'Here I was, aged 56 and in serious trouble'
UP until she became mired in economic misery, widow Margaret Hanrahan (57) from Cahir, Co Tipperary, was living in very comfortable circumstances.
Following the tragic death of her husband at the age of 28, she had managed to make a good life for herself, educating her two daughters and setting up an equestrian business.
In 2007, she received a call from her bank out of the blue, asking if she was interested in expanding her business and offering her a loan of €1.2m.
Margaret was very tempted. She had wanted to move to a bigger premises, but all the other banks had turned her down because their repayment rules were too strict.
ACC were offering her a two-year moratorium during which she would not have to make any payments. Their only condition was that she would put up assets as security and then sell them to cover the loan.
"It was a lot of money and I was very daunted. I was always so careful," she said.
However, she took the bank up on their offer and on August 24, 2007 – her birthday – she received the money and went ahead, buying up 85 acres to open a new equestrian centre at Burncourt.
By 2008, it became apparent that Margaret was in trouble. There was no longer a market for the small farm of 30 acres and the four small apartments she had built on the land, along with two other commercial properties in Clonmel that she had used as leverage.
"I couldn't pay back this loan. I was in business all my life and here I was aged 56 and in serious trouble," she said.
In 2011, it was "all over" when the property was repossessed. She had many sleepless nights – but is now "sleeping fine", she says.
"I tell people facing similar situations that they have to fight for their rights – if you lie down, you're ruined."