'There are weeks I can't put food on the table'


THE FINANCIAL difficulties of middle-income families who bought their home during the property boom have been highlighted by the wife of a Garda sergeant in a letter to a number of Government ministers.

The woman describes how a €1,400 monthly mortgage payment on a four-bedroom semi-detached family home bought seven years ago along with the repeated cuts to her husband’s wages have left them “living a nightmare”.

“. . . There are weeks when I can’t put food on the table. I call them ‘cornflakes days’ when all we eat all day is cornflakes . . .”

The woman wrote that even though her eldest child got enough points to go to a prestigious college they couldn’t afford the fees: “Imagine how upsetting that is?”

The letter – unsigned to protect her husband’s identity – was written after a Mabs (Money Advice and Budgeting Service) adviser had offered to refer the couple to the St Vincent de Paul Society for assistance.

Her husband has gross earnings of more than €65,000 – including allowances and unsocial hours coverage. After tax, Universal Social Charge, pension, health insurance, mortgage and utility deductions, a typical weekly payslip shows a net payment of €109.

By the Mabs analysis, however, the weekly household budget was running a deficit of nearly €300 and there appeared to be no means of reducing it.

The woman wrote that she and her husband “have no savings, no holiday homes, no fancy cars. We have never done anything to put ourselves at risk, only move house to have an extra bedroom . . . We live in constant terror of the washing machine breaking down or the car . . . If it wasn’t for my mother bailing us out all the time, we would be right under.”

A spokesman for the Minister for Transport, Leo Varadkar said the woman had been in regular correspondence with the minister. “He understands that her husband is in secure public sector employment but they bought their home at the height of the boom and are struggling to pay a large mortgage on reduced pay.” He hoped she would be “able to resolve her financial problems with [the] assistance of Mabs and others.”