Taoiseach pledges support to home owners affected by potential sale of PTSB loans to vulture funds
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has bowed to Fianna Fáil pressure and pledged protection measures for mortgage holders who could be affected by the sale of the Permanent TSB loan book to a vulture fund.
Mr Varadkar was responding to Dáil questions from Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, who warned that the Government was about to leave up to 20,000 business people, farmers and home owners vulnerable to big losses arising to the sale to unregulated funds.
“What the banks are proposing to do is to outsource their dirty work," Mr Martin said.
The Fianna Fáil leader said he accepted that the taxpayer-owned bank had a very high ratio of non-performing loans and were entitled to tackle the problem. But he argued that people should get the chance to deal with their problems at the same prices as the vulture funds which were likely to buy the loans at a huge discount.
Mr Varadkar said no sales had yet been put through and there was still time to put protections in place for anyone likely to be affected by any sale. He insisted that the eventual buyers need not necessarily turn out to be so-called vulture funds, as was being widely assumed.
The Taoiseach said the Finance Minister had to be consulted by the PTSB before any sale deal could be concluded. He also argued that existing safeguards for mortgage-holders in distress would also apply in any event.
“The Government stands very much on the side of people who are trying to pay their mortgages,” Mr Varadkar said.
The Taoiseach also very pointedly paid tribute to Fianna Fáil finance spokesman, Michael McGrath, who had raised and pursued the issue. But he also argued that the PTSB had too many loans not being paid – and the bank also had responsibilities to its depositors and the taxpayers.
Labour leader, Brendan Howlin, pursued the same topic. “There's no point using calm words,” he said.
Mr Howlin also referred to Transport Minister, Shane Ross, who in past times crusaded against banks’ practices. “Once there wasn't a bank AGM that was safe from him,” Mr Howlin commented adding tartly that he was now “too busy with the Luas.”
The Taoiseach told Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald that it was not yet decided that the PTSB loans would be sold to vulture funds.
The Dail also heard today that a factory in Navan has been seized by people acting for a vulture fund with the immediate loss of 20 jobs.
Fianna Fáil TD, Shane Cassels, said “a group of what I can only call heavies” arrived at the factory in his Meath West constituency and put the workers out of the premises.
Deputy Cassells said he understood the people were acting for a vulture fund which had bought the loans linked to what he termed “a perfectly viable factory.”
Mr Varadkar said the banks were obliged to deal with non-performing loans as best they could and meet obligations to the taxpayer and their depositors. But the Taoiseach insisted he had no knowledge of the Navan factory case and could not comment on that specific issue.