Banks need to help the right people
It has to be a matter of grave concern that Irish banks stand accused of picking off the easiest targets as they grapple with the horrendous mortgage arrears crisis - a crisis that has to be sorted out before the country and individual borrowers mired in debt can begin to move on with their lives.
Bank bashing has always been a popular sport and sometimes our lenders come in for unjustified criticism, but this is an area in which the banks, through reckless lending, did so much to create the very crisis they are now charged with sorting out.
Now, the Free Legal Advice Centres (Flac) - people who are at the frontline of such problems - have completed an extensive study of the mortgage arrears situation and concluded that banks are settling the easiest and, in many instances, the newest cases.
Their research indicates that banks are failing to deal with those in long-term arrears, especially those in arrears for two years or more.
While it is understandable that banks would pick the path of least resistance to please the Central Bank and convince people that this grave issue is being dealt with, in actual fact a large number of really problematic cases are simply being shuffled to the back of the deck. These are obviously cases that need to be dealt with sooner rather than later.
What the banks are doing, in effect, is dealing with those who are best organised to make a deal and putting those who really need help to get out of their present situation on the long finger, and probably making it more likely that they will lose their homes in the long term.
Flac believes that as the number of mortgage holders in long-term arrears is rising, the position adopted by the banks is unsustainable. Flac lawyer Paul Joyce, who drew up the report, has recommended that if we are really serious about solving the home-loans arrears crisis, then responsibility for dealing with those in mortgage arrears needs to be taken out of the hands of the banks and handed over to a State body. Certainly, this is a proposal that should be seriously considered by the Central Bank if we truly want to get the mortgage arrears crisis sorted out fairly and in a reasonable time frame.
An intriguing political year begins
OUR TDs have returned to Leinster House with all parties and Independents in election mode. At the latest, there will be an election in 15 months' time - but unpredictable political events could see polling day happening much sooner.
A timely opinion poll by Red C showed a small recovery for both government parties, with less positive news for opposition parties, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin. Both Fine Gael and Labour begin 2015 with hopes that they can move on from the calamities of the previous 12 months.
The small opinion poll gains will offer the two parties hope. But it is too early to say whether this lift is really a function of the Dáil being closed for the Christmas recess - something which usually gives the Government respite.
All politicians know there is huge public disenchantment with established political parties. Surveys tell us that between one in four and one in three voters are attracted by "Independents and others".
Events of the coming 12 months will decide whether the Irish political landscape is set for further fundamental upheaval. An intriguing political year is in prospect.