Thursday 22 February 2018

Poverty pit of the Eighties is back, with added guilt

But irresponsible lending and a 'couch potato' attitude have made matters worse, writes Emer O'Kelly

The court report pages in the newspapers don't often reduce you to hysterics. Normally they tell stories of human tragedies as sobering and pathetic as they are tragic. In civil actions they are frequently the culmination of long months, even years of nightmare, as people slip further into mind-numbing pits of rivalry, hatred, resentment or despair. They never end happily: nobody ever wins, as the judges frequently point out.

There was a report during the week of Mr Justice Brian McGovern granting 12 orders of repossession of houses in the course of a single day in the High Court. Another case was adjourned; its details were devastating. A young mother of two who said she was afraid of her mortgage company which had granted her a 40-year loan in 2007, with the payments set at €1,600 a month. She got into difficulties, renegotiated, and was paying €232 a week (€928 per month) until she found herself able to increase this to €300 a week (€1,200 a month). Then she became unemployed, and was now €5,000 in arrears. She was willing, she told the judge, to pay €260 of her weekly €370 social welfare total to the mortgage company, together with a lump sum of €1,600 borrowed from her father.

By the sound of things, she has a supportive father. But what she needs is a job, and they are thin on the ground. And the thought is heartbreaking: her long, lonely days in the house she's likely to lose as she waits for that inevitability, without knowing where she can go, the bright hopes she began with in 2007 as she received the keys of her first home splintered into grimy atoms. Even worse must be the silent nights, the only sound her children's sleep-filled breathing as she stares into the blackness of her future.

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