by Linda McGrory
MORTGAGE arrears in Inishowen are "a lot higher"
than the national average with scores of families
behind in their monthly repayments.
That's according to a local director of the
Educational Building Society who confirmed that the
Buncrana office will close at the end of this month.
EBS director, Fintan Connolly, said the office, at
St Mary's Road, would shut its doors on May 31 with
all operations moving to the company's Letterkenny
Mr Connolly said there would be no job losses, with
the three Buncrana staff members relocating to
Letterkenny. However, he said staff numbers, between
Buncrana and Letterkenny, had fallen from a
boom-time high of 16 to five now, including himself.
The EBS has been in operation in Buncrana since
1985. It has hundreds of mortgage holders in
Inishowen and thousands around the county. Mr
Connolly said the company was "saddened" to be
leaving Buncrana after 26 years.
"It's a reflection of the banking system in Ireland
at the moment and there is a lot of consolidation
going on within the banks. EBS, as part of the new
two pillar system, will become part of the AIB
"In addition to that, in terms of properties and
lending, very little of it has gone on for some
time, the way the property market is in Donegal as
well as the rest of the country. The levels of
lending have drastically reduced over the last three
"With that in mind and the other developments within
the banking industry in terms of trying to cut costs
and everything else, the decision was taken to close
the EBS office in Buncrana." The EBS will formally
become part of the AIB group on July 1.
The EBS expanded its Buncrana office in 2002-2003
with seven or eight people employed there. "It's sad
to see that, as a result of the way the economy has
gone, realistically there just isn't a demand for
that service (in Buncrana) anymore.
Mr Connolly said that, at the height of the property
boom, the Buncrana office was in the EBS' top 20
outlets nationwide in terms of lending levels.
But he said that, from the highs of 2006 and 2007,
there had been a drop of about 85% in lending.
Meanwhile, he said while an average of around 6% -
7% of mortgage holders nationally were now in
arrears, the level in Inishowen was "a lot higher"
and possibly as high as 10%.
"Predominantly, what we have been doing over the
last number of years is trying to help people over
their difficulties, trying to restructure their
mortgages, seeing if we can lengthen the term...any
way basically of bringing the monthly cost down for
them and trying to keep them in the properties." He
said home loan arrears were a "huge problem" in the
peninsula at the moment.
"Inishowen was heavily reliant on the construction
industry. A lot of the mortgages we provided over
the years were to young couples and a lot of them
would have been working in the construction
industry. They are obviously finding it very
"Inishowen has been very badly hit by unemployment
and that has obviously had a major impact on how
people can pay their mortgages." Mr Connolly said
the main focus of the EBS, since the downturn took a
grip, was restructuring loans for families in