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Sunday 25 February 2018

Kenny 'washing hands' of evictions

Fianna Fail party leader Micheal Martin has called for the Taoiseach to appoint someone to intervene in the eviction dispute
Fianna Fail party leader Micheal Martin has called for the Taoiseach to appoint someone to intervene in the eviction dispute

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been accused of washing his hands of home repossessions as anti-eviction campaigners vow to stop a family being thrown out of their home.

As Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan was grilled over the banks' handling of mortgage arrears, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein piled pressure on the Government to intervene and protect threatened families.

Martin and Claire O'Sullivan, and their three children under the age of nine, have been warned that sub-prime lender Start Mortgage will take their house in Kanturk, Co Cork, from them as they have defaulted on repayments over two years.

The row hit the political frontline as Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan revealed that in two-thirds of arrears cases which banks have sought to resolve, the only options being proposed were to throw back the keys or take the owners to court.

Scores of supporters, some linked to t he anti-austerity Independent Resistance group, others backed by the the Anti-Eviction Taskforce and o ther concerned locals, gathered at the family home in Kanturk, Co Cork, for a second day and vowed to prevent the county sheriff enforcing a court order.

Fianna Fail Micheal Martin challenged the Taoiseach over the threatened eviction of a young family.

"It was stated that every effort and intervention would be made in order to prevent people from losing their family homes," he said.

Mr Martin called for the Taoiseach to appoint someone to intervene in the dispute and come up with a sustainable solution.

"I also request that all options be explored to prevent this couple and their three children from being evicted from their home," he said.

Mr Martin said the Taoiseach was "washing his hands of the issue and passing the buck to the judicial system to deal with at its discretion".

The opposition leader, a TD in Cork, said an eviction would ultimately cost the state either in rehousing the family or in rent supplements.

The Taoiseach said that the Government's position was that repossession of houses should be a very last resort.

"I feel for this man, his wife and their children," he said.

Jonathan O'Brien, Sinn Fein TD, said the O'Sullivans should not be allowed to be put out on the street.

"Sinn Fein believes that evictions are morally wrong and should be avoided as much as possible particularly when the mortgage holders are prepared to make attempts to pay the debt," he said.

The threatened eviction of the O'Sullivans was going on as Mr Honohan was questioned by the Oireachtas Finance Committee over the mortgage arrears crisis and how banks were tackling it.

The O'Sullivans remortgaged their family home in Ashdale, Dun an Oir, Kanturk, in 2009 after Martin's plumbing business lost money during the economic collapse.

They moved to Smart and borrowed an additional 30,000 euro (£25,212) to pay off business debts before slipping behind in repayments in 2010.

Mr O'Sullivan was not in court when a repossession order was granted but has offered to pay 400 euro (£336) a month off his borrowings, about half of what is due.

Mr Hononhan has confirmed 34,890 of the near 100,000 arrears cases have been offered some sort of action by the country's main banks - Bank of Ireland, Allied Irish Banks, Ulster Bank, Permanent TSB.

In 57% of cases involving family homes and 74% of buy-to-let cases, banks were asking the mortgage holder to throw back the keys or threatened them with legal action.

Mr Honohan said far too many arrears cases remain untreated.

He also said it was not surprising such a high level of repossessions were being sought by banks and that he believed strategic default was a "phoney concept".

Press Association

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