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Saturday 24 February 2018

Banks must help victims they created, says Higgins

Michael D. Higgins
Michael D. Higgins

Brian McDonald

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins says the banks have an obligation to help people in financial trouble reach a point where they can see hope.

In the latest in a series of comments the President has made about the current economic crisis, Mr Higgins also acknowledged people's anger towards the banks.

He spoke of breaches of trust and said people who were "casualties" of the banks' failings had to be helped out.

It follows the President's recent speech to the European parliament, in which he criticised austerity and the response of EU leaders to the economic crisis.

Last weekend, Mr Higgins also vowed to continue speaking out on such issues and sources close to him said he would be developing his criticisms and themes in the coming months.

Speaking in Galway yesterday, he pointed to a series of breaches of trust in the banking sector and said it was clear that "terrible decisions" were taken to encourage people to get into debt.

Mr Higgins added that he was free to speak out if he felt all of the decisions falling on people were producing new types of poverty or exclusion.

But, he stressed, he would not go into the area of legislation.

He said people were initially very angry and still were, to some extent. But they were very resilient and had gone beyond a point of recrimination.

"But what they do want is this, I think; they want the institutions to assist them," Mr Higgins said.

"They feel – and it is communicated not only to me, but to anyone who wants to listen – that there have been so many breaches of trust in our institutions; breaches of trust in the regulation of the banking system ... the banks themselves who gave false information – it is now very, very clear – terrible decisions that were taken in encouraging people to get into levels of debt," he said.

"Now, if you say, as many of them have, 'we were wrong' and so forth, well then, you equally have the obligation not only to make a firm purpose of amendment on the bad stuff, but you should be assisting the people to get to a point of seeing hope.

"I believe that all of the people who are elected are trying to do that in their own way."

He said that it was important to emphasise that we were now in a space to which we should never have come.

"That is, a person being told that the way to get rich in Ireland was by selling your house again and again and keep moving house on a ridiculous property bubble. But it's over.

"They have to take account that there are real people who are in fact, if you like, casualties of those breaches of trust along the way. And then there are decisions they took themselves.

"So, what I have to do is to try, in a way, (to) encourage the general atmosphere. I do not go near the area of legislation."


Irish Independent

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