M P Mac Domhnaill – A tall story from Tralee.

letter from someone calling themselves M P Mac Domhnaill was published in the Irish Times last week –  telling us how he had only bread and cereal to feed his children because he was paying his mortgage out of his €188 a week social welfare.
This sad tale of Irish poverty and starvation soon spread across the world.  Headlines such as  “Families in modern Ireland skip food to pay the mortgage”  and   ” Irish families starve their children in order to make mortgage payments”  appeared in other papers and on websites .

But the story told by this unemployed man from the town of Tralee in County Kerry looks like it could be a bad Kerry Joke to me. He even followed it up with a telephone interview with  the Irish Times –  in which he told the story of how his daughter was so hungry – she  had eaten  cardboard from a cereal box.

BUT – The figures just don’t make sense.  Mr MacDomhnaill is  either badly advised , not telling the whole story – or should be locked up for child neglect.
(More likely – its  just a fictional letter from someone trying to increase publicity for  “debt forgivness”  policies )

Firstly – there is  Mortgage Interest Supplement –  He should be claiming that.  He worked for many years and paid taxes and PRSI – so is entitled to claim whatever he can. If he has not been advised about it by Social welfare – then Social Welfare are seriously at fault.

If the only means of support  the family have is €188 Jobseekers allowance a  week – then he should be getting some help towards the mortgage. (And probably more social welfare too).

Mortgage Interest Supplement –  (I quote) ” will ensure that your income after paying the interest on your mortgage does not fall below a minimum level. This level is the Supplementary Welfare Allowance(SWA) minus €24”  –
Child Benefit is not taken into account.

So – the Supplementary Welfare Allowance  level for this family of – 2 adults and 2 children should be €370.40 a week.  They should be getting at least this amount – if that is the only income thay have . They should also qualify for all but €24 a week of their mortgage interest to be paid for them. (They  should get approx €325  a month)

He says he has 80k mortgage outstanding and the repayments are €780 a month.
It is difficult to know what exactly what the original mortgage amount was for and how long the term of the mortgage was – but based on those figures – and assuming that he is on a fairly high variable rate (ie PTSB) of around 6% – I estimate the mortgage could have been for about €115000 over 20 years.

Based on the mortgage figures above – he is probably paying about €425 a month in interest at the moment. (Out of the total repayment due of €780 ) Mortgage Interest Supplement – if he qualified – would cover about €325 a month of  this – leaving about €355 a month to pay himself.

If he has applied for Mortgage Interest Supplement and been refused – it could possibly be because of savings they have in the bank.
By my calculation – based on the published Social Welfare calculations  used – they would have to have savings of around €70,000 to bring them over the limit for any Supplemetary Welfare Allowance.
If they do have savings of this level – and are choosing not to use it to feed their children – then they should be investigated.