Majority think action is needed to protect homes
Poll reveals people want debt forgiveness brought in following rate rise
An overwhelming majority of the Irish people have called for debt forgiveness for those unable to pay their mortgages, the latest Sunday Independent/Quantum Research poll reveals.
Following the increase of interest rates by the European Central Bank on Thursday last by a quarter of a per cent, 72 per cent of those polled thought that there should be some mechanism of debt forgiveness for those who fall into arrears.
According to the poll of 500 households across Ireland, home loans and people's inability to pay them were seen by many as the next big crisis coming down the line. In the face of this, many felt some kind of action would have to be taken to protect those whose family home was under threat.
The emphasis on the protection of the family home was seen by respondents to be central to any policy on debt forgiveness formulated by the banks and the Government. They were less forgiving of those who had multiple properties and were now finding it difficult to service their debts.
In contrast, just 28 per cent of those polled were against the idea of some debt forgiveness for those unable to pay their mortgages. They thought that people must be held responsible for their own debts and that it was not the job of the Government to bail any individual out of a signed contract with a mortgage company.
Those against introducing such a scheme felt strongly that it would be inequitable and that it essentially would mean those who were prudent would be bailing out those who were reckless.
"If they were going to put that in place, the criteria for deciding on who gets to default on the debt wouldn't be equitable. Some homeowners would be let off, others wouldn't. It's better to make sure everyone is treated the same," one male respondent said.
"During the years of the Celtic Tiger many people in Ireland were arrogant and careless where money was concerned. Our present circumstances prove the old adage, 'you reap what you sow'," said another.
"Some people borrowed excessively during the boom and I don't think that those who were careful should have to pay for their extravagance."
"You can't really absolve people completely of the responsibility of their mortgage. I agree banks should be more flexible with repayments and I don't think anyone should be removed from their home," one female respondent said.
Mortgage and financial expert Eric Plunkett said that if the people were rescued financially the banks would be rescued too.
Mr Plunkett and his partner Gerry Kidd are offering proposals aimed at solving Ireland's debt crisis.
"Our proposals are self-financing and do not involve debt forgiveness. Our aims are as follows: Introduce the flexible mortgage option, with two interest rates; amend gift tax in relation to mortgage accounts; release pension funds to relevant mortgage holders in 2011; A five-year moratorium on repossessions and finally fix mortgage rates for a minimum of five years."