Mixing your genres – Feminist, Activist, Comic ….Erotica!

How do you make the medicine go down? With a spoon full of sugar of course.

Watch me explain on video here

 

Last year when I found myself speaking into a vacuum about debt and austerity in Ireland, I decided to use the one weapon at my disposal, the one thing the banks could not take from me – namely my pen – and I wrote a trilogy that has at its core the harsh human cost of our economic tragedy. And I say tragedy because most of what has happened to Ireland was so unnecessary. I can guarantee that in all the reviews of 50shades there is not one mention of the collapse of the American banking system. Whereas in the reviews of my humble trilogy there are loads of references to the social and economic landscape that is Ireland today.

So, if you fancy the idea of reading about Ireland in recession, spiced up with some very naughty bits (for people cannot live by recession alone) then I think it would be a very good thing to buy and read my books. Telling the truth through fiction (and naughty bits) seems like an honourable thing to do. And reading about Ireland in Austerity is also an honourable pastime.

Here is me talking at the Women’s Inspired Network in Wexford to explain how I came to mix my genres.

The Cougar Diaries – thinking women’s erotica – Also read by men (and students of modern Irish history)

The Cougar Diaries, Part One (UK) (US)

The Cougar Diaries, Part Two (UK) (US)

The Cougar Diaries, Part Three (UK) (US)

and if you prefer hard copies – why not visit Lulu.com

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Debt is the single biggest issue of our century – Primetime Monday 19, 2014

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Debt is the single biggest issue facing the Irish people this century both on a national and European stage.  When history comes to be written the issue of debt in our time will be as big an issue as the famine was in the 19th century. And ironically, the misery caused by both – the deaths, suicides, emigration and homelessness – are utterly preventable.

 

We know that we hold 42 percent of the debt from the banking crisis in Europe. We also know this is wrong, that this is an unjust debt, an odious debt.

 

The current government was voted in three years ago with an overwhelming mandate to renegotiate this debt but they did nothing. They did not even ask for a single cent back.

 

This is why I want to go to Europe to right that wrong.
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Why should you send me to Europe? I have personally felt the impact of austerity in a real and painful fashion. Last year the banks repossessed my home, my business failed and bailiffs called to my door. I tried the Insolvency Service but I was too broke. I was forced to go bankrupt. But as I hit rock bottom I started fighting back. As a bankrupt I was not allowed to run for public office so I took a case against the government in the High Court claiming my constitutional rights were being infringed. As soon as I had a trial date, the government backed down and rushed through the law to allow me to run. On April 16, 2014, I changed the law.

 

Now I want to go to Europe to fight the odious debt, the haemorrhaging of billions into Europe that could be used to stop the suffering and misery here.

 

In short, I have the tee-shirt, the experience and the passion to make a difference.

Vote Jill and send me to Europe.

Thank you

Link to Prime Time here – I am first on at minute 33  

 

 

 

Debt is Divisive

Debt is Divisive

If you prefer you can listen to this essay here in part I, part II and part III – in total it takes less than ten minutes to listen to all three recordings.

Let us be very clear about this issue. Debt is divisive. At the risk of being inflammatory, it gets the same level of mixed emotion as the R word. Depending on your perspective, and level of solvency, it can be a very dirty word. Debt is genuinely divisive.

Where the needle turns is when the system breaks down, as it has done on an international basis. We are now living in unchartered waters where the rules have changed and the language is polarised. We need to understand what debt is, how we got into it, how we get out of it – and how we deal with debt when the system is broken. And we need to do this without the rhetoric of hate, shame and scapegoating. Nobody said debt was easy but it doesn’t need to be so hard. And it doesn’t need to cost life – no more please.

Let’s consider debt. In the good ole days, getting into debt was a normal rite of passage for an adult. A person finished education and got a job and moved out of home. In time, they maybe purchased a car which probably would require a motor loan and then in Ireland, they would buy a home, definitely requiring a mortgage unless they were a drug dealer. Acquisition of debt was normal. It was laudable even.  In the good ole days, exiting from debt was fairly straightforward too. As a person aged, they paid off their mortgage and loans, entering retirement with a home in their name (no longer the banks) and a few bob in their pocket. This progression was fairly typical whether the person bought a semi-detached house in Tallaght or a red brick in Ranelagh.  Debt wasn’t an issue. Whether they had a large mortgage on a big house or a modest one on a bungalow, debt was just part of life – a part that people passed through with lots of hard work but without much drama.

Then the financial world changed. We were particularly unlucky here in Ireland in that we had already changed dramatically before the financial crises. The timing for our Celtic Tiger could not have been more unfortunate for it catapulted hundreds of thousands of people into immediate and painful Debt (now spelt with a capital D).

Let’s consider the Celtic Tiger briefly for a moment. When I left Ireland in 1987 I was a very proud Irishwoman. Ireland was seen as a shining example of how a small, modern economy could create great wealth despite a scarcity of natural resources, no manufacturing base and a tiny population. We were doing it again – taking our place on a world stage out of all proportion to our global importance. It was a triumph of spirit over adversity. In fact, it seemed that our very history had somehow conspired to take our difficult path to sovereignty and use it as a lever to leapfrog us to greatness. Since the crash, we have forgotten that it was our natural talents that created the Celtic Tiger, not the property bubble – that came afterwards. The property bubble was the symptom of our success not the engine.

So even as we were creating real wealth, developing new businesses and becoming an intellectual powerhouse in Europe, things were changing and property became the outward symbol of our success and ultimately as we all know, the bubble that ‘did us in.’

 

There are some thoughts on debt that I want to share, thoughts on debt before it became Debt.

When the financial crisis deepened, so too language changed around debt. Terms should as debt forgiveness, debt cleansing and moral hazard began to be part of the conversation, only these terms were being generated by the financial industry and used a weapon against ordinary people. If you were a developer or a banker, you could argue for business negotiation but if you were an individual, you had to ask for debt forgiveness. Not only was the little person the lowly supplicant, the bank held all the cards. Debt forgiveness wasn’t a right, it was a gift at the behest of the banks.  Not only was the language changing, overnight the rules changed. The banks went from the position of throwing money at people with the loosest of terms, to become predatory institutions capable and ready to act in the letter of the law. Once the financial crisis gathered pace, people were set up to fail.

Of course, at this stage, naysayers are all pointing out that people did not have to borrow the money. That is was their choice. That they have nobody to blame but themselves. That people were greedy.

Let me try and give you another perspective. For starters, had we not hit the financial crisis, those ‘greedy’ people might very well have succeeded and their decisions viewed as sound commercial actions and lauded for their success. There is a very fine line when judging someone’s debt. Move the needle on the time dial backwards a few years and the general conversation might be very different.

Then someone’s greed may be another person’s desire to better themselves; to provide a college education for their children, to grow a business or to provide a pension for old age. Human beings are infinite and diverse. Greed alone is too blunt a term to apply to borrowing. However, greed is a very apt word to apply to banks whose sole function is to make money and moreover to make money in the short term.

Language is a very important indicator of what is happening in this debate and despite the soaring levels of anger in this country – against the banks, against the defaulters, against the bondholders, against the government – it is being used most effectively by the establishment.  Language is being used to shame people in Debt. For some reason, Debt has become a moral issue, an ethical issue. Let me state very clearly here that language is a very powerful weapon in the armoury of the banks. Debt is not a moral issue, debt is a business condition.

I met someone recently who said to me: I was brought up to repay my debts. The comment sunk in and I realised the chilling implication was that somehow, as a bankrupt, I had been brought up not to pay my debts. I was shocked. Prior to my financial collapse, I had not so much as a library fine, a parking ticket or an unpaid debt of any kind. I had been brought up to repay my debts in common with the 300,000 Irish families now in mortgage arrears. So what had changed? Had we (as in those of us in financial distress) suddenly changed our moral perspective, our ethics? How had this happened to not just one person but to thousands of people overnight? Of course, the answer is not that people’s ethics had suddenly morphed into those of the artful dodger, but the recession combined with changing rules forced people into untenable positions, positions that can count their cost in blood. Now, that to me is a moral issue – that Debt can be the catalyst for suicide. Now with this understanding, we can rightly use the language of the bible to challenge this condition.

Let us consider why banks can shame people, even onto the ultimate tragedy of suicide, and yet the blame remains with the person. Now, that to me is both a moral and an ethical issue. How can do they do this? By a combination of complicated guile and extreme arrogance is how.

One of the key weapons on the side of the banks is the complete lack of transparency.  IBM sales men of old used the FUD argument to sell their product; fear, uncertainty and doubt. Banks are the ultimate purveyors of such confusion. It allows them to control the rules, change the rules and keep the solvent fighting the insolvent. Consider how you get into debt? It is very easy. There are algorithms based on salary, age, health and the asset you want to buy. Of course, you can shop around but the amount you can borrow is pretty transparent.  So, why can’t the getting out of debt be so simple?

Right now, the new insolvency laws are cumbersome, clumsy and frankly do not work. So far only four people have successfully navigated the Insolvency Service, four in total. The banks have the veto and are in charge. I know for had the banks not vetoed the sale of my home in 2011, I might not be here. I might not bankrupt. I might not be writing articles about debt. I might not be running for Europe and instead be home minding my own business. But history cannot be unwritten and so I was bowled down to the Insolvency Service only to be told I was too broke and as a last resort I was forced to go bankrupt.  I have spoken with PIPs up and down the country and they are all advising their clients NOT to work for the duration of the bankruptcy, for three years. How dysfunctional is that? I am resigned to the fact that I have lost my home, my life savings and all my possessions – but I will fight for the right to work for my future and that of my children’s future.

If we had transparency, then we could see how to get out of debt. Another important point to remember about the banks is that when they lend money they charge interest. This is not a charitable action on their part and the interest is the benefit they get for the risk involved. Only, they are currently safeguarded in the country and have little or no risk. Most of the money they lent has already been paid for in terms of cost. It is an accounting exercise – paid for by the interest they charge. But let us have transparency on how to get out of debt. No more hidden deals, no more who you know and no more how much money you have to pay expensive professionals.  Just transparent laws and steps to exit Debt. It is a business issue you know.

I met another woman on the door step who listened to what I had to say about debt and Debt. I watched her face throughout my monologue and it was unsmiling. At the end, I put out my hand and touched her elbow. ‘You don’t like what I am saying,’ I said. She nodded. She did not agree at all. She had worked hard all her life. She and her husband had made a decision not to have foreign holidays for ten years in order to send their children to college on very modest borrowings. Now she felt angry that people, people such as myself, might be able to escape debt. I nodded and fully understood. I totally got her perspective and empathised with her.

But while I felt for her, I also wanted to talk to her about the society we live in, that our children grow up in. If the banks put people onto the street, aside from the human carnage, it costs the State, and the taxpayer more. If the banks are allowed harass and bully people, then we create an oppressed society where joy and laughter are absent, where children grow up surrounded by silent and shamed parents, where the only answer is emigration, where we put back the progress of our nation by decades.

 

While it takes two to tango, when the music stops, it unfair to only have one chair for the banks.

 

Let’s give ordinary people a fair crack of the whip. Let’s stop vilifying people in Debt; it is only money after all. Let’s recognise that debt is a business issue with a small ‘d’. Let’s introduce fair ways of exiting unsustainable debt (the same rules to apply to the insolvent as well as to the rich), Let’s be kind to one another, stop doing the banks’ work for them, and insist on parity of risk. Let’s be a country that can be proud once more and look our neighbour in the eye once again.

Above all, let’s cherish our people, let’s stand up to Europe, let us be a proud nation once again.

Send me to Europe

I am also making a documentary to explore the hidden story of modern Ireland. Called An Uncomfortable Truth, this is the documentary that they didn’t want made. This is the story they wanted to bury. This is the truth that no one in Europe wanted to admit. This is the story of Modern Ireland.  This is the story of Ireland in Austerity – the real story.

The Ireland that did not rebel, the Ireland that did not overthrow its corrupt leaders, the Ireland that did not eject its politicians – but the Ireland that is suffering daily, the Ireland that has 40 times more debt per capita than any other Euro Nation, the Ireland who has pushed debt on its children’s children and the Ireland that was sold a pup for Europe – holding 42 percent of ALL euro debt. They didn’t want to know but we are going to tell them anyway.

http://fundit.ie/project/funders/an-uncomfortable-truth-the-documentary

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It is that simple – really!

History is littered with examples of ordinary people making the impossible possible

 

Think Rosa Parkes and the civil rights movement

Think of that student in front of the Tank in Tiananmen Square

Think of the little boy and the Emperor’s New Clothes (ok he was fictional)

Think of the power of someone who has nothing to lose and everything to gain

 

Think of me and give me your vote on May 23rd

I have changed the law. I can do so much more.

Send me to Europe to ask for our money back.

Ralph Waldo Emerson:  ‘You have not failed until you have quit trying.’

 Visit An Uncomfortable Truth documentary here 

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Through a looking glass, darkly

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What has happened with our country? We are going through one of the darkest periods of our modern history, with more people queuing up to see Garth Brooks than demonstrating against our governmental self-inflicted poverty. And when it comes to showing what is happening we are reliant on the outsiders to show the truth, even if we have to view our society through a fake wig and eye lashes. When did the truth become more true when delivered by a man dressed as woman. And please do not get me wrong, I have nothing against a man dressed as a woman, maybe not my man, but I fully support Panti’s dress code, gender code, wig code., but doesn’t it say something when the so called ‘outsiders’ of a society are leading the truth charge?

In the same way, feminist, activist, erotica writer Aoife Brennan is leading a little charge all of her own. I interviewed her last year about her first book of erotica and it was all about ‘real world sex’ but the second two books developed into full scale feminism and her trilogy has become thinking women’s erotica. Her erotica is the genre that dares to speak its name. Her books, which touch on financially inspired suicide, the banks, social media, women’s choices, austerity, legal issues, and much more, including graphic sex, were quoted on Twitter recently as being the lynchpin of Enda’s comments. So the Irish prime minster is now relying on a feminist erotic book to explain what is going wrong with the country.

When the outsiders of society point to harsh truths, then it is time to listen …

visit Aoife Brennan here and Pantibar here

cougar diaries

 

Hoping to be Bankrupt for Christmas …

first printed in IrishCentral on December 14, 2013

jill in fur coatThe New York Times has thrown cold water onto the success story that is Ireland. It has challenged the public perception peddled by Irish politicians that we are the ‘good boy’ of Europe and that ‘austerity politics are serving us well’. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth and what is emerging today in Ireland is a two tier society with the those in control enjoying large pensions, fat salaries and ‘top-ups’ to their income, while the middle classes have largely been eradicated and along with the poor are faced with stealth taxes; taxes applied universally so that proportionately the less well-off are hit harder.

 

Emigration numbers are at famine levels, suicides now number two a day and some 40percent of all households have no disposal income at the beginning of each month.

 

I can personally attest to the direct impact of austerity on Ireland and I can see no light at the end of the tunnel.  Six years ago a perfect storm of divorce and recession left me with a mortgage of €1million on a house worth half that. I accumulated huge legal fees (my divorce lawyer for half the proceedings was the current Minister for Justice, then a serving TD) in the region of €100,000. My once successful business crumbled away under the strain and I had the unedifying and deeply upsetting visit from bailiffs to seize goods. I kept on thinking I could go no lower. I had moved out of the family home, a Georgian manor house once valued at €1.65million, four years ago into a rented two bedroom cottage with my two children.  My ex-husband returned to the UK and went bankrupt in the much more tolerant laws there. In a year he was cleansed of his debts. The upshot was that I in turn was responsible for the entire debt of €1million. I tried everything to recover but it was too much for me.  I made a video to sell the house in 2011 which went viral and I received a cash offer of €500,000 but the banks refused consent to sell. They preferred to repossess the house which they did in August of this year. It was sold two weeks ago for less than €160,000. Sadly under Irish law I am still liable for the debt despite the disposal of the underlying asset.

 

Struggling to find some way out, to try and regain my place in society again, I waited with eager interest to the new Insolvency Service launched in September 2013 to handle to debt time-bomb of middle Ireland. However, these new laws are clumsy and inefficient and moreover the banks have veto over any settlement. In an ever more bizarre turn, you have to be well off to enter the service. I am literally too broke to avail of the new laws – despite having pro bono representation from the debt advocacy group Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation (IMHO)

 

Last week new bankruptcy laws were introduced and I am again at the top of this queue. The new laws have reduced the duration of the bankruptcy period from 12 to three years and cut the fees in half. I am with IMHO tomorrow and hope that I can be bankrupt by Christmas. It is an ironic observation that I am looking forward to being bankrupt but I so want to try and start my life again. I have spent six years in financial wilderness and it is not pleasant.

 

What does it feel like to have debt that cannot be cleansed – waiting for the banks to engage or the government to bring in laws to help the struggling citizens? I liken it to dragging a stinking corpse of debt around with me. The debt fills my brain and I can think of little else. Everything is a struggle. It takes so much energy just to be, let alone to live. People say you can’t get blood from a stone, but I reply ‘try being that stone’.

 

I was filling in yet another set of forms today in preparation for my meeting tomorrow. I record my modest income and the miss-match with my outgoings. I list my assets – but I am not sure that a ten year old fridge freezer can be considered an asset. I list my debts but I am guessing now at the final amounts as interest has been piled on interest.  I tell myself I came into the world with nothing and I shall leave it in the same unencumbered fashion, but it would be nice to hang on to some possessions along the way.

 

Last winter we had no home heating fuel and the children watched television under duvets. We don’t eat out, I shop for groceries at the discount stores and holidays – let’s just say we don’t do holidays. But we are not alone. Death by the kitchen table is happening in households all over the country with parents unable to meet mortgages, pay the new taxes and even put food on the table.  In some ways I was lucky that I had moved out of my home into the rented cottage before it was repossessed. I cannot imagine the heartache of a sheriff evicting my family. When he came in August  to take my home I was far away in Dublin filming a documentary about sex (an appropriate contrast I thought at the time).

 

Ireland will survive but it won’t be because of the austerity policies. No one ever recovered an economy by breaking it further. Ireland will survive because we are an indomitable, creative maverick people. However, we are being let down so very badly by our leaders who refuse to call to account those who lead our country into debt,  who prop up the banks on all fronts and who cannot see or do not care about the thousands of families suffering from debt. It is ironic that our very own Beckett said “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail againFail better” as we are being punished by our own.

 

PS

I won’t make Christmas but I hope to be bankrupt in January 🙂