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We must confront our mortgage arrears crisis


It has been observed that home isn't a place but a feeling. One wonders what the 38,000 people whose mortgages are now more than two years in arrears are feeling.

The statistics do not speak to the stress and anxiety that hangs over all those families. It is hardly the job of the Central Bank to get involved in such stories.

Nonetheless, the fact that there are tens of thousands of homes in jeopardy does not seem to figure at the top of the political agenda.

The Government has signalled an intention to extend the mortgage-to-rent scheme, and it has also said it will squeeze the banks harder to do deals on debt.

Yet the numbers in arrears are still depressingly high, and more, much more, is required.

There is no excuse for delay; were the banks not bailed out by the taxpayer and is the State not now a major stake-holder in a number of them?

Banks are being accused of restructuring the simpler loans while steering clear of tackling the more complex.

Behind all these figures are very real people. There may well be some who have sought to take advantage of the situation to avoid their debts, but it is generally accepted that these are a small proportion of what is a deeply troubling total.

That is why the lack of urgency in Government ranks to address the mortgage arrears crisis is so regrettable.

There has been a slight fall-off in the numbers in arrears, but no one can be complacent about a threat that is hanging over some 38,000 households.

Ultimately, the bill will be picked up by the taxpayer and the State.

This "problem" can not be kicked down the road. For the problem is very human and very immediate.

Complacency has come back to bite us in the past. Failure of governance and oversight have left us a bitter legacy but it must be confronted.

The consequences for those in arrears and for the country as a whole can not be avoided indefinitely.


Why traffic lights are really not optional

There is something deeply dysfunctional about the Irish relationship with the traffic light. In most countries, the three colours have fairly distinct meanings, beyond ambiguity. Not here. Here they are clearly open to interpretation, as if they were part of some abstract, modern art installation.

In this country, green is interpreted as 'go like the clappers'; orange is a variation of the same; while red signifies 'keep going, unless there's a garda on the corner'.

It is not as if we have a lack of familiarity with the beacons. It has even been found necessary to put them on roundabouts. Given all that, it is not so remarkable that a camera system aimed at catching motorists who ignore the lights has now been introduced at one of the busiest junctions on the Luas line in the capital.

Motorists who break red at the accident black spot will find themselves with an automatic three penalty points.

Should the driver find themselves in court, they will get five. Given the number of road deaths annually, it hardly seems credible that such measures are necessary.

But they clearly are, and the sooner they are rolled out in the rest of the country, the better.

Irish Independent