over €90,000 – a sizeable profit for a lender by any standards.

It was then that we began to understand a little bit more about vital EU laws that could have be applied to our situation. Working with a group of concerned lawyers we learned that there was a law called the EU Unfair Contract Terms Directive which could be applied to assess the fairness of our mortgage terms in the first place.

We also learnt that Irish courts should be assessing the impact of a possession on the people living in the home – that is children, people with disabilities, or older people like us – under the EU Fundamental Rights Charter.

Irish courts aren’t applying them fully 

These EU requirements are not new. The problem is that Irish courts are not yet applying them fully.

For us they are a lifeline. We are not out of the woods yet but at least with these two existing laws we have some hope that the unfair terms that we were conned into will be explored and exposed.

We are not lawyers. We are just ordinary, simple people. But, we hope, for all of the people we have met over the past years in similar desperate and often hopeless situations, that more lawyers will begin to look to Europe to give their clients equality against the might of banks and vulture funds.

The EU Laws that are set out in a new Guide for People in Mortgage Distress. It is available free at


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