Editorial: Tracker holders get their own little windfall
There may have been only one Lottery winner celebrating in Bundoran yesterday, but 375,000 tracker mortgage holders throughout the country should also have been smiling at a smaller, but significant, bonanza that comes with the decision of the European Central Bank (ECB) to cut its interest rate to a record low of 0.15pc.
On the other side of the coin, 200,000 other home-owners, those who are on variable rates, will be less than elated at the two-tier system that has grown up in the mortgage market and which leaves them at a distinct disadvantage, paying 4pc more for their mortgages, a considerable difference given the size of many home loans. Indeed, these mortgage holders are being used as cannon fodder by the banks and other lending institutions who have increased rates to try to claw back some of the losses they are suffering on tracker mortgages sold during the boom and now costing the banks a fortune.
For the last couple of years, the ECB has been striving to stimulate stagnant eurozone economies and unlock billions held by EU savers in what are now loss-making savings accounts. Since 2008, ECB interest rates have come down from 4.5pc to today's historic low of 0.15pc. The holders of tracker mortgages are collateral beneficiaries of the policies of Mario Draghi.
The question for the holders of tracker mortgages is what to do with this latest windfall? By leaving their monthly repayments at the present level, they have an excellent opportunity to pay off their home loans faster and at a time when interest rates are historically rock bottom.
As the experts are quick to point out, the current situation cannot last. While there is an air of desperation about the threat of deflation, if Mr Draghi's policies actually work and there is an economic recovery, inevitably interest rates will start to rise again and the benefits of having a tracker will dissipate.
But despite all the good advice, there will be many who decide to enjoy the windfall and do their bit to stimulate their local economy, be it an extra night out every month, an unplanned purchase or some other form of discretionary spending. Good luck to them too, every little will help the real economy.
Facing up to the horrors of our hidden past
Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, along comes the horror story of our mother-and-baby homes. Not a new story perhaps, but one whose dark secrets have been so devastatingly unlocked by Catherine Corless for a new generation.
The appalling thought of 800 babies' bodies buried in a mass grave, horrifyingly described as a disused septic tank, is almost beyond thinking about. So the Government's decision to open an inquiry into the fate of all these lost children must be welcomed.
That such homes existed, not only in Tuam, Co Galway, but also in Bessboro, Co Cork; Ross Abbey, in Tipperary; and Pelletstown, Co Dublin, means that these were no isolated facilities. They were state-sponsored institutions, run by a religious arm of the Catholic Church. They were populated by women who were daughters, sisters, family members to those living in the adjoining community. Yet for some reason the State, the so-called religious and their own families and communities failed them.
It may have been a 'Hidden Ireland' but these homes existed from the mid-1920s to 1961, in plain sight of 'Official Ireland'. A report, dated 1948 and censored at the time, but quoted today by historian Diarmaid Ferriter, asserted: "These babies are our own; they are entitled to Irish citizenship; above all the country needs them. From the point of view of church and State, there are no unwanted babies."
Sadly the church, State and community did not want them.
All we can now do to mark their passing is to find out what really happened in these homes.