Imagine you are one of the 'Pope's Children'. You were born in 1980, that year when birth rates hit a record high. At 26, you bought a house for €320,000 in late 2006. The banks threw you a 100% mortgage, plus an extra few bob for a holiday before you moved in.
Now you still have over €300,000 left to pay off on the house. But the property bubble has burst and your home is now only worth €200,000. That means that you have negative equity of over €100,000. That is over €100,000 that you have to pay back to the bank, effectively for nothing.
But all is not lost. Last Monday night, as you sat on your leather sofa watching your large flat screen TV (both of which were bought on credit), a beacon of hope shone from the screen.
Respected journalist Matt Cooper was one of four commentators to offer an 'innovative' solution about how Ireland can move forward from the economic morass on RTÉ's Aftershock: Where To Now?
Cooper suggested that people, like the Pope's young fella with the €320,000 mortgage, should only have to repay what their homes are now worth.
In his case, the bank would take a €120,000 write-off. But in return it would take about one-third ownership of the house.
He would then own about 66% of the house and he would have a manageable repayment. Maybe in years to come, as things pick up in the economy, he will be able to buy out the other roughly 33% from the bank. There is a cost to the banks in this and it does not remove all of the negative equity, but it helps reduce the burden of debt repayment for the homeowner. The pain is shared and everyone is a winner.
After outlining his plan, Cooper said, "It may be unpopular, it may be expensive, but the younger generations, those who bought their homes in the last decade, need help."
He has a valid argument. But, I must admit, I was born in 1980 and I am one of the people unfortunately labelled as one of 'The Pope's Children'.
Many of my friends bought property at bubble prices and now find themselves in negative equity and I genuinely feel sorry for the predicament they find themselves in.
But many of us of this generation did not buy property during the bubble. We all got multiple cold calls from banks offering us money. There was a stage when you were made feel there was something wrong with you for declining their offers of a car loan or a 100% mortgage. But some of us said no.
So why now should those of us who, for once in our lives, made a prudent financial decision, be asked to subsidise a bailout for those who didn't?
Cooper argued that the bursting of the property bubble has left "what they call in a war, collateral damage." And "after a war you punish those who are responsible. You don't disable the victims."
Everybody, from the government which did nothing to deflate the property bubble to the media which thrived on revenues from property advertising, has to share the blame.
But we cannot ignore personal responsibility. Anybody who bought property in the last few years had to make a conscious personal decision to go into a bank and get a mortgage. Likewise, anybody who did not buy property made a personal decision not to do just that.
If I understand Cooper correctly, he is suggesting that if the banks engage in 'debt forgiveness' it will benefit Joe Nurse and Mary Garda who are in negative equity. He claims that this will come at a cost to the bank. As the taxpayer is already bailing out banks, it's inevitable this cost will be passed on to the taxpayer as well.
You can make the argument that if taxpayers are bailing out financial institutions, they should also bail out individuals in negative equity.
It makes most right-thinking people sick to the bottom of their stomachs that the government is pumping millions of our euro into the banks. But banks are of fundamental importance to any economy and we need a banking system.
The harsh reality is that the country is almost bust and there is no money in the state coffers to spend on debt forgiveness.
Much of our nation's history documents the battle of a poor agrarian people against the landlord class, a crusade between tenants and their oppressive landlords.
Yet during the bubble, the first time we got a bit of money, vast swathes of 'ordinary' people became landlords. They became the very person who was once a hate figure in the national psyche.
If the government was not so dependent on revenues generated by the construction and property bubble, they could have introduced a tax on second homes as far back as the mid-1990s. Property prices would not have spiralled beyond the reach of my generation. But nobody shouted stop. The government and society at large created the situation where it was acceptable to forgo the age-old practice of saving up money to buy anything. Credit was king. Instant gratification was paramount.
And yet it was a personal decision to buy that house with a 100% mortgage or flat screen TV over 48 months on hire purchase.
Cooper claims that the younger negative equity generation are the victims in the aftermath of a war where the property bubble exploded. Similarly, the members of the younger generation that did not buy property have had a neutral standing in the bubble. And neutral countries should not be asked to pay war reparations to compensate for their neighbours' actions.
Shane Coleman is away