'It's like being put in the village stocks' - Pamela Flood breaks her silence on debt, critics and fighting back
Pamela Flood is in fighting spirits. Facing losing the home she shares with her husband Ronan Ryan and their four young children, one thing she is certain of is that she will pay no heed to public opinion.
"You know Ireland sometimes has a 'little village mentality', with its twitching curtains, and 'oh, what will people say?' but I remember hearing a phrase years ago, 'Other people's opinions about me are none of my business,' and I think I have had such a baptism of fire that it's only now I understand it.
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"The only people who matter to me are those I love and the people who understand the situation. Beyond that, they can say and think what they like."
Last Friday the couple vowed to stay in their €900,000 home, insisting they intend to "fight back" against the vulture fund seeking to repossess it. The couple now have new representation, Ross Maguire of New Beginnings, and Ronan has obtained a Protective Certificate, which means they can not be interfered with by anyone for 70 days.
Pamela has yet to speak about the full details of the couple's side of the story in court, but she says: "There is more to this than meets the eye. We complied by agreeing to sell the house three times in 2011, 2013 and 2016, but they [Tanager] wanted the asset to appreciate."
It's only hours after headlines circulated that the couple face jail if they refuse to leave, but Pamela brushes those concerns aside, insisting: "That's a non-runner."
And despite years of "letters coming from faceless people" threatening eviction - it was reported in court that the couple haven't made repayments in nine years, but Pamela claims it is six and provides proof that Ronan has made five repayments this year - she remains resolute, saying: "I feel like I am getting stronger."
Speaking to the Sunday Independent yesterday afternoon, she says: "We have never shed tears over it. I have been hurt and I have been upset but I have never cried over it, because at the end of the day it's about perspective.
"We have four gorgeous happy, healthy kids and for me - because I came so late to motherhood, having my first at 40 - I look at the four of them, and think I am blessed.
"There has got to be perspective. This is just horrible in a very public way, it is like being in the village stocks. And I think that's because people don't have all the facts or don't understand it."
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The model and presenter says both herself and her restaurateur husband believe that they have done nothing wrong.
"Missing mortgage payments is not doing something wrong. If you miss them genuinely because you can't make the mortgage payment, that is not something wrong. It's not immoral, it's not even illegal, it's just missing mortgage payments. At the end of the day, I do my utmost to be the best person I can be and I fully believe my husband is the same. And we put our head on the pillow tonight and we sleep because we are not bad people."
On the hate she has received, Pamela says: "They all sit behind the keyboards and their phones" and describes how some have questioned her choice to become a mother when the couple were threatened with eviction.
"You are in a state of limbo and wondering what is next because they call the shots, but you have to park those thoughts at some point and think 'well, we have to get on with life. Life has to be lived'. And we made our family and I know people have issues with that. They have said, 'Why are you having babies if you can't afford your mortgage?' Well, you know what? There is a time span on having babies, but you have the rest of your life to sort out your finances."
As Pamela, who is a mother to Harrison (8), Elsie (5) and Gracie (3), as well as a stepmother to Zach (17) who is Ronan's from a previous relationship, explains: "It's not like I could say, 'Let's hold off on making a family and we will sort out our finances and when we are about 50, then we will start.' It doesn't work that way and everyone knows that."
She believes the fact that the couple are high profile has hindered rather than helped their case.
"Oh, utterly. I think they are making perfect examples of us. It could have been Joe Blogs and Mary Joe but there is no way they would get the coverage we are getting now, so they are having an absolute field day.
"Because there are thousands of families out there like us in the same position and it scares them. It makes people think, 'Oh God, we better not fight them, we will just hand over the keys'. Well, no actually, the one thing we want to say to them is that there is hope. There are no guarantees in this life, but it's nice to know there is hope, it's nice to know there is a chance, and I would love everyone out there in the same boat to know that."
Asked if the couple have a plan B in the event that they eventually have to leave their home, the former Miss Ireland reveals that she and her husband hope to be allowed to continue to make payments on their home and to stay in it. "We are not saying we want to stay here for free. We are saying that we want to continue to make payments. We will buy the house at the market value plus pay all the missed payments, so the thing is if we win this, we get to stay in our home and the fund get all their money because we will give them all their money. But if we don't win and the fund win, they still get all their money so there is a way that both parties can win here. So personally I think it's a no-brainer."
But if that doesn't work, Pamela says the family will have to consider their options, including renting. "As you can imagine with all the coverage, nobody is queuing up to rent to us and who would blame them? Because all they would think is, 'Well, they just sat back and didn't do their part', which isn't true."
On the possibility that she would have any ill feeling that Ronan had financial difficulties before they married, Pamela says: "Oh God, no. Meeting him was an incredibly lucky moment and marrying him was one of the best decisions I have ever made. He is an amazing husband and a fantastic dad. There isn't a day goes by that I am not glad about the fact that he is the one."
She says that, far from testing their marriage, their financial struggle has brought them together.
"Honest to God, we said it last night. We were sitting in the kitchen for ages and I said: 'Do you know what? The s**t has hit the fan more than a few times for us over the years and I honestly feel we are stronger than ever. The more that comes at us, the stronger we get'. And he said: 'I completely agree'."
What the court heard on February 13, 2019
Judge Jacqueline Linnane said in the Circuit Civil Court that Mr Ryan had not paid anything off his €1.1m mortgage for more than eight years. "The last payment to this account was on August 4, 2010," she said. Ms Flood was not named on Ryan's 2006 mortgage with Bank of Scotland and is not a defendant in the case but following her marriage in 2014 she was joined as a notice party to the repossession proceedings relating to the family home.
The bid to take back the couple's home is now being made by Tanager, an American-owned "vulture fund" that snapped up more than 2,000 distressed Irish home loans almost 10 years ago at discount rates from Bank of Scotland.
Bank of Scotland Ireland granted Ryan a 34-year mortgage of €1,105,000 to be paid back in monthly instalments of €4,434. The loan had fallen into arrears now amounting to €281,111 and the total debt outstanding to Tanager was stated to be €1,207,904.
What the court heard on March 8, 2019
Ms Flood and Mr Ryan can walk away without paying a penny of the €1.2m debt they owe against their Clontarf home. Judge Jacqueline Linnane was told they will not have to pay the huge legal costs two banks have run up in trying to repossess the house.
The couple's barrister told the court that they had given Tanager an undertaking they and their children will have vacated the property by July 9. In return, the bank would undertake to limit the couple's indebtedness to whatever it could recover from the sale of the property - no legal costs, no repayment of €374,000 arrears they had built up since 2010 and no liability for the €1.25m outstanding on the mortgage.
Rudi Neuman, counsel for Tanager, said that Ms Flood and Mr Ryan had consented to the court granting Tanager an order for possession against them.
Mr Neuman told the court the bank had agreed to a stay on the execution of the order for four months on condition the couple delivered up vacant possession of the house, worth up to €800,000, along with "all keys, fobs, electronic access devices and alarm codes" and an undertaking to cooperate with an auctioneer to show off the property.
The couple's barrister said the terms of the settlement agreement had been explained carefully to his clients who had put forward the vacant possession proposal that had been accepted by the bank.