'We know we'll never see any of that money again...it's devastating'
Couple loses €670 following demise of TV3 travel-expert’s booking website
TODAY had been circled on Orla Byrne's calendar for months. It was to be the start of her honeymoon in Kenmare, Co Kerry. The Irish teacher, her husband James and children Ciaran (7), Niamh (6) and Caoimhe (2), were counting down the days.
The couple, who live in Rosslare, Co Wexford, had organised their holiday through the booking website SelfCatering.ie.
But just as Orla was beginning to pack, she was told that the company, based in her home town, had gone bust.
"We got married on June 15 and said we'd have a holiday in Ireland as we wouldn't be able to afford an extravagant honeymoon abroad," Mrs Byrne told the Irish Independent.
"I booked the cottage in Kenmare on SelfCatering.ie and paid €670 through PayPal. Now we know we'll never see that money again -- it's devastating."
The company, whose managing director is listed as TV3's "travel expert" Mary Power, sent out emails at 7pm on Thursday, stating that it had gone out of business with immediate effect.
Just over two hours earlier, at 4.50pm, the company had accepted a booking for a holiday in Bundoran, Co Donegal.
Ms Power appeared on TV3's 'Ireland AM' programme on Wednesday, offering viewers travel tips.
However, despite repeated attempts to speak to her yesterday, she did not return calls.
The company's website has been taken down and a message advises customers to contact the property owners of their holiday homes.
Outraged customers have described the actions of SelfCatering.ie as "disgusting".
Rebecca Egan, from Ballygar in Galway, said that breaking the news to her children would be heartbreaking.
"We're an average family on an average wage and we work hard. We paid €750 in total for our trip to Lahinch, part credit card and part cheque.
"I haven't had the heart to tell the children we're not going, I've been online, showing them the beaches and the pool."
In the past few months, the booking site had demanded payment by PayPal, cheque or via a bank account, rather than through a credit card. This means that those out of pocket will not be able to claim the money back through insurance.
"How dare these people take my money when they must have known they were in difficulties," asked Ms Egan.
Others burnt by the company's closure include the Harrison family, from Ennis, Co Clare, who paid €1,600 for a fortnight's stay in Lahinch; and the Kelly family, from Kilcloon in Co Meath, who lost €670 on a holiday to Glenbeigh, Co Kerry.
Brenda Grogan from Dublin handed over €740 for a week in Doolin, Co Clare; and Nicholas Revilles lodged €200 into a bank account last Wednesday for a three-day stay in Lahinch.
The Limerick-based outfit Rentacottage.ie, whose properties were rented out by SelfCatering.ie, predicts that between now and September at least 1,000 of its bookings will be affected by the closure.