Nurse who got debt write down hopes it will help others

The nurse at the centre of a media frenzy after getting a €152,000 write down on her mortgage has said she hopes her story gives hope to others in similar situations.

The nurse at the centre of a media frenzy after getting a €152,000 write down on her mortgage has said she hopes her story gives hope to others in similar situations.

Laura White, daughter of the late Mary White (nee O’Shea) from Blenavoher, Lanesboro, said she was overwhelmed by the response since the news broke.

In what is potentially a landmark case, the bank agreed to write down Laura’s mortgage debt to a level she can afford to repay, after selling her house for significantly less than the mortgage. Laura will now repay the bank €18,000, or €250 a month for six years, rather than the €170,000 that was outstanding.

She voluntarily surrendered her house in Coolock in Dublin in 2009 after running into difficulty making repayments on the €245,000 mortgage from Bank of Ireland’s subsidiary ICS Building Society, who subsequently took a legal action against her in 2010.

The story made newspaper front pages and TV and radio bulletins across the country after the settlement in the High Court at the end of April. “I thought it would make the news but not headlines. It was incredible; it was like being in the eye of the storm. I’m just exhausted talking about it. I don’t want this to be about me any more; the focus needs to go to all the people in similar situations,” Laura told the Leader this week.

New Beginning, a recently formed group who offer free legal representation to people at risk of losing their family home to repossession, has noted a significant increase in people contacting them since they helped Laura to her agreement.

David Hall, co-founder of New Beginning, said the Laura White case is a watershed on debt settlement in this country. “This is a good result for Laura but this does not come without significant pain and that needs to be clarified. Laura has lost her home.

“She did all the right things by engaging with the bank, handing back the keys because she couldn’t afford the mortgage but the bank sat on the house for two years before selling it and then pursued her through the courts for the difference.”

Mr Hall has called on the government to hurry through legislation currently at draft stage on debt settlement arrangements to give borrowers back some negotiating power with banks. “There are several different options such as split mortgages and mortgage for rent as examples but the government needs to stop lagging behind and get this legislation enacted.”

Mr Hall said that widespread debt forgiveness is going to be the only option for banks in the short-term future. However, in a statement, Bank of Ireland said it doesn’t have a policy of debt forgiveness and deals with distressed borrowers on a case-by-case basis.

Despite the emotional and financial pain involved (Laura had already paid nearly €60,000 in mortgage payments and interest), the granddaughter of the former Lanesboro postman, James O’Shea said the outcome was a massive relief.

She hopes the news will bring a “little sense of hope” to all those suffering in similar situations. “People often don’t realise the mental strain things like this put on people. These last three years have been horrendously tough and there’s so many people out there going through that anguish. I just hope my story can help them in some way.”