At the beginning we step into the world with a sense of optimism and carry the pebbles of tribulation as though they were little holy grails of knowledge.
We yearn for peace, to be loved, for adventure, for possibility—and in truth, we can never fully know their depth until they are challenged—and when the provocation occurs at a manageable pace—leaving spaces to inhale and exhale—we are happy to carry these little parcels of knowledge for personal use and feel useful if occasion allows us to share it with someone to make a difference to them.
And we keep stepping out into the world, adjusting ourselves and our behaviours as we do.
As I did the first time it happened.
I was tasked to do something, which I did promptly and efficiently. My boss at the time was required to action another item on the back of what I had done.
He forgot, despite my reminding him.
Later, I would learn that he was dressed down at a board meeting for this failure—to which he responded by blaming me for not having done my part. I didn’t learn this directly from him, but from another man who had attended the meeting, using it as an opportunity to be condescending.
I ensured I had a copy or a receipt for everything after that. I was blamed many times down the years in different businesses and corporations for men’s failings—and rarely received an apology when I produced evidence to the contrary.
As years passed, women began to painfully trickle into management—only to emulate the behaviour of men.
Of course, there would be spaces when I could inhale and exhale—when I had the opportunity to work with excellent management teams. My strengths were utilised to the maximum, my weaknesses addressed and recalibrated—my eagerness to learn always my most admired trait.
And it was during those times I understood we all keep stepping out into the world, adjusting ourselves and our behaviours as we do—both personally and professionally.
Over time, I was slowly exposed to the ideas of policies, regulations and law—the difference between suggestion and that which is enforceable or criminal.
I remember my interest in SEC (US Securities and Exchange Commission) being piqued when, after the Banking Crisis, they introduced a regulation to tighten up Administrative Transparency.
I’m not going to down play it. I thought this was the best thing ever—for two reasons; one, it indicated an understanding of the importance of administration (even if it was just for the top tier) and two, it made what I was doing, my job, seem more relevant—and therefore I could learn, with these steps, how to do it better—with an end goal of more responsibility.
This regulation ensured an audit trail of responsibility that was transparent and guaranteed accessibility. Certain identified actions required two signatures to both, approve the necessity of the tasks being carried out, and its completion. So, when something went wrong—if there were any breaches, the culprits would be identifiable and the matter rectified—but more importantly, in my opinion, was the existence of a meaningful deterrent. Sanctions and or fines.
I interpreted this regulation as being an encourager for considered and responsible behaviour within the financial and investment sector.
And I continued stepping into the world with optimism, with a trust slightly eroded.
When Corporate Governance became a thing—and year-end financial statements/reports waxed lyrical about what their business stood for. Integrity, transparency—creating a better business world, it was almost evangelical—I got caught up on the tide of feel good, truly believing there would never be a return to that level of corruption and secrecy—pre-crisis (2008).
However, my interest in Corporate Governance for Financial Credit Institutions leaned more towards the personal.
My (now) ex-partner and I had purchased a cottage together (photo above). Joint and Several Liability. She was in full time education and I was paying the mortgage and the bills. As the relationship descended into a level of ugliness I could no longer endure, I began planning my exit, almost a whole year before I physically left. In other words, it was not a spur of the moment notion, though there were times I wavered in a bubble of maybe.
Before my physical departure from the property, I met with the manager of Ulster Bank, producing copies of everything regarding the mortgage, life assurance and the now infamous PPI, salary slips, etc. etc. I asked would Ulster Bank consider giving me preliminary approval to my taking over the mortgage in my sole name, if I could persuade my ex to agree to signing over the mortgage to me, without any further liability to her. I filled out forms, handed over the copies and waited. And waited. And waited.
In the meantime, my ex refused to allow anyone to come into the house to value it—the auctioneers refused to enter without her permission.
Six weeks later, when I called Ulster Bank again, they told me they couldn’t find my form requesting preliminary mortgage approval.
And I stepped into the world, adapting my wants and behaviour, seeking resolution.
I left a note on the kitchen table asking my ex, if she wanted me to sign over the property to her, without any further liability to me.
She wouldn’t answer. So I went to a solicitor. I explained that I was in debt and believed from the other properties in the area that the cottage was in negative equity.
The solicitor wrote to her but she didn’t respond.
The solicitor wrote to her again, threatening court action and then her solicitor responded, asking for time for his poor client to get over the shock of the separation and find some way of acquiring the property from me by asking one of her relatives for financial support. (she would not have been permitted to acquire the mortgage in her sole name as she was not gainfully employed).
Her sister was vice president of Philip Morris at the time (also ex-PwC), and driving a Lamborghini, as I understood it, so I took it at face value to be true or maybe it was just wishful thinking.
And I waited and waited and waited and nothing happened at all—sinking ever deeper into a nervous breakdown—continuing to remain functional.
The solicitor telephoned her solicitor who said he hadn’t received any instruction.
The solicitor I had been working with sent me a letter advising that he couldn’t continue to represent me until I paid a retainer of €11,000 to cover his fees and potential court costs.
I didn’t have the money, so in a jungle of solicitors and debt and mental crisis, I knew I had to leave the cottage before it was too late.
(and yes, I did telephone MABS who said that I had to keep paying the mortgage even if I left).
And I read newspaper articles written by men, asking why women didn’t just leave abusive behaviours—then stepped out into the world—and remained silent.
I organised everything meticulously. I made another appointment with the bank manager in Ulster Bank. I brought copies of everything and gave them the address of the new place I would be living and filled out forms to have my name removed from the joint account and explained that now that I would be paying rent, I would not be in a position to continue paying the mortgage.
(Adhering to everything the leaders had been declaring, like the Central Bank of Ireland and the Government Engage. Engage. Engage—though I knew I would have done it anyway, telling us that if we didn’t, repossession might be viewed as our fault).
In the same office in Ulster Bank—the manager now apparently suffering from selective amnesia, asked would I consider taking the mortgage on in my own name—and I left on a cloud of red fury, the same day the removal truck was coming to pick up my stuff, remembering all the times I had been blamed for men’s failings.
Hours later, my ex asked me about paying the mortgage. I told her she had had ample time to make a decision, so she could now take on complete responsibility.
She told me she didn’t want the house after all, so I told her to organise selling it.
Weeks later, I received a letter from the auctioneer, advising there had been an offer of sale on the property.
At the time of the offer, repayments stood at approximately €170,000. The offer of sale was for €125,000.
I actually cried with relief. Split the difference in two, leaving me with a debt of approximately €22,500.
Doable. Manageable. I could step back into my life to re-arrange it—without constant phone calls and letters.
I made copies of copies. Spent a whole weekend putting a financial proposal together of repayment of said €22,500 to ensure that the bank would also accept the offer of sale, put it into an envelope and sent it off to Ulster Bank.
And I waited. And waited. And waited. And waited.
Two weeks into this wait I received my first phone call from one department in Ulster Bank Mortgages demanding that the mortgage be paid, together with the interest and account charges accrued, four weeks after leaving the property—I explained about the Offer of Sale, but they really weren’t interested.
Then the auctioneer telephoned asking why things weren’t moving. I telephoned Ulster Bank and was put through to yet another department. They told me they couldn’t speak to me without the other party.
I emailed my ex. She wouldn’t respond. I telephoned her and she pretended she didn’t know who I was. I asked her to meet me to discuss the offer.
There are no words to describe what it took for me to do that. None.
I sat down with her face to face. She told me there was no point in sending in a proposal, but gave no reasoning for it.
Nine weeks later the buyers pulled out of the offer.
There would be two more offers, with the exact same outcome, the very same year and Ulster Bank continued to be relentless in their telephone calls to me, demanding I pay the mortgage and threatening legal action.
Eventually I changed my phone number—then they increased the number of letters.
I sought places to inhale and exhale and found relief when I stumbled upon the Code of Conduct (Chartered Accountants of Ireland) and IAASA (Irish Auditing & Accounting Supervisory Authority) and Ethical Standards for Auditors.
It demonstrated an interest in behaving with integrity and ethics—a demonstration I am not shy about saying I desperately needed to be exposed to.
So, when two young women came to me and confided they had seen the partner whose department they worked in, doing lines of cocaine the previous weekend—I asked them never to repeat it, believing (as I still do) productivity requires a level of professional respect to operate efficiently.
When I witnessed the same partner publicly humiliating a young employee for daring to come into work with a bruise on his face from playing football—I exhaled, grateful that the young woman who had applied a little too much make up to her jaw (and who didn’t play sport) had not been present to witness this outburst.
Having organised where these incidents sat in the boxes of integrity, ethics and double standards—I filed them in my brain and moved on.
When I became privy to PJ Henehan’s (ex-Partner, EY) sexual harassment of a young woman—I watched as he was privately shown out the back door with continued privilege of access to business networks and contracts and a new suite of consulting rooms—the woman told to go back to her desk and not to worry her pretty little head about it.
And I read an article written by a man who said all these "girls" going public was typical of what they always do, looking for attention and I wanted to say come here and sit down and let me tell you a few things you stupid little fuck but instead I folded the newspaper carefully and stepped into the day, smiling.
I organised this in my mind, believing he was no longer a problem, then filed it and moved on, though their favourite catch phrase "we want you to bring your whole self to work", took on an entirely different hue".
Then, before being awarded the contract to do the some of the NAMA loan and acquisition valuations, and of course a slice of the €2.64 billion allocated for fees and expenses to clean up the mess banks had created, I was asked by an individual who had been a senior member of the audit team of Anglo Irish Bank to transcribe a CD of a secretly recorded telephone conversation, pertaining to Anglo Irish Bank—I swirled into the pit I was trying so hard to escape from, knowing I hadn’t read the complete works of Ethical Standards for Auditors, and stepped into the day, still smiling.
Nothing was filed and I moved on.
Over the four years after I left the cottage, Ulster Bank would furnish my address to my ex, the Office of the Financial Regulator Ombudsman would send a copy of my complaint to them, to her by mistake, I would receive up to four threatening letters in one week and receive correspondence addressed to my ex, at my new address, and Ulster Bank relationship managers would email and telephone me at work asking where they could find her, and eventually I would end up making three Data Protection Complaints—and record having made over thirty attempts to resolve the mess.
After that year, everything went silent, I stepped into the world—and noticed the pebbles had transformed into small rocks, ones I no longer wished to carry.
Everything was chucking along. I had paid off my debts (unrelated to the mortgage),and making my dreams happen and even had a new lover.
And in the middle of all this renewed optimism, the Central Bank of Ireland and the Government came up with a new plan on the matter of mortgage arrears. They were going to put together a central database of information on the bad people—the mortgage defaulters.
The first phone call came on a Friday afternoon while I was at work. I don’t know how they got my new telephone number. They wanted me to fill out a form, detailing income, pensions, assets and any motorised vehicles, their registration numbers, where they were purchased and who financed the deal.
Then told me where to download and print it off, explaining the address to send it to was at the bottom of the page.
And that is what I did and took a copy.
The second phone call came two weeks later, a Tuesday as far as I remember. Another boy, telling me that the Central Bank and the Government were putting together a central database of information on the bad people—the mortgage defaulters and that I needed to fill out a form detailing income, pensions, assets and any motorised vehicles, their registration numbers, where they were purchased and who financed the deal.
I explained I had already done it and they should have received it.
The third phone call came a few days later. Yet another boy, telling me that the Central Bank and the Government were putting together a central database of information on the bad people—the mortgage defaulters and that I needed to fill out a form detailing income, pensions, assets and any motorised vehicles, their registration numbers, where they were purchased and who financed the deal.
I explained I had already done it and they should have received it. But he said they had no record of it and to please do it again.
So I sent them a copy of a copy.
The fourth phone call came three weeks later. Yet even, another boy, telling me that the Central Bank and the Government were putting together a central database of information on the bad people—the mortgage defaulters and that I needed to fill out a form detailing income, pensions, assets and any motorised vehicles, their registration numbers, where they were purchased and who financed the deal.
I explained I had already done it and they should have received it. But he said they had no record of it and to please do it again.
I told him to fuck off and made a record of it—then read an article in the paper about how all the important experts in integrity and ethics and regulations were pleased with the papers they had written and how efficiently everything would be running if the bad people just did what they were told and wondered why the Central Bank of Ireland was permitted to spend millions of tax payer money on writing booklets and reports on good practice when they advised me in writing ethics were not their concern.
And I remembered all the times I was blamed for men’s failings.
I telephoned the auctioneers to enquire if there had been any viewings. She said the For Sale sign outside the property had been removed.
A year later as I spiralled into another breakdown, Ulster Bank again wrote to me, explaining that the mortgage was in arrears, asking for a proposal of repayment of monies outstanding to the amount of €303,000—threatening legal action and the loss of my credit rating.
I wrote back to them and told them to do whatever the fuck they wanted—ten days later, I was served with a CIVIL BILL OF POSSESSION.
I advised the court I would be in attendance and furthermore would not contest the proceedings.
I was vaguely hopeful that the cottage would be repossessed, sold, the difference split and a new contract would be signed for the repayment of outstanding monies.
And I stepped back in this world of so called resolution with a renewed optimism for closure.
During the first court seating, the solicitors for Ulster Bank advised the Registrar that they couldn’t locate the Other Party. During the second seating, months later, the solicitors for Ulster Bank advised the Registrar that they couldn’t locate the Other Party to serve her the CIVIL BILL OF POSSESSION. During the third seating, months later, the solicitors for Ulster Bank advised the Registrar that they couldn’t find the Other Party and had engaged a private investigator to locate her.
I handed their solicitors the address of her place of employment.
During the fourth seating, the solicitors for Ulster Bank advised the Registrar that they couldn’t locate the Other Party. I lost it and said I was done. The Registrar recorded my willingness to engage with the court and agreed there was no further need for me to attend.
A few weeks later there was a potential Offer of Sale, via someone who had been a neighbour when I lived in the cottage and I emailed Ulster Bank's solicitors asking how we could do it. He said he was sorry, but that just wasn't possible.
Shortly afterward, my ex’s sister FH and her nephew, PB, showed up as people I might know on my Facebook Page.
This is when I started not attempting to adjust or adapt my behaviour.
I took a screenshot and sent it to my ex’s employers—and that was the last time I saw their names show up on my page.
I picked myself up and went to FLAC for legal advice and this is what he said to me,
It is beyond a ridiculous joke what the Central Bank have permitted Ulster Bank to get away with—the only thing I will tell you is, the next time you get any correspondence from them, recycle it in the brown bin.
For someone to say out loud what I had silently known had the effect of ninety minutes of Hot Yoga, only I couldn't afford it.
I went on to receive more letters about how the mortgage was purchased by a Vulture Fund (and when I investigated found that they didn’t in fact follow regulation on the number of directorships allowed), but the letters kept coming from the Vulture Fund advising how they would follow the guidelines under Corporate Governance for Financial Credit Institutions—and please send us a proposal on how you are going to repay the outstanding sum of €300,000—and by the way here’s our IBAN number for you to transfer it.
When I wrote on my Facebook page about their fuck up, in solidarity with the people from Limerick, the Vulture Fund miraculously filed a revised list of directorships with the Company Registration Office a short three days later.
After so many exhausting and crushing attempts to carve out some kind of future for myself and endless streams of rejection letters, and not having to see the relief in my daughter's eyes every time she came home and found me still breathing—I knew the one thing I could do with autonomy, is teach.
Shortly after writing about it on my blog, about getting ready by spring cleaning and packing up stuff, there was a ring on the door.
The postman with a Registered Letter, demanding my presence in court. I ignored it.
Then another one, demanding my presence in court on 28 May 2018.
I didn’t ignore it.
I wrote a letter to the Registrar and explained things to her. I told her about the pile of paper that measured over three inches in depth, about how Ulster Bank had in fact, no business serving me A CIVIL BILL OF POSSESSION at an address that did not pertain to the property in question. I told her how the Central Bank of Ireland had done absolutely nothing to create a transparent and navigable structure for those who found themselves in this situation and that the Corporate Governance for Financial Credit Institutions was the greatest load of propaganda shite ever produced and furthermore, I explained, the vulture funds are deliberately creating a maize of different company names to escalate a difficulty in addressing anything.
I told her I knew I was being watched and monitored by a number of people including Ulster Bank, but that only served to prove the absolute and utter incompetence of the bank and its solicitors in failing to find the Other Party in a period spanning nine years, one that beggared belief (but oh how lovely for them all the same as it was a steady stream of income filling up their accounts).
So, I took a screenshot of her, smiling away on her employer’s Facebook page SOSAD ((Save Our Sons and Daughters), a non-profit organisation raising awareness around suicide) and printed out three copies to attach to the letter addressed to the Registrar, and the two copies, to Ulster Bank’s solicitors and the Central Bank of Ireland.
Finishing the letter by advising that when I was gone, there would be no forwarding address. That I would be present in court to ensure that she received the letter, and that no business was ever going to stand up and say I didn’t try, but after that I wasn’t engaging.
And sweet fuck if the Tsunami didn’t begin.
The Central Bank of Ireland was first, returning the photo, explaining to me about the new Data Protection rules and that they couldn’t keep it. And furthermore, since my case was before the courts they couldn’t do anything to intervene.
Shit for brains, I thought, I simply copied you in as a matter of information—that perhaps with all the money you’re paid you might try and learn something.
And I remembered a few years ago when, having reported a breach that had occurred in EY, I explained to them that allowing the enforcement of regulatory compliance solely on the expectation of professional conduct was an absolute joke, only in more suitable language.
And I remembered all the times I had been blamed for men’s failings.
The day after the letter from the Central Bank of Ireland arrived, I received a statement from the vulture fund, with newly calculated figures—all looking very prim and proper, and by some unknown miracle, the figure was no longer €300,000—but €172,000.
The day after that, a letter addressed to my ex—I duly binned it.
The day after that, another letter that was deceptively designed to look like it was from the Central Bank of Ireland. Telling me that the Central Bank and the Government were putting together a central database of information on the bad people—the mortgage defaulters and that I needed to fill out a form detailing income, pensions, assets and any motorised vehicles, their registration numbers, where they were purchased and who financed the deal—this apparently was relevant to anyone with an outstanding loan greater than 500 euros.
I was furnished with an email, which included the vulture fund name, telling me the form must be completed and returned by the 15th May 2018. I binned it.
The day after that, another letter, 17th May 2018, by Certified Post, saying that the mortgage debt had been acquired inter alia, by way of Global Deed Transfer, on 19th December 2016. My paperwork from the Companies Registrations Office says October 2016—meaning my personal information had been shared without due cause - yet fucking again.
The letter went on to instruct me to pay €174,707.66, with a daily interest rate of €5.02—and that I had seven days to pay it.
I woke up to Brendan Burgess article, suggesting that the reason for high interest rates was because of mortgage defaulters.
And my brain flooded with all the ugliness and condescending narratives thrown by men who have never been required to take responsibility and the women who emulate them.
I voted for Anthony Flynn, Director of ICHH so that he could receive public recognition for the work he is doing taking care of the homeless (and he won) and found myself seething reading about Eoghan Murphy’s attempt to lower the number of homeless, administratively, and the obscene salary he receives for doing so very little—and then shot straight over to Frances Fitzgerald and her short term amnesia, protecting Noirin O’Sullivan and the burying of five hundred million phones – ok then, eleven, or something.
I read about Yvonne Walsh, though not on mainstream media, who was confined (and remains) to Mountjoy Prison for 'failing' to purge her contempt before the court so that her children would not lose their home. The receivers, I noted are Grant Thornton and I thought to myself indeedy indeedy, I'd have quite a lot to say about the ethical conduct of one of their partners.
I was lifted by Emma Mhic Mhathuna's righteous anger— dying because men and government decided it wasn’t important to meet her, to tell her about her cervical smear—paperwork lost in the ether, the HSE still refusing to accept liability.
Plummeted when I saw David Hall’s (Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation (IMHO) piece in the Journal, about the Tsunami that was coming—the further release of mortgages to vulture funds and how the number of homeless would increase to 17,000.
I didn’t get caught up in a tidal wave of feel good reading what Shauna Greely, President of Chartered Accountants of Ireland, had to say,
Chartered Accountants have a long tradition of adherence to the highest standards of ethical behaviour and acting with integrity in the public interest.
It just served as a reminder of the moral declarations being screamed over megaphones by El Papé in the Vatican—self-governed and above all other mortals—who not only report to the Central Bank of Ireland, and take them out to dinner, but recycle ex-employees into the system.
I slid into a morning in October 2014 in the Shelbourne Hotel, when Mike McKerr, Managing Partner of EY Ireland declared, amongst other things,
We won’t be changing the culture and we have a five year plan for the women
And finally. Finally I made the last connection between the father, the son and the Holy Patriarchy and all the spaces we have been forced, without consent, to allow them to behave any which way they so choose, relieving them of the opportunity to adjust themselves and their own behaviour.
That it always seems to be women and children and those in extreme poverty who have to adjust and adapt and do without, rewarded with adulation at their fortitude and ability to suffer.
And this epiphany served to heighten how fucking momentous it was that we were granted bodily autonomy. A living example of what women achieve when they, and they alone lead—though I admit it was bittersweet, because I kept remembering how far we have to go and the ways we are buried under the ground, ways that are so easy to miss or that you can't catch because you don't know how...
like when a director tells you that there are audit assignments you can't include "girls" on because...
some of the clients are real pigs and it would cost us a lot of trouble and money if we exposed them to that, and it just ain't worth it
Then I read an article written by a woman who said even if you don't like him and don't support his party you have to admit Leo...
My only response was to shake my head and say cop yourself on, its not about liking, its about actual leadership and didn't bother to finish reading it and reminded myself she was still carrying pebbles.
I woke at 0420 – 28 May 2018—my fifty-fourth birthday, and found that I was lying under a boulder and wanted to smash it.
I recalled the brief conversation I had had with my daughter the night before—as I cried and hit the wall.
Before getting up, I watched an episode of Homeland (pretend espionage always makes me feel better). I had a cup of tea and a slice of toast and cried some more and decided I couldn't go to court, accepting with the cross of stupidity around my neck that all I was doing was bathing in sewage.
The Central Bank of Ireland, the government and all their 'advisers', Ulster Bank and Carmel Hancock have conducted themselves with complete impunity.
And now. Now my body is disintegrating—my time visibly eroding.