Irishman takes back home after eviction | Ireland | DW | 18.04.2013
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Irishman takes back home after eviction

In Ireland more and more people are struggling to meet their mortgage payments. Many lost their jobs in the crisis, and in some cases they are being forced out of their homes - like Andrew Bradshaw.

Drastic times lead to drastic measures. Andrew Bradshaw has barricaded himself into his own home in the little town of Mullingar, an hour outside Dublin. The wooden palettes against the windows create an eerie darkness in his kitchen as he recounts the day he was locked out of his own home.

"I got a phone call from a neighbor to say she had seen men in my garden and that she had seen my four dogs being taken away in a van," he recalls. "Of course I came straight back and got into the house to check for my dogs, saw that they were gone and saw that the locks had been changed."

He saw no alternative but to break in. He has since got his dogs back, and now spends day and night in front of a television that shows images from the surveillance cameras he installed all around the property. He doesn't get much sleep.

It all started when he lost his job after a car accident. Out of work, he defaulted on his mortgage, and although he approached the bank, he says he found it "very difficult to find some agreement" with them.

From building boom to crash

Andrew Bradshaw is not alone in his fate. At the start of the new millennium, Ireland's construction industry was booming, and thousands of citizens took out mortgages, buying expensive houses on credit.

But the economic crisis struck, leaving joblessness in its wake. One in six home owners ran into difficulties. Although their properties are now only worth a fraction of their original cost, the banks expect them to repay their loans in full.

Professor Philipp Lane, economist at Trinity College in Dublin, has followed the property crisis in Ireland for years. "At the time, people were optimistic about the future and banks were willing to lend eight to 10 times people's income," he explained. "Interest rates were so low that you could say, 'I'll take an interest-only mortgage and I'll repay the principle of the mortgage 20years from now.'"

But then the real estate bubble burst and prices hit rock bottom. The more people who lost their jobs as a result of the crisis, the more desperate the situation became. "What initially seemed manageable quickly became unaffordable," Lane continued.

Anti-eviction taskforce

Trish Burnett has first hand experience with the problem. The 47-year-old fitness trainer had to move out of her home two years ago after she defaulted on her mortgage payments. Shortly thereafter, she started a blog to take her story to the public. Within a few days, she had been contacted by hundreds of people in the same situation.

Overwhelmed by the resonance, she teamed up with other like her to found the Anti-Eviction Taskforce. The organization advises people who are threatened with forced eviction and blocks homes earmarked for compulsory auction. Almost 2,500 people are now a part of the taskforce. 

Trish Burnett said she was motivated to found the organization by the government's passive response to the situation. "We are writing to [parliamentarians] every day, we have submitted paperwork to [parliamentarians] and they don't even respond to them. They are doing nothing. And that is so unfair."

She says the only solution is to occupy those homes under threat, while simultaneously trying to continue making mortgage payments, no matter how small.

Looking ahead

Back in Mullingar, unemployed plumber Andrew Bradshaw uses materials donated by small local businesses to put the finishing touches on the barricade at his front door.

His bank, Pepper Assett Servicing, declined to comment on Andrew's situation, although in a letter it did say that is supports its customers in managing their financial problems and aims to find way for them to remain in their homes, as long and the customers also work to find constructive solutions. 

Andrew Bradshaw is not very forthcoming on the issue of his payments and correspondence, but he does say he never received a letter to warn him of any impending forced eviction. And that, in his opinion, violates his constitutional right.

He can't afford a lawyer to represent him in court, and has no idea what the coming weeks will bring, but he tries to remain optimistic. "If you were to allow the possibilities of what might happen, you'd go crazy, so all you have is staying positive and having faith in people to do the right thing."

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Andrew Bradshaw tells his story

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