Friday 18 January 2019

Mortgage advice by Varadkar branded a 'sick joke'

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The Master of the High Court Edmund Honohan has claimed advice given to troubled mortgage holders by the Taoiseach was a "sick joke".

Some weeks ago he asked some of those coming into his court to write to Leo Varadkar, and ask what could they do to get mortgage-to-rent as a solution.

Mr Varadkar advised that they seek advice from the Abhaile service, something Mr Honohan described as "completely wrong, is it a sick joke?"

When asked to expand, Mr Honohan said: "Abhaile is merely a voucher for €200 worth of legal advice before you go to the circuit court."

Mr Honohan made the remark while promoting new legislation he has drawn up to help those facing repossession.

A spokesperson for Mr Varadkar refused to respond to the comments - but the Irish Independent understands they were raised by party representatives at an internal meeting last night.

Senator Catherine Noone and TD Bernard Durkan said the remarks were "inappropriate" for a senior civil servant "with a high office".

Mr Varadkar did not address the issue but a source said there was "approval from the room" for their contributions.

Fine Gael sources also pointed to Mr Honohan's links to Fianna Fáil, including his association with former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

They noted that Mr Honohan sent the ex-Fianna Fáil leader a letter in 2008 seeking an appointment to an European court.

The Irish Independent obtained a copy of the correspondence in which he wrote: "I have been friends with you, Taoiseach, since the seventies! (Also a constituent.)

"It may be difficult for you to see beyond the person and weigh up the professional qualities."

Mr Honohan was on RTÉ's 'Morning Ireland' yesterday because he has put together a bill to form a co-operative mechanism for households facing eviction.

"If community funding can be sourced and made available to a group which can umbrella purchase these houses then that is the way forward," he said.

Mr Varadkar said he has not yet seen the bill, but he will consider it when he does.

Irish Independent

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