Saturday 17 August 2019

It's hard to imagine a worse time for election

Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Leo Varadkar. Photo:Tom Burke
Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Leo Varadkar. Photo:Tom Burke


Since May 6, 2016, we have known that this strange hybrid minority Coalition was vulnerable and could suddenly fall. Led by Fine Gael, with diverse Independent TDs, and underpinned by Fianna Fáil, it had just too many moving parts to move forward with a semblance of harmony.

Yet in the intervening 18 months nobody could have imagined that it would be brought to the edge of the precipice over a complex row about "who knew what when".

The issues surrounding the future of the Garda force and protection for whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe are of the utmost seriousness.

But it is extremely hard to see how these matters can be advanced by forcing an election, which could well happen in Christmas week.

There is so much work to be done immediately by all our politicians. We are still unsure of a fragile economic recovery after a grim decade of recession.

Another threatened recession beckons, with Brexit at high risk of triggering economic calamity in these islands with especially bad consequences for Ireland. This election campaign is likely to straddle a crucial EU leaders' summit on December 14 and 15.

Sending a caretaker Taoiseach to that summit is less than ideal. But it is also asking a lot of any group of Government ministers to keep a 100pc focus on the most important issue facing this nation in modern times while also fighting for their political lives.

It is impossible to imagine a worse time to have a general election, which also disrupts other important work, like legislating to implement the Budget and restoring public service pay cuts. Failure to enact these measures will of themselves pose problems for our vote-seeking politicians.

Help for most vulnerable families to keep homes

At first glance, it seems to be standing logic on its head. An organisation which has campaigned for years to help stricken mortgage-holders keep their homes at all costs is now seeking fast-track repossessions as an extreme remedy.

But a closer investigation suggests that the idea has considerable merit and can help people, especially single mothers abandoned by their partner, in their lonely battle to hold on to their homes.

The Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation (IMHO) has spent the past decade trying, with some success, to avert court repossession orders for banks and vulture funds and against stricken mortgage-holders. But now it will be seeking fast-track repossessions in certain cases. This is where women and children have been abandoned by irresponsible male partners who are refusing to sign off on debt deals in which the lenders require the consent of both parties in cases of separation.

The IMHO says hundreds of mothers are stranded with mortgage arrears, abandoned by husbands who stopped paying the mortgage and refused to engage.

It proposes fast-track repossessions followed by mortgage-to-rent deals.

On the face of it, this appears to be a practical solution with many positive aspects. In many cases, it may even be a 'win-win' provided all sides behave correctly.

It merits serious consideration by everybody. The people at risk are among the more vulnerable in our society.

Irish Independent

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