Sunday 15 September 2019

We rescued the banks - now they must atone

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar


This was the week that Nama announced with justifiable pride that €30.2bn it used to pay for bad loans from banks had been paid back.

But the ledger has yet to be bound big enough to contain the balance of suffering visited on the people of this country by the banks.

There is no margin for human cost.

This week we got some sense of it when the Oireachtas Finance Committee heard harrowing evidence from four courageous people caught up in the tracker mortgage tragedy. The four homeowners relived experiences of being forced to pay tens of thousands more than was necessary.

One man, Thomas Ryan, revealed he had suffered a stroke in 2013, while his wife had a nervous breakdown in 2015 after being wrongly taken off their tracker.

Over recent years we have heard much lofty talk about how we would strive to be a "society", and not merely an "economy". Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's aspiration to create a 'Republic of Opportunity' is already in danger of being consigned to the same scrap-yard of broken dreams.

Scott Fitzgerald wrote: "At 18 our convictions are hills from which we look; at 45 they are caves in which we hide." There must now be nowhere for errant banks to hide.

Mr Varadkar said as far as he was concerned, "yesterday should have been a deadline for the banks".

"They should repay what is owed, offer an apology and pay compensation," he added.

As head of Government, Mr Varadkar must draw a line under what the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation has described as the single biggest consumer rip-off in the history of the State. We found billions to pay banks, but the banks themselves have yet to atone. As many as 30,000 people could have been drawn into this whirlpool of despair. All in a country with the family at the heart of its Constitution. Sure, we can aspire to becoming a 'Republic of Opportunity', but clearly we have a way to go.

In the meantime we appear destined to work with what we have got.

Irish Independent

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