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Mum in search of bankruptcy forced to leave children

A divorced mother of two is not looking forward to Christmas as she is emigrating to Belfast in the new year to find work to support her young daughters and avail of their more lenient bankruptcy laws after she was served papers for the repossession of her home.

To do this she must leave her children behind in their rented home in Wicklow.

Comparing herself to former Fine Gael minister Ivan Yates who successfully filed for bankruptcy in Wales, Jillian Godsil hopes she too down the line will receive a clean bill of financial health come next year.

"Like Ivan Yates there is no option for me but to move away. I don't have any bargaining power with the banks. Why choose to stay here and be punished. In Ivan's case he left his mother behind and in my case, I am leaving my two children behind, it's a killer," she said.

Raheengraney House, a sprawling Georgian manor house was the Godsil family's dream home when they purchased it in 1996. Jillian Godsil and her husband Mike were very proud of their palatial 5,200 square-foot house in Shillelagh in Co Wicklow, 65 miles from Dublin.

However, life took a downward spiral when her husband of 16 years, an English banker, filed for divorce in England in 2006, and then subsequently declared himself bankrupt, leaving the Trinity graduate with the weight of the huge mortgage of €1m.

After countless attempts to sell the lavish estate, Jillian thought she had got the banks off her back when she finally received an offer for the house of €500,000 in April 2011, but this was later refused by Bank of Scotland. Instead the bank wanted to pursue the divorcee for the full mortgage of €1m.

The court date is set for February 13 next year when the house will be taken back, but the negative equity will remain her debt under Irish law.

Now the former public relations boss must emigrate to Belfast next year to find work so as to care for her children Georgina and Kathryn, aged

18 and 16, and keep a roof over their heads in Wicklow.

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"It is very saddening to me that come the new year the bank will repossess it [the house] once and for all. And moreover that I shall be left with a huge debt based on the current level of negative equity – the house is worth less than a tenth of the actual mortgage now," she said.

"I have got no protection from the banks. It is all one-sided in this country. Even though the bankers were the professionals in lending me the money, when it all goes belly up, I am the one left holding the can. They take no responsibility for their flawed lending, but I must shoulder the full weight of my financial mistakes. Knowing that there is no running away from this debt in Ireland is slowly killing me."

Life has become a constant drain for Jillian and instead of receiving care and protection from the State; she carries the "dead weight" of her huge mortgage which she said is affecting her sleep patterns and mental health.

"It is horrendous, I wake up every morning between four and five o'clock. I don't go back to sleep, no matter what I am at the night before. I remember the trouble I am in and suddenly everything comes barrelling in on top of me, there is no escape from it. It feels like I am dragging a rotten corpse behind me and I cannot get rid of it. Its smell, its look, its dead weight is just there for me the whole time and there is nothing I can do to shift it."

Jillian used to run a flourishing PR and digital marketing business but now she barely has enough money to pay rent on her downgraded home which she moved into last year. She is living in rented accommodation in a two-bedroom cottage and her previous home has lain unoccupied for the past two years.

"It's a killer to think you work so hard and then you don't have enough money to pay rent. I don't have oil in my tank nor wood in my shed. I now work from home and I sit wearing three to four jumpers because I can't afford to plug in electric heaters. I'm paying the tax for my car in three monthly instalments as I physically don't have the money to pay it right now."

She also questions why developers can do deals with banks and have huge sums written off but the same escape clause cannot be applied to ordinary folk.

"If I owed 10 million, I am sure I could do a deal that would allow me to remain in my family home, drive a nice car and enjoy Christmas without worrying. Instead, I borrowed within my means but life has thrown me a curve ball and now I struggle to pay tax on my 15-year-old Micra. There is one law for rich Irish people and another for the poor."

Asked if she would consider bankruptcy in an easier jurisdiction, such as the UK, Jillian remains sanguine. "There is no work for me here, so I need to go abroad and leave my children behind. I have several job interviews in January and will be pursuing those with vigour. There is neither work nor hope for me in Ireland."

Her children are supportive of her decision as they know she has no other choice.

"It is a very frightening thought that it is I and not my daughter who is leaving home after Christmas. She has just finished her Leaving Cert and in a different life, I would expect it would be her to depart from the family home to attend college. Instead it is me that will be packing my bag and heading up to Belfast to seek work.

"It kills me that I have to leave my girls behind. They are too young to be left, but I do not have any choice. They do not deserve to have their mother leave them for financial reasons but the alternative does not bear thinking about. I cannot stay and slowly suffocate under my debt. For my family I have to go. They know that."

Asked about the case, Certus, the company handling Bank of Scotland loans, said that it did not comment on individual cases.

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