Sunday 18 November 2018

'I had a stroke and my wife couldn't speak' - victim of tracker mortgage scandal

At the committee meeting were (l-r) Helen Grogan, Hazel Melbourne, Padraig Kissane, Thomas Ryan and Niamh Byrne
At the committee meeting were (l-r) Helen Grogan, Hazel Melbourne, Padraig Kissane, Thomas Ryan and Niamh Byrne

Some customers who lost their tracker mortgages after the global crash were driven to suicide by banks, it has been claimed.

The nightmare of "ruined lives", with one man suffering a stroke and his wife a breakdown, was revealed yesterday in harrowing detail in the Dail.

TDs and senators heard from financial adviser Padraic Kissane that up to 30,000 may have been wrongly denied a cheap tracker loan - double the current estimate.

Homeowner Thomas Ryan told the Oireachtas Finance Committee he had a stroke at the age of 47 and his wife had a nervous breakdown after losing his Permanent TSB tracker rate.

"My family have suffered enormously. I myself suffered a stroke in 2013," he said. "My wife Claire suffered a nervous breakdown in 2015, losing her ability to speak.

"This was a horrific experience, not only for Claire but also our children as she went through long periods nervously stuttering and stammering without uttering an understandable word."


Mr Ryan was one of four customers of various banks who waived their anonymity to outline the impact of the tracker mortgage scandal, where they were charged the wrong interest rates.

"They have destroyed lives all over the country. Some people have [died by suicide]. It is appalling and an absolute disgrace," he said of the banks.

He branded the redress scheme that the Central Bank has ordered 15 lenders to carry out as "a joke".

Teacher Niamh Byrne took out a tracker mortgage with Ulster Bank in 2006. Later that year, she decided to fix her mortgage as she did not have a permanent post at the time.

In 2008, when the fixed period ended, she contacted the bank and asked when she would be put on to her tracker - to be told she was being given a variable rate instead.

She told committee chairman John McGuinness she argued for nine months until May 2009, when she was on a variable rate of 3.85pc with Ulster Bank. AIB had a rate of 2.5pc at the time.

The MA economics graduate could see house prices falling and knew that if she went into negative equity she would not be able to move her mortgage, so switched to AIB.

Ulster Bank would not allow her to move back to the tracker. In 2012, she realised the bank was letting people move with their tracker so she ended up in dispute with them, taking her case to the Financial Services Ombudsman.

"The whole of my 30s has been spent in this situation. It has been extremely stressful," she said.

"There was a suicide in my own family. If you have a direct link to that, the statistic is that your chances fall to one in 100 of it happening to yourself, so I'm quite careful to look after my mental health. This situation does not in any way help that."

Meanwhile, the latest data from the CSO shows that property prices in Dublin have almost doubled - going up by 83.5pc - since the market hit a low in February 2012.

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