Yvonne Walsh, a mother of two teenage children, is currently being held in Mountjoy Women’s Prison, on foot of loans given to her former partner to surrender possession of her family home.
I recently had the opportunity to interview mature law student Miriam O'Reilly Freeman on the law in Ireland and in particular with regard to women's rights. She went back to study law after experiencing horrendous problems with the banks. She had no money (and no free legal aid) and so became a lay litigant. She has represented herself more than 300 times in many courts of law. She saw first hand what a closed cartel the courts are - barristers, judges and solicitors all work there, they know everyone and they know the system.
If you are a lay litigant - because you cannot afford the high legal fees - you are seriously disadvantaged, Edmund Honohan, Master of the High Court, has been extremely critical of the disparity of arms, the lack of equality of arms, between lay litigants and the banks in particular. If you are a home owner under threat of eviction you get no legal aid. If you are a criminal (even to the point of David Drumm) you get free legal aid. If you rob a shop, you get legal aid. If however, you are a citizen trying to stay in your home, you get nothing.
Read Edmund's 1000 days here
WHY IS YVONNE WALSH IN PRISON?
Yvonne Walsh, a mother of two teenage children, is currently being held in Mountjoy Women’s Prison, on contempt of a High Court order, obtained by Paul McCann receiver, on foot of loans given to her former partner (none of which Yvonne was party to), to surrender possession of her family home. Her refusal to do so is based on complex legal grounds, and, if she surrenders, she and her children will be made homeless.
These salient facts were ‘overlooked ‘ or deliberately misrepresented by mainstream media, who favoured the ‘didn’t pay her mortgage’ and ‘wants a €1 million property for nothing’ story. This ‘valuation’ figure bandied about in the media for purely shock value, wasn’t dated and remains unsubstantiated.
Some very serious issues have arisen in Yvonne’s case, most notably that of equality of arms or the distinct lack thereof in the Irish judicial system.
Article 38.1 of Bunreacht na h-Éireann, and Article 6 of the European Charter of Human Rights supposedly protect the right to equal access to justice.
In an ideal world this would mean legal aid would be provided to those unable to afford legal representation. However, this is Ireland, and no such provision is made if, like Yvonne, you find yourself defending your home, in a Court environment completely alien to you, but where the Bank’s team of high powered solicitors and Barristers are completely at ease. This is not equality of arms.
Yvonne has no protection under family law or civil partnership legislation nor can she claim protection of the Constitution or Family Home Protection Act, as neither apply to common law unmarried partners.
For these, and other more complex reasons, Yvonne remains in Mountjoy, jailed at the behest of an unregulated Vulture Fund and a receiver.
Contrast Yvonne’s position with that of David Drumm former CEO of Anglo, master manipulator of €7.9 billion and star of the (in)famous Anglo Tapes, granted full legal aid to defend himself and his actions, and granted bail on conviction.
Legal aid for those facing family home possession proceedings is not merely an option, it is an absolute necessity, in the interests of fairness and justice.
Yvonne Walsh is just one woman, but there are many more coming behind her.
Time to address why bankers get bail, but mothers get jail!!
Listen to our conversation here on DublinCityFM last week - we ran out of time but I will have Miriam back. And oh, she just got her results from her second year law exams and she got a flying 2:1 - go Miriam.
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