Sunday 19 January 2020

'It's an awful shock, after 27 years' - Ex-RTE journalist evicted from home over mortgage arrears

REPOSSESSION: Joe Tiernan says he was shocked when a team of court sheriffs arrived at 6am. Photo: Tony Gavin
REPOSSESSION: Joe Tiernan says he was shocked when a team of court sheriffs arrived at 6am. Photo: Tony Gavin
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

A former RTE journalist was evicted from his home in Shankill, Dublin, last week after running up arrears on a €315,000 loan from KBC Bank.

Joe Tiernan is used to conflict situations, having worked as a researcher on the flagship current affairs programme, Today Tonight, in the 1980s, and as author of a controversial book on the Dublin Monaghan bombings.

Nothing prepared him for the shock of being woken at 6am last Thursday morning to find a team from the Dublin County Sheriff's Office and gardai in his hallway.

Mr Tiernan, who is in his late 60s and a freelance journalist, shared the property in Shankill with his wife, Carmen, and their son. He had been forewarned that they were coming - three notices from the Dublin County Sheriff's Office that a court order for possession was about to be enforced had come through his door in the last five weeks. But, speaking to the Sunday Independent hours after he and his family were evicted, Mr Tiernan said he was "worn down" after seven years of financial pressure and didn't believe it would "actually happen".

"When I went downstairs the guys were already in the hall. They'd cut the lock. There were eight or 10 guys and several gardai," he said. "They just shouted 'we are from the Sheriff's Office in Dublin and we are coming to take possession of your house'."

He added: "I suppose you could say I physically tried to prevent them," after which he was taken out onto the street. "It was unbelievably embarrassing," he said. "I wasn't allowed back into my house at all. A row of men stood in front of my gate."

His wife and son were allowed to get dressed and "to pick up a few things, but only a few", he said. "Eventually, my wife and son came out, with their few things, and we got into our car and drove away," he added. The family are now staying with relatives while they look for a home to rent. "It's an awful shock, after 27 years," said Mr Tiernan.

His difficulties stem from a €315,000 loan he obtained from KBC in 2005. He had purchased two properties in Kildare, and planned to turn one of them into the family's "dream home" and sell the Shankill house. "But the crash happened and destroyed everybody," he said.

In 2010 he had got into difficulties with his mortgage repayments and, by 2016, KBC had moved against him. He kept the extent of their financial difficulties from his wife. The courts granted the bank a possession order on the property last year.

Mr Tiernan said he was going through the process of personal insolvency and had been meeting part of the €5,000 monthly repayments. He had been in dispute with the bank over interest he claimed he was overcharged and had just finished preparing his written complaint the night before the sheriff finally called.

That he didn't cooperate with the Sheriff's Office in the last five weeks is one of his regrets. Mr Tierney is now speaking out to encourage others who have or are facing eviction, to do the same. He hopes to start a "movement".

"I know this sounds like a big-headed thing to say, but I would like to become the new Michael Davitt.

"I am not for a moment saying that banks should not be repaid their debts. But breaking someone's door at 6am is not the way to go about it. Another way should be found to allow people to stay in their homes. The approach by banks has been way, way too aggressive over the past number of years and people have been worn down with stress and fear," he said.

"The problem is everyone is afraid, because they are trying to do a deal with their own bank and they don't want to go public. There is no doubt that the people who have been evicted and who are facing eviction were prepared to come together, this business would be stopped, the Government would have to do something."

A statement from KBC Ireland said repossession of a family home is "always the very last resort" for the bank. "We encourage any of our customers experiencing financial difficulty in meeting their mortgage repayments to contact us as early as possible, so that we can work with them to try to come to a resolution.

''We have been able to offer a range of solutions to around nine out of 10 customers in difficulty. We are not in a position to disclose further information in this regard."

Sunday Independent

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