Thursday 23 November 2017

Leaders fail us when they race to be Good Germans

We should heed Joan Burton, who has a feel for the human tragedy behind the balance sheets, writes Brendan O'Connor IN TOUCH WITH REALITY: Joan Burton proposed a mortgage renegotiation scheme to aid debtors in distress in a realistic way

THE discussion about mortgage debt forgiveness over the last week wasn't hugely illuminating, but it did shine some light on the dynamics within the coalition/ "National" Government. And what we mainly learned last week is that our Government is composed of Good Germans, and then those who want to be Good Germans but are slightly torn, and finally, those who understand what is going on in this country right now. You could call them Good Irish people.

Brian Hayes is certainly a Good German. No sooner had the idea of a Nama for the people -- a debate that this paper has been airing for the last couple of years -- been reignited by Morgan Kelly than Hayes was out of the traps. Hayes, no doubt dispatched out by his boss in Finance, shot the idea down straight away. He said debt forgiveness wouldn't be fair for those paying their mortgages, and he also said it would be too much of a strain on the State's pillar banks.

Both of Hayes's assertions are questionable. Many people are quite clear now that some kind of mortgage restructuring is essential to the continuing development of our economy. Economists from both ends of the ideological spectrum mainly seem to agree that debt forgiveness is vital to all of us, and not just to those in trouble. And, yes, of course those of us who are able to pay our debts would find it slightly unfair, but one would like to think we could be bigger than that for the sake of our economic future. And, Jesus, if they're not going to do things just because people might think they are unfair, then they'd better put a stop to Nama and put defaulting developers in the debtors' prison and also stop asking us to foot the bill for other people's debts and crazy banking.

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