Northern Ireland

Co Armagh man who lost everything in property crash on how he has turned his life around

Matthew Toman from Lurgan has described how he has turned his life around
Matthew Toman from Lurgan has described how he has turned his life around

FROM boom to bust, a Co Armagh man who lost everything in the property crash has described how he has turned his life around to realise that success is not driven by money.

Matthew Toman (36), from Lurgan, left school at just 16, learning a trade in refrigeration and air conditioning and buying his first house aged just 19.

Purchasing other houses within the next few years, he admits that "life was good" in his early 20s.

He invested in several businesses, but feeling "trapped and tied to Lurgan", he decided to do some travelling.

But as the Celtic Tiger property crash crept in, life began to change for the entrenpreneur, who admits he "thought I had it all worked out".

"I came back to Ireland, I thought I've missed out on this whole boom situation going on as all the houses had been rocketing up," he told the RTÉ Ryan Tubridy show.

"I was buying another house, I bought the last house in 2007 just before it all crashed - way above the odds. I went into blind-sided like everybody else in the country, nobody had seen what was going to happen.

"So I blissfully moved forward into happily thinking I was on the right path in life...I didn't think there was anything wrong, I was just moving onto the next one.

"Then over the next year or two years I really started to see there's something wrong here.

"The unravelling took a couple of years, we started to see it in the press, the bubble bursting and at the time you don't want to believe it."

Mr Toman lost his job, the businesses he invested in began to close and his tenants unable to pay their rent.

He said "bit by bit things started to get worse, it got to the point that banks were ringing, everybody was ringing looking money".

"I didn't know what to do, for years I had everything sorted, I knew what I was doing and I was earning good money in the job I was, everything was doing well, I was in a bubble essentially," he said.

"Then over the next period of time, it started to unwind and unravel."

Mr Toman, who at the time was living in Dublin, said he was "owing a lot of money all over the place".

"I buried my head in the sand to a certain degree thinking something is going to happen, something magical, thinking let's not freak out just yet, let's see what's going on, let's see what I can pay," he said.

"I was always used to having money, I worked from I was 14 right through, never had taken a penny off anybody and didn't need to, didn't ask anybody, I didn't expect anything.

"Then for the first time I found myself on the unemployment line, I can't tell you how shocking all this was."

Unable to get a job, he became involved with the Irish Film Academy, acting and working for free in a production company.

From there, his change of fortunes led to him being helped by Inner City Enterprise in Dublin to set up his own production company in 2014.

He said while he "fell into by accident", the career change turned his life around and he recently launched a project, The Evolution of Success, a documentary film aimed at inspiring others.

He said he hopes the film "will make a difference in people’s lives by giving them the tool-kit for success that I wish I had 10 years ago".