'Pamela was being rushed to surgery while they were setting up viewings' - restaurateur Ronan Ryan on battle to keep €900k home
Ronan Ryan has opened up about the struggle he and his wife, former RTE presenter Pamela Flood, faced over nine years as vulture funds attempted to sell their family home.
Ahead of his latest battle in court this week, the high- profile restaurateur told the Sunday Independent about the regular efforts the family made to comply with the sale of their home in Clontarf, Dublin, which they agreed to sell on three occasions - in 2011, 2013 and 2016.
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He said: "The first time the house went up for sale my wife was heavily pregnant with our child. We packed up the car and 'disappeared' every Saturday for two hours while people came to view it. This was a pretty stressful time as my wife was about to have our first child and trying to clean and tidy the house and get ourselves and two cats and two dogs out of there was no mean feat, and hardly the actions of a family not playing ball."
He said that by autumn of 2013, "the house was up for sale again and it was the same drill but this time in the middle of it all, my wife had our first daughter. She had serious complications and had to be rushed to surgery after the delivery. While she was still in the Coombe, recovering, people were viewing our home. My sister had stepped in to mind our son and help clean and sort the house for viewings. She brought the kids to the park in the middle of winter and stayed there for four hours while they showed the house."
He continued: "Shortly after my wife and new-born daughter had arrived home from hospital, I got a midweek call from the estate agents asking if it would be possible for a family to come and look at the house again that day as her husband had not seen it. My wife agreed and said that she would do her best to put the house in order while she was minding a two-year-old and a new-born baby."
Describing his feelings at the time, he said: "You are staring into the abyss. You don't know what is coming next."
On advice from New Beginning, whose founder Ross Maguire is advising the couple, Ross and Pamela have vowed to stay in their €900,000 home, insisting they intend to fight back against the vulture fund seeking to repossess it.
Mr Ryan recently obtained a protective certificate under personal insolvency legislation which means they can not be interfered with by anyone for 70 days.
It was reported in court that the couple haven't made repayment in nine years, but Mr Ryan claims it was six and says he can provide proof that he made five repayments so far this year.
He told the Sunday Independent: "I am a hard-working man, I was caught by the recession and a huge downturn in trade, and finally this year I am back on my feet" and working seven days a week in the catering industry."
He added: "I do not have any 'fight' left in me. I simply want to resolve my financial difficulties; I want to keep my home.
"The rental market is an unbelievable place for a family with young children and realistically I will struggle to ever get a new mortgage loan. My home is in all reality the only place I may ever call my home again."
Meanwhile Ross Maguire, adviser to Mr Ryan, said any anger levelled at the couple has been misdirected.
"I understand people being angry when it looks as though people are deliberately not paying their mortgage. I think that creates a justifiable anger," he said.
"But when you look at the actual situation - and this would apply in many cases where the person believes 'I am goosed, I am going to lose this house' - if that is the case, if you believe you have lost your house then, leave out the morality of it, it doesn't make any commercial sense to make payments because you are losing the house anyway.
"So in the case of Ronan and Pamela - where the bank or the funds say 'listen, give us back the house and we will write off the debt', then it doesn't make any sense to make payments because why would you make payments against a debt that has been effectively written off? You might as well take your cash and throw it into the river Liffey. It's gone. You'd be wasting it."
As part of his work with families whose debts have been taken over by vulture funds, Mr Maguire says he wants to put an end to the "scaremongering" idea that "the funds are out to take your house and throw you out on the street".
He says: "That's just not true, it scares the bejaysus out of people and has quite a negative affect on them."
He explains: "On a human level we meet clients every day who assume that, because their loan has been sold to a fund, they are ruined. That has a terrible effect on them but it is untrue and, as the head of the citizens advice said recently, this had led to people burying their heads in the sand, which is a very natural human emotion when faced with such awful prospects."
But he said: "Based on our experience, the funds are better and easier to deal with than the banks.
"It's not all hopeless and the funds will do deals keeping people in their homes in an instant, provided people are able and willing to make payments - which in most cases, people are.
"The key advice to people who wish to retain their home is that there is almost always a way but first you must engage and you must make payments. Once this happens the mood music changes and deals are done."