Monday 19 March 2018

Her mother gently stroked her hair - 'There, there, don't worry'

Greg Harkin witnesses hearts breaking as 271 repossession cases open in Donegal

Greg Harkin witnesses hearts breaking as 271 repossession cases open in Donegal
Greg Harkin witnesses hearts breaking as 271 repossession cases open in Donegal

Greg Harkin

THE young woman rushed outside the courtroom and began to vomit. Her mother gently leaned down and stroked her hair, told her not to worry, tried to soothe her. "There, there now, don't worry," she said.

It was heartbreaking to witness her desolation, to see the stress etched deep on her pretty face as she waited to find out if her home was going to be seized.

Dozens of people stood outside Court No 2 at Letterkenny Courthouse waiting for the start of the Motions Court as 271 possession cases were called for hearing. Inside the court two female court staff were building muscles they didn't know they had, lifting box after box of court files.

Shortly before 11am people began to move into the courtroom, already packed with solicitors and clients. Among them was a 78-year-old woman who fears she will be homeless if the house in the name of her son ends up in the hands of Ulster Bank.

It took Donegal's county registrar Geraldine O'Connor two hours and 29 minutes just to do a 'call over' of the motions list at Letterkenny Courthouse.

An astonishing 286 cases were listed, 271 of them were for property repossessions.

By the time the Registrar had reached case number 202 she was no longer entertaining adjournments to the June and July lists - they were all being put back until September.

It was 1.29pm by the time the list was called - and after hearing family law cases - it would be 4.02pm before the 82 cases listed as "going ahead" finally began.

Ten cases were withdrawn by the banks after agreements were reached with home owners.

Ten other cases involved mortgage holders representing themselves.

In all, 79 cases were brought by Permanent TSB, 33 by Ulster Bank, 54 by EBS and 26 applications by AIB.

There were also 13 repossession cases brought by Bank of Ireland, five by Bank of Scotland, 12 by SpringBoard Mortgages, 17 cases from KBC Bank, two from Haven Mortgages, four from ICS mortgages and three from Start Mortgages, which, according to its website, no longer offers new mortgages. Two cases were brought by Pepper, agents for Danske Bank (once the Northern Bank).

Inside the court three of those making a personal appearance were young pregnant women.

One of them left the court in tears - tears of joy and relief this time - after being told her case was being put back until September.

Her husband, she says, now has a job in England and is planning to send money back to pay the mortgage. The court heard the couple hadn't made any mortgage payments since Christmas 2013.

"Please don't name me," she said, pointing to her heavy pregnancy, "I've enough going on."

She smiled before adding: "We're like a lot of people. We paid too much for too little, lost our jobs and need a roof over our heads, especially when this one comes along. We wanted to pay [the mortgage], we just didn't have the money."

Also in court was one Eamon Dunphy, second cousin of the TV soccer pundit of the same name. The family resemblance was clear.

He was involved in a heated debate with Kevin McElhinney, a solicitor acting for Permanent TSB.

Mr Dunphy, originally from Dublin, once ran a successful pub in Buncrana.

He took exception to an insistence from Mr McElhinney, that the case against him involved a buy-to-let property.

"It is not a buy-to-let," Mr Dunphy told Registrar O'Connor. "I live there. I've been registered to vote there for the past ten years if anyone bothered to check."

He was insisting that Permanent TSB had not responded to his application for documents under discovery. Mr McElhinney denied this.

After the day's proceedings, just two properties were repossessed and ten cases were withdrawn due to out-of-court settlements.

The other 259 cases were adjourned to June, July or September and the reality is that it will be years before these cases are finally resolved.

There are another 280 cases listed in Donegal for next month, with hundreds more in April, June and July.

Sunday Independent

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