Tracker mortgages are damaging the economy -- it's time to deal with them
MICHAEL Noonan's best day as Finance Minister would go something like this: have a decent-sized breakfast, announce the State's shares in its 'pillar' banks are being bought by Europe's bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), at a reasonable rate, pay down Ireland's debt with the proceeds by 11am, then a few photo ops, a spot of lunch, perhaps a cheeky pint in Buswells, and then by 3pm announce a deal with the European authorities to cope with the nearly €48bn worth of tracker mortgages currently strangling the banks' balance sheets. After that, a light dinner, take in a show, and then bed by 10pm, teddy in hand.
Which announcement is more important? The trackers by some significant distance.
Following Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso's rather caustic remarks on Friday about the Irish banking system creating problems for the euro, the public would be forgiven for thinking any ESM deal was off the table for the foreseeable future. This may or may not be the case, but it does show how vulnerable Ireland's chances of making significant progress are in the European arena. Given this, if I was advising the Government, finding a solution to the tracker problem would be top of my agenda.