Delay in enacting insolvency legislation is destroying lives
It’s hard to delete a contact from your phone, even after their death. Contacts are the lifeblood for journalists. They’re how you collect and check information, so the reluctance to delete a number is understandable. But there’s far more to it than that; there is something very final about deleting a name. His number is still on my phone as it has been for several years now.
Before then, his was one of the many numbers I would call if I heard some rumour about a big business or property deal, and wanted to see if I could stand the story up. He was well informed, a gossip and funny – an attractive combination for a reporter working the phones for a story.
His was the number that appeared on my phone as it rang just before Christmas 2008. The wipe-out in Anglo Irish Bank’s share price was almost complete. He sounded tense. One of his managers at Anglo had been plaguing him with calls.
The value of his commercial properties had fallen and the banker told him he was in breach of the loan-to-value covenant. This was the part of his loan agreement which stated he would have to invest more cash if the value fell below a certain level.
“I told them to f*** off,” said the man. Despite the reduced value, the rent was the same and it was covering the interest due on the loan, he said he had told Anglo.
He asked me a few times if the share prices of the banks would rise again. It wasn’t looking likely, I said. It seemed like he wanted to hear a different answer.
His was the number that appeared on my phone some time later. It gave me a jolt. I was abroad and several time zones away. Just before the call, a friend had texted to say that the man had taken his life the previous day. So why was his number calling my phone? It was his wife. I did not know her but she knew me; her husband had occasionally talked about me. She was upset with how the media had reported his death and wanted someone to write something about what he was really like, the man he was before that act.
Nobody can begin to understand the inner torment of someone who makes a decision like that. His growing financial problems may have played a big role or no role in his death – no one will really know.