Tuesday 27 September 2016

Court ruling makes it Banks 1, Families 0

Published 25/06/2015 | 02:30

Banks 1, Families 0
Banks 1, Families 0

When many of our banks were in trouble, they turned to the people for help. They got €64bn; their security was guaranteed, and they lived to trade another day.

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When the people were in trouble they came to the banks. They got diddly squat. Nobody ever said that banking and hard-ball capitalism had to be always fair, but it would be nice if just for once it could be unfair to the benefit of the mortgage holder.

Yesterday was another bad day at the office for the almost 300,000 people who have variable rate home loans. It is not that there have been many good ones, but since a Dublin family had secured a High Court ruling against Danske Bank, there was hope. However, yesterday the Court of Appeal overturned the ruling compelling the financial service ombudsman to look again at a complaint that Danske was charging excessive interest on its variable rate.

Thus it has found in favour of the bank.

So the family was not entitled to a variable interest rate that reflected market rates.

Result: Banks 1, Families 0.

The taxpayer who bailed out the banks is left reeling once again. The markets will have their say, and the little guy will take his chances. And should the markets get over excited and things spin out of control again, they can look to the little guy once more to dig deep to take care of the banks, because that's what we do. Finance Minister Michael Noonan has tut-tutted about interest rates. He has even wagged a finger, threatening to weigh in on the side of the beleaguered and befuddled homeowner. Alas, so far tut-tutting hasn't quite cut the muster.

Then comes the news that seven of our main lenders have been playing hard ball with those in mortgage arrears, and a number are paying punitive variable rates.

Our Central Bank, the consumer's protector, can't name these banks.

Mr Noonan has demanded cuts to the variable rates by next week. If the desired result is not achieved, then new legislation is the only answer.

After all, banks depend on customers, and the customer is always right. Isn't that so?

Time to confront the tragedy of suicide

Last year 459 people took their own lives in this country. That is 459 preventable tragedies and the attendant heartbreak and irrevocable sadness that goes with them. Evidently something is very broken in our society when pain and despair can take such a toll.

That is why the national five-year suicide plan is so important.

Targeting those at risk is essential and reaching out to all vulnerable groups is vital.

Critical to the plan is connecting all services and all Government departments to tackle the problem. Unveiling the strategy, Social Care Minister Kathleen Lynch rightly noted that the notion that it was strictly a matter for the health service was "ridiculous".

That is not to say that the health service does not have an essential role to play and every resource must be made available. The minister observed that we must be convinced that suicide is avoidable.

It must never be acceptable that hundreds of our people should take their own lives.

Irish Independent

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