6: Campaigner tells banks: 'If I owe you money, prove it'

Debt advisor to bring 'Freedom Bus' to Cork

From, Thursday, 18 August 2011

A Mayo man who succeeded in having his mortgage written off by an Irish bank will bring his 'Life after Debt' campaign to Leeside next week. Darrell O'Dea is the author of 'Blank of Ireland' and says he and his team will bring their Freedom Bus to Cork city on Thursday, August 25th before holding a public meeting in the Metropole Hotel later the same evening.

"I went down the road of legally challenging the banks because they had taken everything off me," he explained to the Cork News. "I had nothing left. I was suicidal and in a very bad place until a friend of mine told me that he could teach me about the law and legality so that I could take them on in a non-violent, passive way.

"There were three questions I asked – I wanted to see the original contract if it existed, I wanted to see their accounts in order to demonstrate how anything I had done had created a loss on their books and I wanted them to provide a lawful invoice for goods or services they had supplied. I told them that once they showed me the documents, I would try and settle what was owed. Rather than answering my queries though, they ignored me."

When contacted by a solicitor acting on the bank's behalf, Darrell insisted he was not required to engage with a third party – citizens are entitled to 'privacy in contract' under contract law – as he was actively trying to deal with his affairs and eventually wrote his experiences down, forwarding a hard copy of 'Blank of Ireland' to everyone mentioned by name in the book.

"I was threatened with court action and even prison so I wrote down the process I had been through - pointing out that the bank had never answered my questions - and I sent it to every person I knew. I got very favourable responses and learned even more about the banking system.

"Banks take the signatures of mortgage holders, digitalise them through something called MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration System) and usually shred the paper contracts - the only contract that is actually valid in a lawful court. There is also the issue of securitisation – where banks essentially 'sell' security that they have i.e. mortgage payments, physical assets – but when we examined this in the context of Irish law, the contracts are void.

"About four weeks after I sent a hard copy of the book to the CEO of the bank I was dealing with, they redeemed my mortgage. We are now working directly and indirectly with 12,000 people in every county of Ireland on this. One bank official told us of a bank branch that is receiving up to 50 letters a day from people challenging their mortgages, loans and overdrafts. They can't cope with the volume of people saying: 'Validate your claim. If I owe you money, prove it'."

The Freedom Bus will be open to everybody. "People from all walks of life are affected," Darrell confirmed. "We can take people through this in less than an hour. I've sat down with economists to make sure I explain this as clearly as possible and when we teach people about all this, all we ask is that they try and help others in the same situation."