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Saturday 25 May 2019

'Bankruptcy exile made me so lonely that I felt like dying'

Torment of Ivan Yates led him to drink all day

Grainne Cunningham

SIXTEEN months of exile in the UK left bankrupt Ivan Yates so depressed and lonely that he drank "all day" and sometimes wished he were dead.

While he was not suicidal, the former government minister felt so low he no longer wished to go on living – and he sought solace in alcohol.

"I was drinking all day, every day," he said in an interview with the Irish Independent.

He was at a low after his company Celtic Bookmakers, which had 63 outlets at its peak, went into liquidation in 2011.

Having been discharged from bankruptcy in the UK after one year, the Newstalk presenter has now returned to Ireland and is to resume his former post with the radio station from tomorrow.

But he described the loss of his business, his subsequent battle with AIB bank over his €3m plus debt, and the bankruptcy process as "an extended trauma".

"You are a bit like a pinball. You are just ricocheting from one adviser to the next," he said.


"It does seem like the whole State is against you. The State owns the banks, the State controls the insolvency law . . . you just have to suck it all up."

The formerly ebullient man with the ready smile has been replaced by a darker version who is more sober and measured in his replies.

His legal team had warned him against speaking out publicly as it could be used against him.

He spent the past 16 months based primarily in a two-bedroomed flat on Meridien Wharf in Swansea, and the long, friendless winter on the Welsh coast has left its mark.

His accommodation was "perfectly comfortable" and while he found the Welsh to be "very friendly", he didn't get past "nodding terms" with anyone bar his solicitor.

"Really I was just totally anonymous, I felt very isolated from my family and friends," he said.

He would Skype his wife Deirdre every night but the rainy days dragged, and the pub seemed like the easiest place to go.

"The pubs open much earlier there and you can buy pints of cider or Guinness for €1.70. It's really cheap . . . it's a great way to kill a day," said Mr Yates.

"I felt like a fugitive, I felt hounded and I felt in exile," he said.

His mental state hit a really low ebb and he wondered how he could go on. "One time, I remember I woke up at 2am and I thought 'How the f*** did I end up here?'.

On another occasion, he was swimming at the local municipal pool, and he recalls just wishing that the water would swallow him up.

"It wasn't that I was suicidal. I was just so down about the situation, things seemed so utterly hopeless."

However, in the next breath, he adds: "I want to make it perfectly clear. I'm not looking for sympathy . . . people are going through much worse".

Mr Yates said his "nightmare" began when Celtic Bookmakers first got into difficulties, as disposable income fell and punters switched to the internet.

Efforts to sell the ailing business failed and despite taking no salary from the business from 2008, the company accounts unravelled.

Mr Yates is critical of AIB because he claims he did everything in his power to offer the bank a way of getting at least some of the debt back.

For its part, AIB has insisted that it made efforts to negotiate.

But Mr Yates claims the bank's legal team insisted they would not even accept 99c on the euro.

Nor would they promise not to pursue his children for the debt in the event of his death.

"I was not a suitable case to make bankrupt," said Mr Yates, adding that he had "no money stashed away" overseas, no holiday home or yacht.

Now that he is back in Ireland, Mr Yates insists he does not want a "pity party" and just wants to get on with the rest of his life.

"I was very fortunate that my marriage didn't break up . . . nobody died and there was no terminal illness. (My wife) was a rock of sense in this whole thing."

His fall from grace has taken a toll on his 81-year-old mother in particular.

He clearly feels a deep anguish at having lost the Yates family home which had been passed down through five generations.

But the experience has also reconnected him with "the really important things, my marriage, my family, my friends".

"I just want to make a fresh start. I just want to reconnect with my family and friends and get on with things," he said.

Irish Independent

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