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Wednesday, September 28, 2011 12:00
Newly formed group vows to fight repossessions
• HARDSHIP: Ben Gilroy pictured on route to a DOHL protest in the city centre last Friday. Mr Gilroy is facing the daunting prospect of losing his home. PHOTO BY DARREN KINSELLA

A NEW campaign group has been established to help beleaguered Northsiders who face the prospect of losing their homes because they are unable to meet their mortgage repayments.

Defend Our Homes League (DOHL) has been set up to prevent further repossessions and evictions of people facing financial hardship.

The group includes the left wing United Left Alliance (ULA) group of TDs, legal group, New Beginning, campaign group, Irish Homeowners Unite, and homeowners unable to repay their mortgages.

Ben Gilroy (48), who is originally from Raheny and a member of DOHL, is married with three children and now lives in Navan.

Until recently he had been paying approximately €2,800 per month for a period of over three years to meet the repayments on an interest-only mortgage of €310,000 on the house, which he purchased for over €400,000.

However, Mr Gilroy recently told his mortgage broker that he could no longer afford to make the repayments. He said the company has now told him it intends to repossess the house.

“After paying that mortgage I am absolutely financially ruined and they are looking for the house back,” Mr Gilroy told Northside People.

“I have lost over a quarter of a million on that house. In three and a half years I have paid €75,000 in interest and the valuation of my house has gone down by €200,000.

“Because of the interest-only repayments nothing has come off the principal sum. I still owe the €310,000 that I borrowed.á

Mr Gilroy said DOHL supports the idea of a State agency such as the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) acting as an independent assessor of people’s ability to repay their mortgages.

“I want an independent body set up – someone who has experience like MABS,” he stated.

“I would be looking for the independent body to be saying this is what these amounts are for and this is what the house is worth and to come to some arrangement.

“It is better to leave a family in a home paying €500 or €600 a month when they could alternatively become a burden on the State.”

Mr Gilroy added: “I could just as easily say why should I bother and try to get a house off the social welfare because they would pay most of my rent on it.”

David Hall is a barrister with Capel Street-based New Beginning. He said the group would be making submissions to the Government in the coming weeks to address the mortgage arrears and repossession issues.

“We are looking for an independent judicial group or body that is allowed to formally restructure debt appropriately when a lender approaches with a resolution,” stated Mr Hall.

“Why not reduce some pain now and postpone the pain if everyone including the Government and the banks are saying this is a cycle and it will improve?

“Why not allow people pay their mortgage appropriately but by reducing the risk to that person by looking at what effectively happens if a house is to be repossessed?

“If someone with a €400,000 house gets repossessed, the bank will get €180,000 and will have to write off over €200,000.

“We are saying: why are you trying to penalise a person by trying to force them to pay a mortgage of €400,000 where in effect they can't pay it?

“Why not try to do a deal with them where they pay €180,000 over a period of time and then reintroduce the €220,000 at a later stage.”

Dublin North TD Clare Daly (SP), along with a number of other United Left Alliance TDs, recently submitted proposals to the Government’s Interdepartmental Group on the Mortgage Crisis on behalf of DOHL.

Dublin North Central TD Finian McGrath (Ind) has also indicated his support for the initiative.

DOHL says it will convene a national meeting to respond to the forthcoming report by the Interdepartmental Group and to plan resistance to repossessions.

It is also working with New Beginning to prepare a Bill to submit to the Dáil later this year.

Deputy Daly said the purpose of the campaign is to engineer a climate where repossessions and evictions become totally unacceptable.

“Parts of the campaign will include protesting where repossessed properties are put up for sale,” she stated.

“In the Dail I and the other ULA TDs, with the help of others who support the Defend Our Homes League, will be looking to introduce a private members’ bill this autumn, which will effectively outlaw repossessions and evictions.”

A spokesman for the Department of Finance told Northside People that the Government’s Economic Management Council has tasked an Inter-Departmental Group to consider further necessary actions to alleviate the increasing problem of mortgage over-indebtedness.

“The group will report to it by the end of this month,” he said.

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