Financial services expert Padraic Kissane, who first represented customers wrongly moved off tracker mortgages in 2009, said banks in Ireland had shown no remorse for “destroying lives” and having a “catastrophic” effect on families.
He said the 15,000 customers affected meant 500,000 people when those affected directly and indirectly were taken into account.
“Lives have been lost for sure. Lenders used the most Irish thing against people — the will to own your own home and put down roots. Lenders deliberately attacked and robbed homeowners and amateur investors,” he claimed.
Only because of the courage of customers who took on the banks was the scandal out in the open, he added.
“I said it in 2009 and nobody listened. It is now 2017 and you would think the trickery was up. Lenders have shown not one sliver of regret, only that they were caught,” he said.
He called on banks to take responsibility and admit to wrongdoing, as well as show empathy for those affected. Earlier, the committee was told that a “culture of fear” remains within the banking sector about whistleblowing and raising concerns about practices.
The general secretary of the Financial Services Union Larry Broderick said even though there is legislation in place to protect whistleblowers, there was an “inordinate” level of fear among staff about speaking out on concerns about bad practice and wrongdoing.
“It goes back to the question of changing the culture. Unless you address that fear, people will not speak out. There is this fear factor that even by raising it with the union, they will be singled out,” he said.
He was responding to comments from TDs and Senators, with Sinn Féin senator Rose Conway Walsh saying it was striking how few whistleblowers there were in the banking industry.
Committee chairman John McGuinness of Fianna Fáil said legislation to protect whistleblowers was “not worth the paper it’s written on”, adding he believed there were many bank employees afraid to come forward to highlight issues of concern.
The Financial Services Union, previously called the Irish Bank Officials’ Association, represents 15,000 bank officials.
Mr Broderick said the State needed to “to set out a strategic plan for the sector in order to ensure the continued development of the banking sector in the interest of the economy as a whole”, as well as customers and bank staff.