| 19.1°C Dublin

Gilmore signals unease at failure to act on tribunals

TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore has used his conference speech to signal growing levels of unease within Labour over the "extraordinary and deeply frustrating situation" in which no accountability is being imposed on individuals who have been seriously criticised by tribunals.

He also sent a coded warning to the banks to get their house in order on the issue of mortgage arrears and indicated that one of the Government's key legislative priorities would be to introduce radical new insolvency legislation, preferably before the summer recess.

Mr Gilmore also used his debut conference speech as Tanaiste to warn the banks that in the wake of securing some degree of economic stability, the Government's priority over the next year would be to move decisively to end the mortgage arrears crisis.

He told delegates that having inherited a country "teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and ruin", which he feared several "times in those first few weeks... would topple over the cliff", the Government had managed to succeed in "pulling Ireland back from the edges, stabilising our economy and our finances".

However, Mr Gilmore also expressed concern over the scenario in which "there are so many households in mortgage distress" and said that "resolving" such problems was "what recovery is about".

The Sunday Independent has learnt that his concern about mortgage arrears is driven by increasing private frustration over the slow pace of the resolution of the mortgage crisis.

A recent high-level cabinet committee set up by the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, and Mr Gilmore has already met twice in the last three weeks.

And in a measure of the importance with which the two men view the mortgage crisis, one source noted: "The Taoiseach is bringing the relevant actors -- Finance, Social Protection and Howlin -- into the cabinet room and asking them what they are doing."

They added: "He (Mr Kenny) is saying what action is happening, I want to see action."

Speaking to his party's delegates, Mr Gilmore also said the Government would be "including in a new Personal Insolvency Law radical new measures to strengthen the hands of householders when dealing with their banks".

Meanwhile, sources close to the heart of government confirmed: "There is a tremendous anxiety that we will see the Insolvency Bill in the House before the summer."

Mr Gilmore said: "I am deeply frustrated by how slow progress has been" in dealing with the crippling issue of mortgage arrears.

The Labour leader's claim in his speech that "The Taoiseach and I have taken personal responsibility to drive this agenda forward'' was confirmed by other sources, who added: "The leaders of both parties are tremendously frustrated by the slow rate of progress on this complex issue."

The Tanaiste and Labour leader also warned delegates that the forthcoming fiscal compact referendum would represent a "critical part of the solution" of the eurozone's economic crisis.

Mr Gilmore also slammed what he described as the "sickening chronicle of corruption, bribery and lies" and the "poisonous creep of political corruption" that had been unveiled by the recent Mahon tribunal's report.

And although Mr Gilmore did not refer to the ongoing difficulties being posed by the Moriarty tribunal for his Fine Gael colleagues in Government, he did note that he was "proud that after 20 years of tribunals, no wrongdoing has ever attached itself to the Labour Party".

In what was being widely interpreted as a rebuke to the Fine Gael Justice Minister Alan Shatter, Mr Gilmore also backed the critical stance of Pat Rabbitte on the failure of our tribunals to have real consequences.

Mr Gilmore, in his speech, agreed that: "The administration of justice must always be independent of the political system."

However, and critically he also admitted: "We are all frustrated at the slow pace at which the wheels of justice turn... when we see every day how the crisis is affecting innocent people while those who were responsible seem to suffer no consequences."

Mr Gilmore also warned that the only way that the Irish people would secure some "restitution" for these acts will be "if our criminal justice system secures prosecutions and the Criminal Assets Bureau seizes the proceeds of corruption".