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Dáil hears claim that banks and vulture funds will profit from virus crisis

  • Dail holding 12-hour debate on emergency coronavirus measures

  • 'Unprecedented action to deal with an unprecedented emergency' - Varadkar

  • 'Not acceptable' that banks and vulture funds could profit from coronavirus - Pearse Doherty

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Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty. Photo: Tom Burke

Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty. Photo: Tom Burke

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar 
Photo: Steve Humphreys

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Photo: Steve Humphreys

Sinn Fein supremo Mary Lou McDonald. Picture: Reuters

Sinn Fein supremo Mary Lou McDonald. Picture: Reuters

REUTERS

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Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty. Photo: Tom Burke

BANKS and vulture funds are going to profit from the coronavirus outbreak and it's "not acceptable" the Dáil has been told.

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty made the claim as TDs debate emergency legislation to deal with the crisis.

A three month payment break for mortgages was announced by banks last week, but Mr Doherty said financial institutions are still seeking to profit on interest payments.

He told the Dáil: "The banks came out with great fanfare and said a moratorium or three-month break would take place.

"The reality is that these banks are going to profit on the back of the pandemic and it’s not acceptable."

He said Bank of Ireland's website "shows this very clearly" and that "somebody with a 30-year mortgage of €200,000 will pay €1,804 extra because of this three-month break to the bank.

"That is how much extra the bank will take from that customer. This is not acceptable."

"It is absolutely scandalous and you need to call them to task," Mr Doherty told Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe.

Mr Doherty also accused the insurance industry of "trying to wriggle out of the commitments they have made to policyholders" who have paid "an arm and a leg" over the years.

Mr Doherty made his remarks during the debate on economic measures in the legislation, including the play to pay wage subsidies to employers whose businesses have been impacted by coronavirus but retain their staff.

Independent TD Denis Naughten also raised the issue of the three-month mortgage breaks which he said had been a "very welcome development".

But he said it had been brought to his attention that Ulster Bank are implementing it in a "different manner" to the other mainstream banks.

He said a constituent who has a mortgage with the bank has claimed that "rather than putting the three-month freeze to the end of the mortgage, Ulster Bank are actually adding it on to the existing mortgage term, which means there's an increase in payments."

That means the principal and the interest has to be paid on top of the existing mortgage, Mr Naughten said.

He said additional financial pressure should not be put on families.

Mr Naughten said: "There is an agreement there to put the repayments to the end and extend the lifetime of the mortgage by three months.

"That should be implemented across the board."

Earlier Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe told the Dáil that the cost of the economic interventions being made come to an estimated €300m per week.

"That cost could grow, depending on the challenge we face, or it could diminish if we are successful," he said.

Mr Donohoe picked up on comparison made by Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath to the response to the crisis being like a wartime effort.

The Minister said: "He is correct because what we are looking to do is defeat something that poses a risk to so many"

He also said the effort "can bring people together".

Mr Donohoe said it's "vital" that there be a collective EU response.

He added: "I do understand that concerns about moral hazard sometimes play a very prominent role in those kinds of debates, such concerns have to be seen in the light now that we have European neighbours and friends who are experiencing a loss of life on a daily basis that is truly comparable to what sometimes happens in wars."

He said that's what Ireland is devoting resources to "try to stave off and reduce in our own country."

This comes after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar suggested that the freeze on all crèche fees for three months under emergency measures to deal with Covid-19 may not be rolled back entirely once the crisis is over.

Mr Varadkar said that while some measures like the moratorium on rent increases and evictions would be temporary and hopefully only for 12 weeks, the actions taken in the childcare sector may not be.

Under measures secured by Children's Minister Katherine Zappone at a Cabinet meeting earlier this week childcare workers are to be paid in full and parents won't have to pay crèche fees for three months while keeping their child's place.

This is to ensure crèches can reopen once the crisis has passed and to provide assurance to parents and workers in the sector.

Opening a special Dáil debate on emergency legislation on Thursday, Mr Varadkar said some emergency policy changes could make sense as longer term policies.

He added: "When it comes to childcare, our plan had always been to expand ECCE [Early Childhood Care and Education], and to expand the National Childcare Scheme incrementally, thereby reducing the amount parents have to pay.

"In some ways we've done that in one fell swoop, an incremental measure done very quickly. We might decide, perhaps as a House, not to rollback that entirely."

He has introduced the latest raft of emergency legislation in saying the Dáil is meeting to take “unprecedented action to deal with an unprecedented emergency”.

He said Ireland is in a better position to respond to the threat posed by coronavirus due to preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

He said plans were made to protect supply chains were and money was set aside in prudent economic planning and all of this will help with the crisis posed by the virus.

Mr Varadkar said it means some plans can simply involve “rubbing out Brexit and writing in coronavirus”.

He added: “We’re in a much stronger position as a result.”

Mr Varadkar praised the Opposition for the “constructive role” it has played and said the government is grateful for the “goodwill” and “cooperation”

Mr Varadkar said: “When face with a common foe we can put aside our differences to work together for the good of the country to protect livelihoods and save lives.”

The laws that will be debated today provide strong new powers to temporarily ban evictions and freeze rents.

The wide-ranging Bill also allows for the Government’s planned wage subsidies and includes measures to make it easier for health care professionals to re-register and return to work.

Another section of the law deals with mental health tribunals.

The law also allows former soldiers to re-join the Defence Forces at the same rank at which they left.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald is missing the special Dáil debate on the Covid-19 emergency legislation because she is sick with a head cold.

Ms McDonald said she woke up with a head cold, would be talking to her doctor later in the day and is now “lying low, staying home”.

In a tweet on Thursday morning, she said: “Woke up this morning with a head cold. Talking to my GP later. For now lying low, staying home. Over to @PearseDoherty to lead the charge at todays Dail sitting. Stay safe everyone.”

A Sinn Féin spokesman said Ms McDonald was staying away from Leinster House as a precautionary measure as she does not want to put anyone at risk. The party will disclose later if the Dublin Central TD has to be tested for Covid-19 or not.

Sinn Féin finance spokesman and the party’s deputy leader in the Dáil Pearse Doherty will lead the party in the 12-hour debate on emergency measures to freeze rents, ban evictions, and provide emergency income support to workers laid off because of the public health restrictions.

Earlier this month, Ms McDonald’s children were forced to self-isolate at home after their school had one of the first confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Ireland.

Speaking in the Dáil at the time said it has been “no craic whatsoever” for her son and daughter.

“I can assure the Dáil that their initial delight at the gift of two weeks off school has well and truly passed, and they have really learned the meaning of that saying ‘be careful of what you wish for’," she said.

“It’s no visitors, no sports, no trips out with friends, no craic whatsoever and reality has dawned on them pretty quickly.

“So it’s a trying time and our family and our school community has been thrown a bit of a curve ball to say the least.”

All primary and secondary schools in the State have since been closed as part of measures aimed at restricting the spread of the virus.

Online Editors