Wait a minute now. Let me just process this Killiney eviction story that RTÉ is getting in such a lather about.
On the face of it, the facts are truly shocking. Here’s a man of 71, and his 63-year-old wife being ejected from their home by bailiffs. Out on the side of the street with nowhere to go, in such destitution that they have to set up a leaky tent outside their former home, the couple huddle together for warmth while their neighbours look on in outrage. Meanwhile, the brutal thugs hired by the banks have control of the family home where all the old couple’s treasured possessions lie unprotected from curious, grubby fingers.
An appalling scenario, reminiscent of the worst excesses of nineteenth-century landlordism in Ireland, as the man himself, Brendan Kelly, so tellingly pointed out. Innocent poor people thrown out on the side of the road.
Well, maybe not.
Earlier reports failed to mention, for instance, that Brendan Kelly is himself a landlord who owns many rental properties around Dublin. They failed to mention that the bank secured a repossession order against the couple two years ago. And they failed to mention that Kelly wouldn’t sell any of his properties to pay off the money he owed to Irish Nationwide. Of course, when I speak of the money he owes to Irish Nationwide, I really mean the money he owes to us, the Irish people, who now own that bank. And when that putrid bank, now part of IBRC, writes off a two-million-euro debt, that’s €2 million more that we — you and I — must pump into the bank to compensate for the loss.
Did I mention that the poor old codgers, who have no children, were living in a €3-million five-bedroomed mansion in one of the most exclusive areas of Dublin? They needed a house with five bedrooms so that they could move to a new bedroom when they got bored sleeping in the last one. This is a basic human right.
Another thing RTÉ overlooked in its zeal to protect those who share the DNA of its executives is this: the bailiffs were not working for IBRC. They were working for the Sheriff who was executing an order issued by a court, and therefore all the talk by Brendan Kelly about phoning the bank was just so much tosh. He knew the order had been issued. He had two years’ advance notice, and yet, somehow, the couple found themselves out on the street without so much as a jacket to shelter them from the rain. Two years’ notice, and yet he didn’t take the elementary precaution of moving his computer or his files, even though these form the basis for his business.
One other thing RTÉ didn’t press too much was Brendan Kelly’s arrangement with Fingers Fingleton. You see, ten years ago, in 2002, Fingers was prepared to lend a 61-year-old guy €2 million towards the cost of a €3.75 million house. That’s what I said. €3.75 million.
Now, of course, it’s true that the money might have been lent to his wife, Asta, who was 53 at the time, and maybe the loan was over 17 years, bringing it up to 2019. This is not yet clear. What is clear is that the couple weren’t able to meet the repayments on their house and it just so happens that those loan repayments were owed to a bank owned by you and me. Since it’s been covered extensively in previous items on this site, we won’t go into the reasons why we own this bank. But we do.
Oddly for an accountant, Brendan wasn’t quite able to recall when he first fell into arrears. He thinks it might be about three years ago. His memory also lets him down when asked about the date of the repossession order, but he thinks it might have been about two years ago. And so, for two years, Brendan did precisely what you’d expect an accountant to do: nothing. He didn’t even move his office out of the house.
Now, as I said, Brendan and Asta own a sizeable portfolio of property around the more salubrious parts of Dublin including apartments in Simmonscourt Castle and Ballintyre Hall. This is not the lower end of the market. Brendan and Asta are doing pretty well compared to most. How many Ballsbridge apartments do you own?
Let’s get our heads clear now. They knew the bailiffs were coming. They’d known about it for two years. There was a court order. They didn’t have the money to settle the debt, and yet they stayed in their €3.75 million luxury mansion, instead of doing what the rest of the country would have to do: get out.
It never occurred to them that maybe it would be a good idea to move into one of the many other properties they own all over Dublin. Why? Presumably because they might have to mix with the lower orders. How could one possibly survive in an ordinary luxury apartment without even a gated community around one for comfort and security? Ridiculous!
And so they clung on, buoyed up by the moral support of their neighbours in their own €3.75 million mansions who were utterly shocked and outraged at such inhuman treatment of an elderly millionaire. Surely he should be allowed to live out his remaining years in the opulence he’d grown accustomed to.
Now, of course, if the story happened to be about Anto and Sharon from Killinarden, I’m not so sure it would have been front-page and prime-time news, but this action by the Sheriff was a strike at the very heart of South Dublin affluence, the place from which our national broadcaster derives its reason for existence. The place that defined not only the attitudes and ethos of RTÉ but also provided its management and even defined the very accent in which the station speaks.
In the RTÉ world, Ireland is divided in two: Dublin and TheCountry.
Dublin does not include Tallaght, Ballyfermot, Neilstown or any of those appendages that exist solely to provide stock stereotypes for bad drama. Dublin is anything south of Donnybrook, but excluding embarrassing local authority housing estates in the likes of Dun Laoghaire.
TheCountry is the rest of us muck-savages, or the majority of the population, as we like to describe ourselves.
Why is this story so big on the airwaves? Simple: it’s the first time anything like this happened in Dublin, the only place that matters. Meanwhile, in a development so laden with irony, the Occupy movement has moved in to support the Kellys, even though their transaction with Fingleton was the sort of thing that bankrupted Irish Nationwide in the first place.
A peculiar, and sympathetic, form of ageism permeates the reportage, with the couple described as “elderly”. Brendan Kelly is a sprightly and razor-sharp 71, while his wife, Asta, is a woman of working age. Neither of them are people in their dotage, and yet the implication seems to be that they were a bit confused when they got drawn into this mortgage, or else that they can’t understand what’s happening to them now. Brendan wasn’t so confused that he couldn’t consult his computer to keep track of the various tenancies he makes money from.
The poor old devil isn’t that confused, God bless him, and neither is his incredibly ancient 63-year-old wife, who just happens to be a year older than Enda Kenny, the man who heads our government, and who is never described by anyone as elderly. She’s five years younger than Vincent Browne — try calling him elderly and see what he tells you.
It’s time to call this story for what it is. Bullshit.
Here’s a couple who owe a State-owned bank €2 million but want to hold onto their high-value mansion while at the same time renting out luxurious apartments all over Dublin, a couple who pull a ridiculous stunt by setting up a tent in the street instead of doing what the rest of us would have to do — move into a smaller place and get used to it.
So this childless couple can’t have the pleasure of occupying five bedrooms? So what? Get over it, and stop bombarding us with a non-story when real people are being evicted all over the country without a choice of alternative properties to live in.
I find it nauseating that this well-off man should insult the memory of those evicted in the hard times by comparing himself to the oppressed Irish of the nineteenth century. No en-suite bathroom? This is truly a First World Problem.
It turns out that the Kellys also own 13 apartments in London.
More Bock the Robber posts on the economy