Statement from Seamus Healy TD 087-2802199
There is a special category of up to 30,000 low-income distressed mortgage holders who do not have sufficient income to enable them to avail of the personal insolvency procedure put in place by the government.
Labour has abandoned them to repossession and eviction. The Irish people have a long history of resisting evictions. Workers and Unemployed Action, in accordance with this noble tradition, will support these families in resisting repossessions and evictions.
On December 3, at Leaders Questions in the Dáil, I asked the Tánaiste and Labour Party Leader, Eamonn Gilmore, the following questions:
(1) Last week the Taoiseach refused to answer my question on the issue but he repeatedly stated that there is a solution for everyone in mortgage distress. Does the Tánaiste regard bankruptcy and repossession of the family home as a solution for those blameless families? Is that the reason the Government removed the legal ban on repossessions? One could ask whether that is the reason the indefensible situation has arisen whereby the Government has allowed the Central Bank to reduce the moratorium on repossessions from 12 months to two months. Will the Government ensure that the families which have fully engaged and have modest mortgages that are not buy-to-let properties, who are not strategic defaulters - will the Tánaiste ensure that these families will be allowed to remain in their homes?
(2) The Icelandic Government announced today that it will defy the banks by writing off up to €24,000 of household mortgages. Iceland obviously has real sovereignty. Will the Government exercise sovereignty by preventing reckless bailed-out banks, some owned by international vulture capitalists, from evicting 30,000 families in this country?
Mr Gilmore did not answer either question but continued to assert that these families do not face repossession despite the evidence. He expressed meaningless wishes such as: “We want every family and householder in mortgage difficulty to have that difficulty resolved and to avoid up losing their home” He said that each distressed mortgage would have to be dealt with “on a case by case basis”. He is clearly refusing to take any action to protect this special category of low income mortgage holders. His “case by case basis” places the individual mortgage holder at the tender mercy of the banks.
My question was based on a Report by the company Grant Thornton Debt Solutions which showed that thousands of distressed mortgage holders, unemployed or lowly paid, did not have sufficient income to avail of the Personal Insolvency procedure put in place by the government. This is because their income is below the minimum permitted living expenses for their household and consequently have no money to give to the bank each month. An interview with Michael McAteer, senior partner with Grant Thornton, can be heard by clicking here.
Mr McAteer makes clear that the only option for these low income families is to seek bankruptcy. Under bankruptcy law, which has recently been revised, ownership of all assets of the bankrupt person including the family home are transferred to the Official Assignee for the benefit of the creditors (the bank). In the last 12 months, Mr Gilmore’s government has removed the absolute ban on repossession of the family home. The Government has also reduced the one year delay before a bank can take legal action for repossession against a person who can’t pay a mortgage to a mere two months.
Mr Gilmore and the Labour Party have removed the protections for unemployed and low income distressed mortgage holders. They are clearly on the side of the banks.