Tuesday 12 December 2017

Stick to what you know best FF, corporate donations - Rabbitte

Independent.ie reporters, Derbhail McDonald and Tim Healy

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte slapped down former Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s brother Barry with a stinging rebuke in the Dail today.

“Stick to what you know best, corporate donations,” he urged Fianna Fail telling the party to stay quiet on the economy for at least 40 years.

He said that the Fianna Fail had expressed shock at the pension levy when it had ‘cleaned out’ the Pension Reserve Fund to “help its friends in Anglo Irish Bank”.

Barry Cowen said that despite all the u-turns the government had attempted to deliver on one policy but could not do so. The government had resorted to the mantra of “straight jacket with the red rose”.

Meanwhile Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed that the new pension levy will not apply to holders of Approved Retirement Funds as they are not considered as pension funds and are not free of tax.

Labour TD Tommy Broughan criticised the Government's banking policy, comparing the Taoiseach to the Captain of the Titanic, steering the country towards the iceberg of national bankruptcy.

Mr Broughan said Enda Kenny was shrugging off economist Morgan Kelly's predictions of national bankruptcy, while negotiating desperately to get a 1pc cut on the interest rate on the bailout.

Earlier Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore told the Dail that the problems facing mortgage holders in arrears are a matter of “very great urgency” for the government.

While legislation on personal insolvency is not due to be published until next year, consideration is being given to bringing in interim measures as part of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill this year, he said.

Referring to the comments made yesterday by the Master of the High Court, Mary Lou McDonald, of Sinn Fein contrasted the speed with which the Government 'pumped billions of euro into the banks', with what she said was the 'long-fingering' of legislation to help ordinary people.

Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins said it was bad enough 'to have certain banks robbing us, but killing us is even worse'.

The Master of the High Court, Edmund Honohan today reiterated claims he made yesterday, when he said that Irish banks and credit institutions were pursuing debtors "to the bitter end" and driving some of them to commit suicide.

Mr Honohan was responding to comments made by Pat Farrell, Chief Executive of the Irish Banking Federation on RTE's Morning Ireland programme.

Mr. Farrell was critical Mr Honohan's remarks saying "it ill behoves any of us to use inflammatory language when debating these issues."

Mr. Farrell urged debtors who were having problems to approach their banks at the earliest opportunity and said they would find the banks "accommodating and willing to deal with the issues and work out programme for them”.

He also rejected criticism that his members were hounding people and said that the number of repossessions was actually very small and the majority of these were voluntary repossessions.

In an extraordinary intervention on the deepening debt crisis yesterday, Mr Honohan strongly criticised banks and other creditors for pursuing "to the bitter end" debtors who cannot pay judgment mortgages.

Banks are still required to chase debts and maximise recovery from borrowers even if they have written them off in their books.

Mr Honohan, a barrister, said most of the debt cases arose due to circumstances beyond the control of borrowers -- because the economy shut down as a result of the banking collapse.

He criticised the banks as he called for the updating of legislation to protect people unable to pay debts and to introduce a level of "debt forgiveness".

He said there had been a surge not only in mortgage cases but also instances where banks had chased borrowers for personal loans and then sought for judgments to be registered against family homes.

"We cannot wait for 18 months before the Government introduces new personal insolvency laws," Mr Honohan said. He was referring to the March 2012 deadline imposed by the EU/IMF for reform of our outdated debtor's laws.

Borrowers might think they are "outlaws in uncharted territory", he said, but stressed that even members of the "new debt set" have legal rights.

Mr Honohan said it was a criminal offence to demand repayment so frequently that it would cause alarm, distress or humiliation; to tell a debtor they are guilty of a criminal offence or to pretend to be officially authorised by law to enforce payment.

Several of the tragic deaths that had crossed his desk had been reported in the media, he said.

His court is a central hub for debt actions that go to law.

The Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) said that some borrowers had taken their own lives as a result of stress caused by being chased for their debts.

Paul Joyce, FLAC's senior policy researcher on consumer credit law, said that many borrowers did not realise that their homes could potentially be at risk if creditors converted judgments obtained on foot of consumer loans by registering them against their property.

Last night the Irish Bankers' Federation (IBF), which represents mainstream domestic and international banks operating in Ireland, said that it fully supported calls for reform of Ireland's outdated personal insolvency laws.


The IBF, which helped devise the statutory code on mortgage arrears and has also designed a protocol with the Monetary Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) to deal with non-mortgage debt, denied its members were heavy-handed with borrowers.

Mr Honohan said there was no reason why the 1850 Judgment Mortgage Act should not be changed to "put a brake" on the spiralling number of judgments and that would be a way of introducing debt forgiveness.

"Why should there be an incentive to cause untold harm socially when there is no money at the end of the road?"

He warned that banks should not expect to have it all their own way when pursuing debtors.

"We know which banks were the cheerleaders for the (Celtic) Tiger," he said. "Yet some banks are reverting to type and come to court assuming that the banker always wins anyway. That's not how the law sees it."

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