From conservative, cold Ireland to warm, sunny Sydney
We hope to sell the house and come to some arrangement with the bank about our negative equity
“I have missed the optimism, blue skies and sunshine of Australia. I will miss friends and family in Ireland, but there’s Skype now”: Ron Coe at Brays Beach, near Byron Bay in New South Wales
I left Ireland in 1996, at the age of 20, on a one-way ticket to Australia. Six years later I returned home, a married man, to start a career in film and television. In late 2005, surprised to be offered a mortgage, we bought a “renovator’s dream” as a step on the ladder in a coastal town 80km from Dublin. It was a bit of a commute, but we could do up the house and build some equity, we thought. We put our heads down, worked hard and replaced everything over the years; the finished house looked great.
When house prices crashed we realised we wouldn’t be able to build up equity. We were shattered. Watching the banks being bailed out as the country’s finances collapsed, we felt like we were sitting on the Titanic fully aware that we’d hit the iceberg, and were sinking fast, but could’t jump off. All the work and the cash we’d put into the house had been wiped out.
The recession hit the town hard, and the place went downhill fast. My wife worked for a community-development programme, which suffered cut after cut at a time when its services were most needed. Early one morning our house was robbed while we slept. From then on we no longer felt safe, and I was having to stay away more because of work. All this was putting pressure on our marriage. We needed to move.
It took us a while to pluck up the courage, but in early 2012 we moved closer to Dublin, renting out our own house. The rental income covered only half the mortgage, so it was an expensive decision, but it was the right one. Although job prospects had decreased substantially, my wife found work in Dublin. I was busy too. We simply had to pay off the mortgage and get out of negative equity. It would be worth something one day, we told ourselves.
Financially, though, we were screwed. Posting the house keys to the bank and running back to Australia was tempting. With all the doom and gloom here, and the rain, we started to miss Australia. On the other hand all my work contacts were here in Ireland, and I didn’t want to risk my career. But taxes shot up, and rising interest rates pushed up the mortgage repayments. We are unable to pay off our debts.
Tired of it all, and sick of feeling bitter, we have finally decided to sell up and move to Sydney. We hope to sell the house and come to an arrangement with the bank about the negative equity. We may end up with nothing but debt; like a black cloud hanging over us, however, our mortgage has been a constant source of anxiety, and it will be a relief to be free from it.
My wife’s job prospects are good in Australia, and her family is over the moon. For me it’s a bit more of a risk, but I am excited. I have missed the optimism, openness, blue skies and sunshine of Australia. I will miss friends and family, but there’s Skype now, and I’ll be backwards and forwards a fair bit.
I still love Ireland; it’s where I’m from. I now have a career I love, and skills I can take with me, which is great. The Ireland I am leaving is different from the Ireland I left in 1996. But it is still a small, conservative island in the cold, wet north Atlantic, and that’s not going to change. Will we ever come back here to live? It feels unlikely. It’s warm and sunny there, and that’s never going to change.
Read more Emigrant Voices stories written by Irish people living abroad here.